Jack Ma, the man behind the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, was not always dealt the best cards that life had to offer. Yet, now in 2017 his net worth amounts to $35.4B. This is Jack Ma’s story. Hangzhou, Jack Ma’s birthplace, had a brutal history being one of the cities that suffered from the Nanjing Massacre. Apart from this tragedy, the town was considered as poor in rural communist China.
This proved to be a difficult time for Jack Ma, as he did not have the luxuries in life that countless others were born with. Lacking many basic resources, Jack learned English after his hometown became a tourist spot when it was visited by President Nixon. He offered to show tourists around for free in exchange that they teach him how to speak English.
Unfortunately, when it came to academics, he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, as he failed his college entrance exams twice, finally getting accepted on his third try into what was dubbed “China’s worst university”. Despite failing many subjects in school, Jack never let that get in his way. He always had the idea that getting high grades in school would not be the same equivalent as having intellectual prowess. Moreover, it was this ideal that led him to believe that his excellence lies further. Because of this, he never gave up despite receiving over thirty rejections at jobs he had applied to.
With practically empty pockets, and no experience in coding or computer work, he was captivated with the internet and how it could be a platform for business. It led him into his two unsuccessful business ventures. Until finally, he gathered 17 of his friends into his small apartment and pitched to them his idea of Alibaba. Together, they were able to raise $60,000. After starting Alibaba, Jack said that success was not instant and that they did not profit for around three years. Despite not earning, Jack knew that Alibaba was gaining popularity when someone paid for his bill at a restaurant and thanked Jack, as he was earning from Alibaba while Jack was not. Thanks to his perseverance, Jack never lost sight of his vision.
Eventually, Alibaba grew in popularity overseas and attracted foreign investors to fund the company. When the e-commerce field of business in China finally began to take off, Alibaba ceased its international operations and focused on strengthening its hold on the Chinese market. Soon, they were able to get eBay to close its operations in China, finally dominating the Chinese market.
From earning $12 a month teaching English at his university, Jack Ma’s net worth is now over $29B thanks to his vision of Alibaba. The secret to their success is that the customer is their priority and has been their priority since the business started. This is what led them to expand further and develop Alipay in 2004, and launching TaoBao in 2008. Since then, they have also gained many partners, one of which is Yahoo, who invested $1B for shares in the company. In 2013, the company had over 231 million customers and made $240B that year alone. Their performance was more than that of Amazon and eBay combined.
Today, Jack Ma is an important public figure and is the face of Alibaba. He recently met up with Donald Trump to discuss trade and business matters as he pledged to create 1 million jobs in the United States by focusing on small businesses and entrepreneurs. From a child in rural China to being the face of one of China’s most powerful companies, Jack Ma’s rags to riches story is truly an inspiration to many.