“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine”. Those are the words of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group. Born into a life filled with trials and tribulations, the story behind the billionaire business magnate and philanthropist’s journey towards fame and fortune is indeed an adventurous, difficult and inspiring one. Yet, against all odds, he stands today as the 18th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $24.1 billion.
Ma Yun, or Jack Ma was born on October 15 1972 in Hangzhou, China. Ma’s parents were traditional musician-storytellers and he was the second of three children. Like any other child, Jack was waiting to be inspired; like a child given a blank canvas. To his good fortune, the then US-president Richard Nixon’s visit made his hometown a popular tourist spot. Ma took the opportunity to offer tourist city tours in exchange for English lessons and one of the tourists he befriended gave him the name, ‘Jack’.
Although he failed repeatedly, he excelled in things he was passionate for such as English.He graduated from Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. It was here that he met his better half, Zhang Ying. They both graduated in 1988 and got married shortly thereafter.
After leaving his teaching job, he started a translation business and when he went to US in 1995,he experienced the internet for the first time.Realizing that it did not have anything at all on China, he created a website about China. After getting some replies from fellow Chinese nationals, he saw how internet connects people and how this can help his fellow countrymen.
By April 1995, Ma was ready to kick off his internet business. Together with his wife and his friend, they collected $20,000 to start an internet company called China Yellow Pages, which made websites for Chinese companies. Ma managed to pull it off though he didn’t know anything about computers by outsourcing website building works to his friends in USA and in just three years, Ma’s entrepreneurial talents produced fruit when his company racked in $800,000.
Sadly, that venture did not last long and in 1988, Ma headed an information technology company founded by China International Electronic Commerce Center (CIECC), a government body. He quit after a year and returned to Hangzhou where he convinced 17 friends, including his wife to invest in his idea for an online marketplace he called Alibaba.
Alibaba faced numerous challenges especially when it came to venture capital funding as it was turned down by many including Silicon Valley. However, Alibaba attracted other big investors from all over the world. By the end of 1999, Alibaba had raised $5 million from Goldman Sachs and $20 million from Softbank Japan. The biggest deal came in 2005 when Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba for 40% stake. Alibaba was competing with eBay with its own auction site called Taobao, and Yahoo’s $1 billion investment propelled Alibaba ahead of the competition
Ma and Alibaba both came a long way since then. Alibaba has made several major acquisitions with the latest being the South China Morning Post (SCMP) for $266 million. Personally,Ma is a global icon of success. He was listed in Time 100’s list of most influential people in 2009, ranked 30th most powerful person in the world by Forbes in 2014 and he was honored with the Entrepreneur of the Year award at The Asian Awards 2015.
Endurance, attitude, bravery and adventure; these are the four words that describe Jack Ma’s life in a nutshell. Even when on a downward spiral, he emerged victorious in more ways than one. Like Ma said, “If you never tried, how do you know there’s no chance?”