“There were three reasons why we survived. We had no money, we had no technology, and we had no plan. Every dollar, we used very carefully.” – Jack Ma
Jack Ma’s Chinese name is Ma Yun. He is the founder and executive chairman of the renowned Alibaba Group. He turned from failure after failure into a multi-billionaire. He is now the second richest person in China. He is a business magnate and the man behind the largest initial public offering (IPO) in history.
- Jack Ma faced rejections and failures many times
Jack Ma applied ten times at Harvard to study but he was consistently rejected. He applied for thirty different jobs, and he was also rejected each time. Jack Ma, along with twenty-three applicants, went for a job interview in KFC. Everybody passed, except for Jack Ma.
- Jack Ma was as an English teacher
Jack Ma was an English teacher by profession. He taught at a local university with a salary of $12-$15 (USD) per month. His path to becoming a teacher was not without difficulty. He failed the entrance exam of Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute twice.
- Jack Ma guided tourists for free
He was eager to learn English that even when he was only thirteen, he would wake up early in the morning and take a 45-minute bike ride to the then Hangzhou Hotel so that he could converse with foreigners. He was also kind enough to take them out to sightseeing for free. He continued this habit for 8 years.
- Jack Ma applies spirituality in business
Although he admits that he is not a religious person, in one of his interviews, Jack Ma explained that he applies the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and Tai Chi to the way he handles business.
Jack Ma explained:
“In Taoism, the best leadership is not leading at all. No teachers want their students to fail. So I never steal the spotlight from newly hired young people. If someone warns me about an employee who is trying to overstep me, I reply that I’m a teacher and that’s the way it should be.”
- Jack Ma was called crazy
When he started Alibaba, Jack Ma was called crazy many times. In an interview with Xiao-Ping Chen, a professor at Washington University, Jack Ma shared:
“I gave a speech at Harvard in 2002. After my talk, a CEO from a foreign company said that I was a mad man. He said he had been in China for many years, and didn’t believe that my way of managing a company would work. I invited him to visit Alibaba. After a three-day stay, he said, ‘Now I understand. Here you have 100 mad men just like you.’”
- Alibaba is his second company
Prior to Alibaba, Jack Ma founded the China Yellow Pages, which failed.
- How he named his company, Alibaba
There is no better way to tell this story than from the words of the business magnate himself, Jack Ma:
“One day I was in San Francisco in a coffee shop, and I was thinking Alibaba is a good name. And then a waitress came, and I said do you know about Alibaba? And she said yes. I said what do you know about Alibaba, and she said ‘Open Sesame.’ And I said yes, this is the name! Then I went onto the street and found 30 people and asked them, ‘Do you know Alibaba?’ People from India, people from Germany, people from Tokyo and China… They all knew about Alibaba. Alibaba — open sesame. Alibaba — 40 thieves. Alibaba is not a thief. Alibaba is a kind, smart business person, and he helped the village. So…easy to spell, and global know. Alibaba opens sesame for small- to medium-sized companies. We also registered the name AliMama, in case someone wants to marry us!”
- Jack Ma’s hero is a fictional character
He has drawn inspiration from Forrest Gump, a fictional character in a movie of the same name. He said he has watched this movie about ten times, and watches it over again whenever he feels frustrated.
- Jack Ma knew little about computer technology
He is not shy to admit that his knowledge of computer technology was limited to just sending and receiving e-mails. This is a surprising confession coming from an entrepreneur who turned his business into an Internet giant.
- Jack Ma loves his wife
He admits that his wife is the reason behind his success. He met his wife in school when they were pursuing a career in teaching.
A few years after Alibaba was launched, his wife asked him how much the company had made. Jack Ma only raised a single finger. “Ten million yuan?” she asked. Jack Ma said no. “One million ($160,000 USD),” he clarified. Then he added, “a day.”
According to Forbes, Jack Ma is now one of the richest persons in the world, with a net worth of $26.9 billion as of today. His company, Alibaba Group, continues to grow.
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