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From Nothing to the Alibaba Empire: What Can We Learn From The Story of Jack Ma

A former English teacher with a passion for technology, Jack Ma started from scratch. He founded his first site with 1000 euros in the 90s. In a few years he created an empire: Alibaba, the most important Chinese e-commerce in the world. Today he is the richest man in China and one of the richest on the planet (ranked 17th, according to Forbes), with a current fortune of over $ 40 billion. On September 10, 2019, exactly 20 years after the birth of Alibaba, he left the position of executive president. He began to engage in philanthropic activities. On 25 June 2020 he will leave the board of the holding SoftBank. And by the end of the year it will also leave Alibaba‘s.

Here is his story told through the most significant passages of his speech to entrepreneurs, during the Gateway ’17 event in Detroit, selected by the South China Morning Post.

1. Jack Ma never stopped being a teacher

“A teacher always wants his students to be successful and better than him. When I hire someone, I always want people who are brighter than me. I give my colleagues a piece of advice: (at the interview) look at that young man, if you think he can become your boss within 5 years, then hire him. ”

2. The modest departure of Taobao: a house full of “waste”

«In 2003 when I launched Taobao and Tmall I said (to my collaborators): go home and look for four things to put on the web. But, at home, none of us could find four things to sell, because we were too poor. We collected 21 products, put them online, waited three days. Nobody bought. The next week we started buying and selling them ourselves. For the first week all the sales were between us. A week later, someone started selling on Taobao. For nearly 30 days, we bought everything people were selling. So we had an entire house full of nonsense bought online. We wanted to make sure those people could say ‘Oh, wow, this site can really sell’. ‘

3. How can he compete with Bill Gates

“People say ‘Jack, you’re the next Bill Gates.’ And I say: I can’t compete with Bill Gates, but I can compete with him as to who will retire first. The point is, I don’t want to die in my office, I want to die at the seaside. Now I don’t have time and that’s why I always dream of being there one day ».

4. Be paranoid

“When Netscape (one of the first browsers) was fine, we didn’t think it would ever go away. Yahoo was fine too, and we would never have thought about the situation now. So don’t think you’ll always be fine. Be paranoid ».

5. Launch an online business

“After a night of thinking, I told myself I still wanted to launch my business on the Internet. Most people have imaginative ideas in the evening, but when they wake up they go back to doing the same job as ever. We had to do something different ».

6. More than 3 hours to load a page

“People said, ‘Jack is a liar because he’s trying to steal money from people by saying he has the Internet.’ To prove I wasn’t lying, I invited a friend to grab his camera and come home. It took 3 1/2 hours to load the first web page. So I had to make up 100 stories to get my journalist friends to stay and wait, to prove I wasn’t telling a lie. ‘

7. Be an entrepreneur

«Being an entrepreneur today is very difficult. And tomorrow it will be even more so. But the next day will still be beautiful. A lot of people will die tomorrow night, ”Ma says ironically. “So you have to work hard, you have to learn, you have to rely on your team.”

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