Jack Ma: The Success Story of China's Richest Man and the Co-Founder of Alibaba

Piyush Mishra Piyush Mishra
May 26, 2021 6 min read
Jack Ma: The Success Story of China's Richest Man and the Co-Founder of Alibaba

Quite often you would come across motivational and awe-inspiring posts about how Jack Ma dealt with his struggles. Jack Ma Yun, the well-known Chinese business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, is popular not only with entrepreneurs, industrialists, billionaires, and business professionals but with many other individuals as well, students or otherwise.

Jack Ma's net worth is $26 billion. Ma was once hailed as the richest man in China and currently features in the top 10 list of China's richest men, with the richest man currently in China being Zhong Shanshan. Besides, Jack Ma was also listed second in the "Word's 50 Greatest Leaders" by Fortune in 2017.    

Starting his career as an English teacher, he co-founded one of the largest e-commerce websites that are in existence today, Alibaba, and is also counted amongst entrepreneurs with mind-boggling rags-to-riches backstories.

Did you know that Jack Ma, the owner of this multi-billion dollar online retail portal was rejected by Harvard university 10 times?

I applied for Harvard, for 10 times, rejected,” Jack said. Therefore, he was not unknown to rejections and disappointments that plagued his journey to stardom. Nevertheless, the man wasn’t one to cave in so easily. While Jack wasn’t a hardcore techie himself, he did an amazing job in taking Alibaba to where it stands today.

Here's the Jack Ma success story for you, if you are curious to learn about Jack Ma, how he founded Alibaba, and his journey!  

Jack Ma - Early Life and Education
Jack Ma Story
Startup Ideation
Jack Ma's Alibaba Conceived
Stepping Down
A Lesson to Learn from Jack Ma
Rankings In Various Lists

Jack Ma - Early Life and Education

Jack Ma wasn’t born into old money, he is a self-made billionaire. He had a modest childhood and grew up while communist China was transitioning into a superpower. Jack’s parents weren’t earning enough to consider themselves middle-class. It was Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 that changed Jack’s childhood. President Richard Milhous Nixon’s trip to Jack’s hometown saw tremendous growth in tourism, converting Hangzhou into a tourist mecca. As a kid, Jack wanted to learn English and he used to provide tour guide services to foreigners for free. He used this as a medium to improve his English. Subsequently, Jack became an English teacher.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English, he worked as a teacher at Hangzhou Dianzi University on a salary of 12 USD per month.

Jack Ma Story

Rejections and Jack Ma went hand in hand. After failing in his primary school exams multiple times, and failing his middle school exams thrice, those around him labelled him a failure. He was rejected every time he applied to Harvard University. He had ten rejections by Harvard University!

Disastrous results continued even after graduation. Multiple job rejections graced his journey; during the recruitment by KFC, he was the only one among 24 applicants not to be selected.

His initial ventures saw similar results, they plummeted. But, the stumbling didn’t deter him; he was adman to make a mark in the e-commerce segment.

Startup Ideation

Jack Ma visited the United States for a project on building of highways. His stay in the United States was an exposure to the world of computers. The people in China weren’t that exposed to the technology sector and hence, the usage of computers amongst Chinese was almost negligible. Services like e-mail and the internet weren’t a common occurrence.

When Jack used the search engine Mosaic, the first word he searched was beer. The search results quickly flashed on the screen. But when he searched for China, there were no search results. This infuriated Jack Ma, and he took the onus of bringing China on the internet radar.

Jack Ma's Alibaba Conceived

Jack Ma Alibaba
Jack Ma's Alibaba

After approaching his friends, seventeen agreed to join him for an e-commerce startup, and named it “Alibaba”. The company was created in his apartment. Alibaba was struggling to survive initially as it did not receive a single penny in investment. The investments of 20 Million USD form SoftBank and 5 million USD from Goldman Sachs in 1999 saved Alibaba from falling apart.

The biggest challenge for Alibaba was to gain the trust of the Chinese which it succeeded at in the end. Jack Ma motivated his team In times of difficulty by telling them they were a young team still learning. A leader was about to change the face of e-commerce.

Once Alibaba was in the picture, it faced stiff competition from eBay in China. To defeat eBay, Yahoo came to assistance. The company invested 1 billion USD in Alibaba. In exchange for the investment, Yahoo gained a 40% stake in the company. This was fruitful for both the companies as Alibaba became a household name in China and Yahoo gained 10 billion USD through Alibaba’s IPO.


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Stepping Down

Jack Ma stepped down as the CEO of Alibaba in 2013. However, he continued as the executive chairman. The company created history as its 150 billion IPO was the largest offering of a US-listed company in the New York stock exchange’s history. By virtue of this IPO, Jack became the richest man in China.

Apart from serving people and bringing revolution through Alibaba, Jack supports environmentalism. He is a member of the global board of The Nature Conservancy. Jack has also funded a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.

The Alibaba group conducts various annual talent shows in order to engage with their customers. Jack is known to be a natural entertainer. During one such event, he performed wearing a punk costume in front the audience.

A Lesson to Learn from Jack Ma

Coming across challenges, stumbling forward and then rising up sums up Jack Ma’s journey. To many, he is the ideal entrepreneur. Alibaba has given a face to many small and medium sized businesses across the globe. The world shall remember Jack Ma as a visionary who gave it the behemoth, Alibaba.

Rankings In Various Lists

  • Jack Ma is ranked 1 in the China Rich List, 2019.
  • He is ranked 21 in the Billionaires List, 2019.
  • He is ranked 7 in the Richest In Tech, 2017.
  • He stands in the 21st position in the Most Powerful People List, 2018.

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FAQs

Who is Jack Ma?

Jack Ma Yun is a Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He is the founder of the E-commerce giant Alibaba and is a stakeholder at Alipay, its sister company, which is an e-payment portal.

What companies does Jack Ma own?

Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba.

Where is from Jack Ma?

Jack Ma is from Hangzhou, China.


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