Jack Ma (Ma Yun) is a Chinese entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He co-founded and is now executive chair of the Alibaba Group. The group is a multinational technology conglomerate.
Jack Ma Biography
Jack Ma was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China on 10 September 1964. He has an older brother and a younger sister. He grew up in a period during which communist China became more and more isolated from the West. His family didn’t have a lot of money when Jack and his siblings were young. As a child, one of Jack’s hobbies was catching crickets. He could tell their species and size simply by hearing their sound.
American president Richard Nixon visited Hangzhou in 1972. It was Jack’s hometown and this event made it a popular tourist destination. As a teenager, Jack used to get up early to ride his bicycle 70 miles to Hangzhou’s most famous hotel. There he offered to give tours of the city in exchange for English lessons. He got his nickname Jack from one of those tourists.
Jack Ma wanted to go to college, but found this very difficult in his youth. Chinese admission exams take place only once a year, and he failed them twice. Ma attended the Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute (now called Hangzhou Normal University) and graduated in 1988 with a BA in English. After graduating, he applied for various jobs only to be rejected many times. Finally he was hired as an English and international business teacher at Hangzhou Dianzi University.
Ma first learned about the Internet in 1994. In 1995, he went to the US with friends, where they introduced him to the Internet. The first search Ma entered was ‘beer’. He was surprised that the results didn’t include a Chinese beer brand. That’s when he decided to start his own internet business for China. Next he tried to find more general information about China, but was again surprised to not get any results.
He and a friend decided to create a website related to China. The website was launched at 9:40 and very soon Jack received emails from a number of Chinese investors who wanted to get in touch with him. That was the moment he realised the Internet had something amazing to offer.
In April 1995 Ma, his wife Cathy, and a friend had raised US $ 20,000 and started their first business. The business focused on creating websites for companies and he named it ‘China Pages’. In three years, the company had earned 5,000,000 Chinese yuan, which would have been equivalent to US $ 800,000 at that time.
Four years later, after his first two businesses, he invited 18 friends to his apartment to convince them to invest in his idea for a virtual marketplace called ‘Alibaba’. The website lets exporters post products that customers can order directly. The service soon becomes known all over the world.
In October of 1999, the company raised five million dollar from Goldman Sachs and twenty million from SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company that invests in tech businesses. The team stayed together. At an employee meeting Ma says, ‘We’re going to make it because we’re young and will never ever give up”.
Jack Ma believed it was important to maintain a pleasant work environment. Not long after he starts ‘Taobao’, which was similar to eBay. One of the things that stands out, is that he makes his team do handstands during breaks to keep their energy level up.
In 2005 Yahoo invests a billion dollars in Alibaba in exchange for 40 percent of the shares. That turned out to be a win for both Yahoo and the company, as the shares are now word 10 billion dollars.
To Bloomberg Jack Ma once said that he knew Alibaba had become a success when a client offered to pay his restaurant check. ‘I’m one of your clients of the Alibaba group, and I’ve made a lot of money. And I know you haven’t gotten anything out of it,’ said the client. ‘I’ll pay the check for you.’
Alibaba became one of the most valuable technology firms in the world after getting the full $ 25 billion in the largest share offering ever in the financial history of the US.
Ma was the executive chair of the Alibaba Group, a holding company with nine large subsidiaries: Alibaba.com, Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, eTao, Alibaba Cloud Computing, Juhuasuan, 1688.com, AliExpress.com, and Alipay. In November of 2012, the online transaction volume of Alibaba exceeded a trillion yuan. Since 2016, Ma is the owner of Château de Sours in Bordeaux, Chateau Guerry in Côtes de Bourg, and Château Perenne in Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux.
On 9 January 2017, Ma met with American president Donald Trump in Trump Tower to discuss a potential one million job openings for the coming five years. This was the result of Alibaba’s interest in the country.
On 8 September 2017, to celebrate the 18th anniversary of Alibaba, Ma came on stage and gave a Michael Jackson-inspired performance. During the 2009 Alibaba anniversary event, he performed part of ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’, dressed as a heavy metal singer. That month Ma partnered with Sir Li Ka-shing in a joint venture to offer a digital wallet service in Hong Kong.
On 10 September 2018, Ma announced that he would be stepping down as executive chair of the Alibaba Holding Group in the following year.
Jack Ma quotes
- “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”
- “I don’t care about revenues.”
- “I don’t want to be liked. I want to be respected.”
- “The very important thing you should have is patience.”
- “We are never in lack of money. We lack people with dreams, who can die for those dreams.”
- “A leader should be visionary and have more foresight than an employee.”
- “Forget about your competitors, just focus on your customers.”
- “If we are a good team and know what we want to do, one of us can defeat ten of them.”
- “Adopt and change before any major trends or changes.”
- “Success and profitability are outcome of focusing on customers and employees, not objectives.”
Publications and books
- 2008. A usability comparison of three alternative message formats for an SMS banking service. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 66(2), 113-123.
- 2006. On the role of metaphor and language in design of third party payments in eBanking: Usability and quality. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 64(8), 770-784.
- 2002. On the influence of laryngeal pathologies on acoustic and electroglottographic jitter measures. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 111(2), 1045-1055.
- 2001. Evaluating humanoid synthetic agents in e-retail applications. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics-Part A: Systems and Humans, 31(5), 394-405.
- 1996. Application of parallel genetic algorithm and property of multiple global optima to VQ codevector index assignment for noisy channels. Electronics Letters, 32(4), 296-297.
- 1993. Enhanced pitch tracking and the processing of f0 contours for computer aided intonation teaching. In Third European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology.
- 1989. Unified techniques for vector quantization and hidden Markov modeling using semi-continuous models. In International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing, (pp. 639-642). IEEE.
- 1989. Semi-continuous hidden Markov models for speech signals. Computer Speech & Language, 3(3), 239-251.
- 1987. Globally optimising formant tracker using generalised centroids. Electronics Letters, 23(19), 1019-1020.
- 1980. The theory, design, and applications of surface acoustic wave Fourier-transform processors. Proceedings of the IEEE, 68(4), 450-468.
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