Jack Ma, a former English teacher, made history in 2014 when his company, Alibaba Inc. set a record as the world’s biggest public stock offering, raising $25 billion. But at first, things didn’t go quite as planned for Ma.
Jack Ma was born on October 15, 1964, to a low-income family in communist China. After President Nixon visited Ma’s hometown, Hangzhou, in 1972, it became a popular tourist city. Ma realised the potential and became a tourist guide, offering tours around the city in exchange for English lessons. The nickname ‘Jack’ was given to him during one of these tours from a tourist he befriended.
Ma was determined to get ahead and was focused on getting education. He applied to college but failed his entrance exam twice and received 10 rejections from Harvard! Finally, he made it on the third go and graduated in 1988. Feeling encouraged, he applied to as many jobs as he could, but received more than dozen rejections, even from food chains like KFC. Eventually, thanks to his childhood English lessons, he was hired as an English teacher and was very good at it.
Ma’s teaching career didn’t last long, as his entrepreneur spirit sought change. With zero experience in computers, he started a translation company. He first used the internet in 1995 while on a trip to the US. His first online search was “beer” and he was surprised to learn that there isn’t a single Chinees beer in the results. He then made up his mind to start an internet company.
Even though his first two ventures failed, Ma was determined to achieve success and continued trying. After all, one of his most famous quotes is “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure”. Four years after his first two failed internet projects, he gathered 17 of his friends in his apartment and convinced them to invest in him and his vision for an online marketplace he named “Alibaba.” The innovative e-commerce site would allow businesses to advertise products that customers could buy directly.
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Ma took his dream and ran with it, creating one of the largest ecommerce sites available today. Currently, he is one of China’s wealthiest men with a net worth of around $42.7 billion, as well as one of the wealthiest persons in the world. The company now operates numerous online businesses in China, including the Tmall, an Amazon-style online retailer; Taobao, an online auction site competing against eBay; and Juhuasuan, the Chinese version of Groupon.
Also, Jack Ma’s company owns Alipay.com, the Chinese equivalent of PayPal; and has large stakes in Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter; and Youku Tudou, the Chinese equivalent of YouTube.
Ma teaches us that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how many times you get rejected, it’s all about persistence.
“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” – Jack Ma