Reward of perseverance
Jack Ma or Ma Yun (Chinese: 马云; born October 15, 1964) is a Chinese business magnate and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a family of highly successful Internet-based businesses. He is the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes. As of November 2014, he is the richest man in China (HK not included) and 18th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $29.7 billion according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Ma was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. His parents were traditional musician-storytellers. At an early age, Ma developed a desire to learn English so he rode his bike each morning in order to go to a nearby hotel and converse with foreigners. He would guide them around the city for free in order to practice and improve his English. He did this for nine years. He became pen pals with one of these foreigners and she was the one who gave him the name "Jack", because his real Chinese name was too difficult to pronounce.
Later in his youth, and although he failed the university entrance exam three times, Ma attended Hangzhou Teacher's Institute (currently known as Hangzhou Normal University) and graduated in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at school, Ma was elected student chairman. He became a lecturer in English and International Trade at the Hangzhou Dianzi University and went on to further education at Beijing-based Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), founded in 2002 by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, graduating in 2006.
At first he started building websites for Chinese companies with the help of friends in the US. He has said that "the day we got connected to the Web, I invited friends and TV people over to my house," and on a very slow dial-up connection, "we waited three and a half hours and got half a page.... We drank, watched TV and played cards, waiting. But I was so proud. I proved (to my house guests that) the Internet existed."
At a conference in 2010, Ma revealed that he has never actually written a line of code nor made one sale to a customer. He encountered a computer for the first time at the age of thirty-three.
In 1994, Ma heard about the Internet. In early 2000, he went to the United States and with his friends' help he got introduced to the Internet. During his first encounter he searched the word "beer". Although he found information related to beer from many countries, he was surprised to find none from China. Further, he tried to search for general information about China and again was surprised to find none. So he and his friend created an "ugly" (according to Ma) website related to China. Within five hours of creating the website he had received emails from some Chinese wishing to know about him. This is when Ma realized that the Internet had something great to offer. In April 1995, Ma, his wife and a friend collected twenty thousand dollars and started an Internet company. Their company was dedicated to creating websites for companies. He named their company "China Yellow Pages." Within three years, his company had made 5,000,000 Chinese Yuan which was equivalent to U$800,000.
From 1998 to 1999, Ma headed an information technology company established by the China International Electronic Commerce Center, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. In 1999, he decided to quit and went back to Hangzhou with his team in order to found Alibaba in his apartment with a group of 17 friends. He started a new round of venture development with 500,000 Yuan. Alibaba is a China-based business-to-business marketplace site which currently serves more than 79 million members from more than 240 countries and territories.
In October 1999 and January 2000, Alibaba twice won a total of a $25 million international venture capital investment. The program was expected to improve the domestic e-commerce market and perfect an e-commerce platform for Chinese enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to address WTO challenges. Ma wanted to improve the global e-commerce system and from 2003 he founded Taobao Marketplace, Alipay, Ali Mama and Lynx. After the rapid rise of Taobao, eBay offered to purchase the company but Ma rejected their offer, instead garnering support from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang with a $1 billion investment.
In September 2014 it was reported Alibaba was raising over $20 billion in an IPO on the NYSE. Alibaba became one of the most valuable tech companies in the world after raising $25 billion, the largest initial public offering in US financial history. Ma now serves as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which is a holding company with nine major subsidiaries – Alibaba.com, Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, eTao, Alibaba Cloud Computing, Juhuasuan, 1688.com, AliExpress.com and Alipay.
In November 2012, Alibaba's online transaction volume exceeded one trillion yuan. Ma was thus labeled "trillion Hou", meaning literally "Trillion Yuan Marquis" in Chinese.
Because of Ma’s success, he was often invited to lecture at famous universities such as the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Peking University.
In 2004, he was chosen by China Central Television and its viewers as one of the “Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year”.
In 2005, Ma was selected by the World Economic Forum as a “Young Global Leader” and was named one of the “25 Most Powerful Businesspeople in Asia” by Fortune magazine. He was selected by Businessweek as a “Businessperson of the Year” in 2007 and one of the 30 “World’s Best CEOs” by Barrons in 2008.
In 2006, Ma also graduated from Beijing-based Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, founded in 2002 by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.
In May 2009, Ma was honored by Time magazine with inclusion into the Time 100 list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In reporting Mr. Ma’s accomplishments, Adi Ignatius, former Time senior editor and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review, said, “Meeting Jack Ma, you might be forgiven for thinking he's still an English teacher. The Chinese Internet entrepreneur is soft-spoken and elflike — and he speaks really good English. But as founder and CEO of Alibaba.com, Ma, 44, runs one of the world's biggest B2B online marketplaces, an eBay for companies doing international trade. Alibaba and Ma's consumer-auction website, Taobao.com, did so well that in 2006, eBay shut down its own site in China.” In 2014, he was again included by Time in the list of the world's 100 most influential people. He was also chosen as one of "China's Most Powerful People" by BusinessWeek, and one of the “Top 10 Most Respected Entrepreneurs in China” by Forbes magazine China in 2009. Ma received the "2009 CCTV Economic Person of the Year: Business Leaders of the Decade Award".
In 2010, Ma was selected by Forbes Asia as one of “Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy” for his contribution to disaster relief and poverty.
In 2011 it was announced that one of his companies had gained control of Alipay, formerly a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, so as to “comply with Chinese law governing payment companies in order to secure a license to continue operating Alipay. Numerous analysts reported that Ma sold Alipay to himself below market value without notifying the board of Alibaba Group or the other major owners Yahoo and Softbank, while Ma stated that Alibaba Group's board of directors were aware of the transaction. The ownership dispute was resolved by Alibaba Group, Yahoo! and Softbank in July 2011.
He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in November 2013 and has audited classes at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ma is a board member of Japan’s SoftBank and China’s Huayi Brothers Media Corporation. He became a trustee of The Nature Conservancy’s China program in 2009 and joined its global board of directors in April 2010. In 2013, he became chairman of the board for The Nature Conservancy's China Program; this was one day after he stepped down from Alibaba as company CEO. Ma is the first Chinese citizen to serve on The Nature Conservancy’s board.
In 2014, he was ranked as the 30th most powerful person in the world in an annual ranking published by Forbes.
In 2015 he was honoured with the Entrepreneur of the Year award at The Asian Awards.
In 2007, in response to worldwide criticism of the practice of killing sharks for their fins, Ma announced that he and his family had "sworn off shark fin soup now and forever." Ma has stated that that moment created a newfound interest in environmentalism that would shape his future ethos. In January 2009, Alibaba Group revised its listing policy and banned the sale of shark fin products on all of its e-commerce platforms.
At the Alibaba.com annual shareholders meeting in May 2009, Ma encouraged those in attendance, including shareholders, customers and students from two Hong Kong universities, to take matters into their own hands and take action in the form of starting businesses to cope with the economic downturn rather than waiting for government or business to help them. He reminded everyone that the great fortunes of the world were made by people who saw opportunities that others didn't, and he noted that the aftermath of the recent global recession would be no different in terms of exposing new ways of doing business.
At the annual general meeting of shareholders for Alibaba.com in May 2010, Ma announced Alibaba Group would begin in 2010 to earmark 0.3 percent of annual revenue to environmental protection, particularly on water and air quality improvement projects. Of the future of Alibaba, he has said that "our challenge is to help more people to make healthy money, 'sustainable money,' money that is not only good for themselves but also good for the society. That's the transformation we are aiming to make."
In 2015, Ma made his first purchase of conservation land outside China when he bought a 28,100-acre property named Brandon Park in Paul Smiths, New York, in Adirondack Park south of Malone, NY for $23 million.
Jack Ma is married to Zhang Ying and they have two daughters and a son. Ma met his wife when they were still studying at Hangzhou Normal University. The couple married shortly after graduating in the late 1980s and both began working as teachers.