10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jack Ma, Co-Founder of Alibaba

Last Updated: November 30, 2015

Alibaba started as a B2B online portal in 1999 and now, It is one of the largest internet based company in the world. Post Alibaba’s IPO launch this Thursday, It turned out to be the biggest US IPO in the history. Just to give you an idea, Alibaba’s IPO is bigger than Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined.

Now the question is how does it all happened? Well, It’s a lot of hard work, persistence and strong belief of that one person who was behind the company in good times as well as in bad times. We know him as the co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma.

jack ma alibaba

In this post I am going to share some little known instances from Ma’s life. The sole purpose of this post is to inspire everyone. So, let’s just begin.

1. Jack began his career as an English teacher.

Jack Ma was an English teacher by profession and knew very little about computers. He claims not to know much more about computers than how to send and receive e-mail.

2.  His First Salary was just 12-15 USD per month.

At the University where he taught English, he was the only teacher assigned to 500 students. His pay was 100 to 120 Renminbi, which is around $12 to $15 per month. Before moving on, he taught there for 5 years.

3. He used to guide tourists for free for 8 years and that’s how he learned speaking English fluently.

When Jack was 12 years old, he grew a strong desire to learn English. He’d guide tourists from foreign countries for free and learn English by conversing with them. It went on like this for 8 years.

4. He was almost killed by an American Businessman in 1995.

In 1995, Jack traveled to the US for helping one of the Chinese firm to recover their money from an American Businessman and there he experienced the unexpected. Instead of returning the money, the businessman threatened him by showing gun and locked him in his house for two days. Jack came out of this situation by promising him that he’d start an internet company in China in partnership with him. Although, he knew very little about Internet at that time.

5. He took first step towards the internet by building websites for Chinese Companies.

After the incident mentioned above Jack took first step towards the internet world and he started building websites for Chinese companies.

In an interview he told ‘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.’

6. He raised initial round of funding for Alibaba within 2 hours. It was $60,000.

In 1999, I gathered 18 people in my apartment and spoke to them for two hours about my vision. Everyone put their money on the table, and that got us $60,000 to start Alibaba.

After 6 months they raised second round of funding from Goldman Sachs.

7.  This is why Jack chose the name ‘Alibaba’.

Jack was always clear that he wanted to take his company to the global level and that’s why he wanted a global name. Alibaba is easy to spell, and people everywhere associate that with “Open, Sesame,” the command that Ali Baba used to open doors to hidden treasures in One Thousand and One Nights.

8. Jack Ma is the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes.

9. An interesting conversation between Jack Ma and his wife Zhang Ying.

Zhang was one of the founding members of Alibaba and this conversation was after a couple of years company was launched.

Zhang asked her husband how much money the company had made, and Ma raised a single finger. “Ten million yuan (US$1.6 million)?” Zhang asked, and Ma said no. “A hundred million (US$16 million)?” she asked, and Ma said no again. “One million (US$160,000),” Ma said to Zhang’s disappointment, until he added, “a day.”

10. In an interview he mentioned the reason behind his success. I bet you want to know this.

There were three reasons why we survived. We had no money, we had no technology, and we had no plan. Every dollar, we used very carefully.

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