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Jack Ma became the richest man in China, when the company he founded
floated on the stock market last year with a value of around ￡140billion - the
largest public offering in history.
Alibaba, often referred to as China's answer to eBay and Amazon, now has
100 million visitors every day, said Ma at this year's World Economic Forum in
Ma was interviewed by Charlie Rose, and revealed a unique insight into the
story behind his success...
1. "Beer" was the first word that Jack Ma searched for on the internet
Back in 1995 Ma made his first trip to the US and used the internet for the
first time. After searching for "beer", he saw that no results came up relating
to China. When he then searched for "China" and still saw no results, he decided
to set up a Chinese website - the seed for Alibaba had been sown.
2. Jack Ma applied to study at Harvard 10 times and was rejected each
Ma said he has had to deal with rejection many times in his life: He failed
the entry exams for colleges in China three times and was also rejected for many
jobs in China, including one at KFC.
The billionaire said he was turned down by the prestigious Harvard 10 times
after applying, in reply Charlie Rose quipped "they're sorry now".
3. Forest Gump is Jack Ma's hero
Forest Gump "never gives up" and believes in what he is doing, said Ma. He
also quoted the phrase "Life is like a box of chocolates because you never know
what you're going to get", adding that he could never have foreseen that he
would end up at Davos talking about his success.
4. Jack Ma learnt English by giving tourists free guides - every day for
Limited resources meant it was difficult to learn English when Ma was
younger. However, he found that he could learn the language by giving tourists
free tours around his hometown of Hangzhou- something that he did during his
teenage years every morning for nine years. Ma said that the tourists "opened my
mind" because everything they said and did was so different to what he had been
taught at school and by his parents.
5. A tourist gave Jack Ma his English name
Jack Ma's Chinese name is Ma Yun; he was given the name Jack by a tourist
who later became a pen-friend. She struggled with his Chinese name and asked if
she could call him Jack, because both her husband and father were also called
6. Jack Ma wants to make movies
After being seen in Hollywood, Ma admitted that he's interested in making
movies for Chinese young people.
He said that Hollywood has inspired him because in American films the
heroes always start off down on their luck before reaching success, but in
Chinese films all the heroes end up dead - Ma joked that this is why Chinese
people don't aspire to be heroes. Ma also said that he enjoys reading and
writing Kung Fu novels.
7. "Be in love with the Government... but don't marry them," said Jack
Ma described his relationship with the Chinese government as "very
interesting" and said that at the beginning of starting Alibaba he told
employees to be "in love with the Government, but don't marry them".
He said that he has never taken any money from the Chinese Government or
8. Jack Ma loves Tai Chi
Ma said that Tai Chi is a philosophy about how you balance and he applies
it to his professional and business life, using it to draw inspiration about how
to compete in the market.
9. Jack Ma named his company Alibaba because it's a globally known
Ma simply wanted his company to have a global and interesting name, and
realised that Alibaba is a story known across the world. As an added bonus, Ma
said that because it begins with A, it also appears top of lists.
The company was founded in 1999 and since then has grown from 15 employees
to more than 30,000.
Ma said that Alibaba has directly and indirectly created 40million jobs for
China. It floated on the New York Stock Market in September 2014 for $25billion
(￡17billion), the largest IPO in the world.
Ma said he hopes to keep expanding Alibaba outside of China (the company is
already big in Russia and Brazil) and is aiming for 2billion consumers and
10million small businesses to use the company outside of China.