Jack Ma is one of the most well-known businessmen in the world. As the driving force behind Alibaba, he presided over its triumphant battle against eBay in China as well as their record-breaking U.S. IPO in 2014. The story of Jack Ma is a tale of incredible determination, failure, and ultimately success. Few in the Chinese business world match his charisma. As he’s set to retire on September 10th, let’s take a look back at some of the most interesting and inspirational Jack Ma facts. At a time when China wasn’t even connected to the internet and many Chinese weren’t aware of its existence, Ma recognized its potential. In 1995 in later August, China was connected to the internet. I was number seven person connected to the China internet. According to a Newsweek article titled “China’s New Rock-Star CEOs”, during Ma’s first visit to the U.S., he was sent to help retrieve a debt for a friend from an American businessman but things turned sour when the American allegedly pulled a gun on Ma and held him against his will. The story gets even more bizarre as he claims he was taken to Las Vegas where he gambled what little money he had left on slot machines, won 600 dollars and bought a plane ticket to meet up with a friend in Seattle. While in Seattle, his friend let him use the internet for the first time. So I typed the first word called beer. At that time, very slow, come on the American beer, Japan beer, and the German beer but not China beers. So I was curious and I type China. No China. No data. Ma didn’t have access to English language books when he was a child. To learn the language, he listened to radio broadcasts and would ride his bike to the Hangzhou Hotel, where he offered free tours to foreigners in exchange for English lessons. A tourist in Hangzhou had difficulty pronouncing Ma Yun and asked if he had an English name. At the time, Ma didn’t have one and asked her to give him one. So can you give me an English name? She said, Okay, my father’s called is Jack. My husband’s called Jack. What do you think about Jack? The Hangzhou Hope Translation Agency was established in 1994. It was through this agency that Ma first got the chance to work with foreign businesses that were operating in China. Though Ma would later move on to other endeavors, the translation agency he helped found is still around today. Though Ma is immensely successful today, he faced many setbacks earlier in life. He didn’t perform well academically and failed the college entrance exam twice. When looking for work, he was rejected 30 times. When KFC come to China, to my city, 24 people went for the job, 23 people accepted I was the only guy. When I went for police, 5 people, 4 of them accepted. By the way I told you I applied for Harvard for 10 times, rejected. Ma considers Forrest Gump one of his favorite films and has often expressed his admiration for the character. People think he’s dumb, but he knows what he’s doing. When faced with difficulties during Alibaba’s early days, Ma would turn to the film for inspiration. When I see him, I think this is the guy we should learn from. Believe what you’re doing, love it whether people like it, don’t like it, be simple. While having lunch at a restaurant, Ma asked a waitress if she knew the name Ali Baba, from the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I asked her, do you know about Ali Baba? She said yes. I said “What is Ali Baba?” She said, “Open Sesame” Good. So I went on the street and asked about 10 to 20 people and they all knew about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and open sesame and I think this is a good name. When Taobao launched, there were no users. To get things rolling and inspire confidence in their service, Ma and Taobao’s other founders bought and sold their own things on the platform. For the first week, all the sales was among ourselves. Then another week later, somebody start to testing sell. For almost 30 days everything people sell, we all buy them. So we have a whole house of rubbish we bought online. Though he was an early adopter of the internet in China, Ma isn’t tech savvy. In an interview with Charlie Rose, he admitted he doesn’t know how to write code. I know nothing about technology. The only thing I use my computer is send and receive email and browse. That’s it. Ma has a knack for the spectacular. At Alibaba’s celebration events throughout the years, he has dressed up in outlandish costumes and put on shows by singing and dancing to pop songs. On top of that, he’s really into martial arts. In the film Gong Shou Dao, Ma plays a character that takes on and defeats notable martial artists including Donnie Yen and Jet Li. It’s just a little unrealistic, but there’s no doubt the man can pull off some choreographed moves. That’s it for KrASIA’s Twelve facts about Jack Ma. What will he be up to after Alibaba?
Will he star in another kung fu film? Start another business? Or will he go back to teaching? With Ma being so comfortable in the spot light, it won’t be long until we find out.