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From Rags to Riches: The Life Story of Jack Ma

Jack Ma’s early life

Jack Ma, the Chinese born citizen  failed twice to get enrolled into college.

In  an attempt he barely passed after doing extraordinary preparatory efforts. Jack tried to get a job at a restaurant but most of them didn’t let him in. He equally failed to get a job at KFC and so he found no other option but to work as an English teacher, earning 10 British pounds a month (less than 10 dollars).


Before becoming an English teacher, Ma had to learn it and because he was passionate about it he used to ride his bicycle for 45 minutes each day to reach a nearby hotel where he used to start conversations with tourists and offer them free tours in the city, to improve his language.

Jack was  not satisfied with his job so he decided to move to the United States to get a better life. While in the United States he studied computer and internet. Here he became passionate about them. While in the United States, Jack also founded the website which allows merchants and companies to trade products online. Within a short time Alibaba became one of the largest websites online.

Jack Ma’s Early Internet Adventures

Ma and his friends decided to launch a site about China and Chinese products online. Known as “Chinapage,” the site listed Chinese businesses and their products. Although Ma received inquiries from around the world, the interest was marginal enough that Chinapage struggled.


In hopes of better funding, Ma partnered with a governmental body, giving away majority control of Chinapage in the process. Unfortunately for him, that entity brought along rigid bureaucracy, stifling Ma’s control and his ability to execute his vision for the company. Eventually, Ma departed the company.


Jack Ma Quits Government job

Following a Chinapage fiasco, Ma picked a government job, working for a short period at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation in the latter half of the 1990s. It was in this role that Ma encountered Jerry Yang, a co-founder of Yahoo. The two became friends, and Jerry eventually secured a Yahoo investment of roughly $1 billion in Alibaba in 2005.


Thanks to his experience in the government and his failed partnership surrounding Chinapage, Ma started developing a general distaste for governmental bureaucracy.


Later, in speaking of this period in his life, Ma cautioned young entrepreneurs to “be in love with the governments, but do not marry them.” (One of his famous quotes).


In 1999, after quitting the government job, Ma tried his hand at internet-based business ventures. He gathered a group of potential investors at his home and sold them on his dream to found Alibaba with the goal of enhancing  international trade for small and medium ventures based in China.


Alibaba was born out of Ma’s unfulfilled dream of using the internet to facilitate business activities for Chinese SMEs and frustration with the bureaucrats he worked with in Chinapage. In the earlier case, his idea to use the internet as a means to facilitate the trade of Chinese-made products in the international market was repeatedly rejected. Alibaba, on the other hand, allowed exporters to post listings for products for direct purchase by customers.


Alibaba and Yahoo Symbiosis

After Ma and Alibaba reorganized their operations and made their mark by successfully overtaking eBay in the Chinese market, and with the help of Jerry Yang, Ma successfully convinced Yahoo to invest $1 billion in exchange for a 40% stake in Alibaba in 2005.

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