Company Name: Alibaba Group
Industry: Internet
Date Founded: April 4, 1999
Location: Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Mission Statement: 
“Make it easy to do business anywhere.”

Alibaba Story

“No matter how tough the chase is, you should always have the dream you saw on the first day. It’ll keep you motivated and rescue you (from any weak thoughts).”- Jack Ma

Have you ever had a business idea that you thought were so great that it can change the world, yet you were not sure whether to pursue it or not? There could be a lot of factors why you put off that dream – it maybe because it’s not practical right now, or it could be that you think that chasing it would mean losing your security or the approval of others. But let me tell you a story about a man who saw an opportunity, chased it, and now he is known as the richest man in China. This is the story of Jack Ma and Alibaba.



Born not of a wealthy family, Jack Ma’s beginning is something we can all relate to. He was raised in Hangzhou which is the southeast part of China. During that time, (1964) economy was not that great because it was the rise of Communist China and they were isolating themselves from the western regions.

In 1972, President Nixon made a visit to Jack’s hometown and that visit made Hangzhou a tourist spot. Jobs started to pour in. But Jack had a different idea in mind – Since he really wanted to learn how to speak English, he spent early mornings waiting at the main hotel and offered free tours in exchange for English lessons. Later on, a foreigner gave him the nickname “Jack” which he still uses to this day.

Alibaba HQ

Alibaba HQ in China

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” – Jack Ma

Alibaba Interface

The Alibaba website interface

Something that was synonymous to Jack’s early life is that he seemed to have a magnet for rejections.

  • He failed his Primary school examinations twice.
  • He failed three times in his middle school examinations.
  • He failed three times when he was applying for universities.
  • He wrote Harvard ten times and got rejected every single time.
  • Jack failed to get a job for more than 30
  • He applied for KFC, there were 24 candidates – only 23 was chosen, guess who was rejected.
  • He applied for the Police Force, there were 5 candidates – only 4 was chosen, Jack was rejected. 

However, Jack’s story is not yet over. After getting multiple rejections, he still had the drive to continue on and wanted to be successful. In 1995, Jack Ma visited the US and what caught his attention there was the Internet. Back then, computers and the internet was not popular in China due to the high cost. Jack then realized that this is a good opportunity so he went back to China with the dream of getting businesses into the internet.

“I want to change history, do something important in my life, and influence individuals like we have with millions of small businesses on Alibaba. Then they love and respect you because you made their life important.” – Jack Ma

Driven by passion, Jack then got the trust of his friends and he started his online company Alibaba without any knowledge of coding or selling in particular. It started with a very minimal return for them, but because of Jack’s vision – they pursued and it was the start of everything great in the China’s E Commerce and thus the birth of Alibaba.

Here are 3 things that we can learn about the story of Jack Ma:

  1. You may experience several rejections in life, but it does not mean that you are a failure – Failure can sometimes be a great deal with each and every one of us. That is because every time we fail, we feel that we lost energy, time and effort. However, we must learn that failures are a key for us to get stronger. It strengthens our character, and at the same time it keeps us on the ground.
  1. Keep the dream alive, no matter how long it takes – Jack Ma had a vision, and that was to help small businesses in China get recognized and do their business online. He had no sales or coding experience – however, we triumphed at the end because of the vision he had in mind. How about you? Are you keeping the dream alive?
  1. Stay humble, even if you are on top – After getting his business out in the open, it was remarkable how Jack Ma responded, he said “Today what we got is not money. What we got is the trust from the people.”. Regardless of how much he is worth and how successful, he became, Jack still held his foot on the ground.

Jack Ma’s story and his journey of struggle prior to the success of Alibaba is truly an inspiring one. His story reflects ours in a way that all of us have encountered failure in our lives and that we have the same potential for success as he had before. All it takes is that we never give up and be driven by the right passion.

Resources: Wikipedia,,, Business Insider,

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