Have you ever faced so many obstacles when trying to make your dreams a reality that you actually think that giving up is easier? Well, Jack Ma also has a similar story. Although many know him as a Chinese business magnate, philanthropist, and investor, many are unfamiliar with his rags-to-riches story.
From the massive failures and rejections he faced in his younger years, no one would believe that his future would be so successful.
Although Jack Ma and Alibaba are not widely known names outside of China, you should be aware that Alibaba is more valuable than Facebook and distributes more products than both Amazon and eBay put together.
Launched in 1999, Alibaba began as an e-commerce marketplace for businesses. Since its debut, the firm has grown tremendously, with recorded revenue of nearly $28 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2022.
But what did it really take to reach these heights of success? How did this company manage to outperform every competitor and grow to such a size in just 20 years when he served as the Alibaba CEO?
Ma’s current net worth is valued at approximately $22.3 billion, which includes his 4.8% ownership holding at Alibaba and a 10% stake in Ant Group, which owns the most prominent online and mobile payment platform in the world, Alipay
Before becoming famous for being the Alibaba owner, Jack Ma was born to a low-income family and was raised in communist China. He failed numerous tests throughout his education life and was even rejected by KFC, where he had applied for a job when it first landed in China.
All these failures and rejections did not stop him from pursuing his dreams. He believed in himself and used all the hurdles he went through as motivation to aim even higher. Keep reading to find out how he managed to rise from the ashes and become one of the world’s wealthiest men.
Born in 1964 in Hangzhou, now a city in the southeastern part of China, Jack Ma is the second sibling of three. As mentioned earlier, he was raised during the rise of the communist era in China. This is when the country isolated itself from Western regions.
His family was impoverished when he was young. His parents worked as musicians and told stories from time to time to provide for the family.
Despite the scarcity of resources, the family was also happy and showed love to one another.
It was not until President Richard Nixon’s visit to Huangzhou in 1972 that the region was transformed into a tourist attraction. Around this time, Ma became very interested in learning English. He began reading Mark Twain’s books to familiarize himself with the language.
When he was 12 years old, he woke up at 5 a.m. to go to one of Huangzhou’s luxury hotels to learn English from tourists. He offered to show them around, and they could pay him by teaching him English. In fact, he got his name “Jack” from one of the tourists he connected with during this period.
Owing to Jack Ma’s poor background, he realized that he could only advance in life using education. However, he was not a good performer in school. First, he did not enjoy mathematics as a subject. He did not understand the concepts and often failed the subject’s exam.
In addition, it took him two tries to pass critical tests in primary school.
He almost did not even pass middle school. It took him three tries to pass his middle school exam and a further two tries to proceed to college as he got a 1% in mathematics.
He eventually passed the college entrance fee and studied English at the Huangzhou Teachers Institute. Once he graduated, he applied for around 30 different jobs, but he was rejected for them all.
He was even the only job applicant to get rejected at KFC when it first
entered the Chinese market. Ma was also rejected by the police force and told he was “no good.” Furthermore, Harvard University also rejected him ten times. He eventually got a job as an English teacher earning about $12 every month.
As you can see, it is due to this resilience and determination that Jack Ma is now synonymous with being persistent. This virtue helped him to proceed further in life as he learned that patience is an essential value in business.
The entrepreneurial journey of the Alibaba founder began when he launched Haibo Translation Agency in 1994, which offered English translation and interpretation services.
During a trip to the US in 1995, Ma used the internet for the first time and searched for “beer.” However, he realized that there were no Chinese websites available.
This was a pivotal point in his life as it motivated him to venture into a new business idea. He decided to do the first Chinese internet-based business.
Later in 1995, he founded his second company, the Chinese Yellow Pages. Unfortunately, it did not manage to take off. However, he established Alibaba in 1999 with a group of 18 of his friends.
Ma convinced them to invest in him as he wanted to build a Chinese marketplace named Alibaba. Exporters could offer their products on the website for direct client purchase. The service quickly began to draw users from across the globe.
By October 1999, the business had raised $20 million from the Japanese telecom corporation SoftBank and $5 million from Goldman Sachs, a reputable company that offers investments in tech firms.
The lack of internet in Hangzhou was a significant problem faced by Jack Ma. If it were anyone else, they would have preferred to start an internet company. But, Ma was determined to start an online business.
He began by offering services to his Chinese friends to design websites for their businesses. All they had to do was provide information about their business, and he would mail the English version to Seattle, where the business sites were created.
Another problem that Jack Ma faced was that he could not obtain funding from Silicon Valley. During the first three years of founding Alibaba, it was not profitable. Many experts suspect that it is because the business expanded significantly at the beginning without gaining the public’s trust.
At a certain point, Alibaba was considered to be 18 months from bankruptcy. As a result, Silicon Valley did not see the potential of this company. However, Ma did not lose hope.
Fortunately, Alibaba, through Jack Ma’s leadership, managed to raise more than $25 billion in an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2014, becoming among the most effective technology firms in the world.
One thing about Jack Ma that you should know is that he was never afraid to dream big. He always had ambitious goals and believed in his future success. He always had an entrepreneurial spirit and was always open to new ideologies.
He did not attend any business schools and did not have the technological understanding to set up an online business. However, he was wise and hard-working enough to realize an opportunity and take action.
Research shows that entrepreneurial success does not rely on book knowledge or clear-cut academic lessons. Instead, it requires hands-on experience, which comes from hard work, experience, and willingness to learn as well as explore. It is often the consequence of unconscious lessons that reveal themselves in gut feeling and intuition.
Although Alibaba was criticized for being unsustainable and unprofitable, it managed to get investments from several reputable companies. By 2003, the company was still not profitable. Some of his other founding friends even pulled out of the business, but this did not stop Jack Ma.
He adopted a new business model in Alibaba and unified his remaining employees and founding partners to grow the e-commerce firm. In just five years, Alibaba managed to drive out eBay from China.
This helped him acquire more funding for his company, allowing him to expand into the global market.
In 2014, Alibaba made headlines by making the largest IPO in the world. Today, Alibaba is synonymous with e-commerce as it is among the largest e-commerce platforms across the globe.
It is also worth noting that Jack Ma founded Tabao Enterprises, a business-to-customer shopping website based in China, in 2003. Note that during this time, Alibaba was still not a profitable business. So, you can imagine the skepticism he got when he decided to venture into Taobao.
That is not all. He went on to launch Alipay the following year, which is now the largest online payment platform in the world. Apart from these online companies, Jack Ma also managed to be the founder of Aliexpress,
Tmall, 1688.com, Juhuasuan, Alibaba Cloud Computing, and many other successful companies.
Jack Ma’s story is among the most inspiring stories to new entrepreneurs who often face many hurdles while starting a new business. How many times have we failed when we tried to open a new business?
While many of us usually give up and move on, Jack Ma teaches us to always believe in our dreams.
Here are some valuable lessons derived from Jack Ma’s story to help renew your determination to succeed:
– Courage and perseverance are essential to being successful. Contrary to popular belief, success does not rely on your educational background.
– Although it is better to acquire as much knowledge as possible, the knowledge easily becomes useless without courage and perseverance.
– Always be open to taking risks: Being that life is full of risks, it is advisable always to be willing to take chances and put yourself out there. However, this is only if you want to be successful in life.
– Brace yourself for many hurdles: Rejection and failures are common in life. Thus, it is best to always be ready for them to stop yourself from being discouraged. Nothing in life ever comes easy, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Always consider your true desires and pursue your dreams. Do not let the hurdles you face demotivate you. Success comes as a result of perseverance and drive.
You can achieve your goals only if you have faith in yourself. Do not lose hope, and always stand up for your beliefs.
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