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Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba | Don’t Worry About Competition

When you do business, don’t worry about competition. There’s nowhere in this world where there’s no competition. You have to get used to it. You cannot stop globalization. The world is getting so small. If you cannot stop it, improve it. Forget about the competition today. It’s like a 10,000 meters running. For the first 200 meters, don’t think that guy is the competitor; keep on running. 3000 meters later, you will know is a competitor. He’s got that quality that I think unites so many people who are ultimately successful. He is relentless. The internet is opportunity for small business.

He’s sort of like the pied piper of the Internet in China. Don’t miss this chance. First he attracted employees.

He attracted millions of businesses to build their business on the platforms. 40 countries this year. A hundred and seventy hours. Forty… like forty six. We know that we have to be humble, we have to serve our customers. Jack Ma has done a phenomenal job to create a business that is second to none in the world. He is the largest retailer. Investors may not like us; if customers like us, we have the future. I heard they call him crazy Jack Ma. I think it takes a little bit of craziness or madness to achieve anything.

I was born in a very normal family and poor family. Six people share $7 a month. We can only eat to one chicken a year. Was terrible. Nixon visited my city. 1972, China USA sign the- Mao Zedong and Nixon signed the agreement.

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So China become open door. My city Hangzhou was one of the first cities that opened to the west. We got a lot of American tourists to visit my city. What he would do is he would befriend foreign visitors who came to Hangzhou to walk around the West Lake there. And I learned English by being a free guide for tour guide. No more than the language, Jack was learning about the culture. The things I learned from books from China are so different from the things I learn from the American visitors. So I started to think differently. You know in China, for so many decades, the kind of personal ambition that he exemplifies was suppressed. When Deng Xiaping came along and sort of took the top off of things and said, “It’s OK to have your private ambition to make something of yourself, it won’t get you in political trouble,” this was a kind of an invitation from people like Jack Ma.

His goal was always to create something that would change China. When I tried to be a Policeman – reject. When I tried to be a KFC person – reject. I want to be a hotel waiter – rejected. So I get used to it. As entrepreneur, one of the qualities I have is that when I’m rejected by people, I get used to that.

The road to wherever we all end up is not always perfect. It’s paved with lots of difficulty and challenge and failure and you have to summon up some sort of strength within you to believe in yourself. Jack Ma grew up in relatively modest means and then he became a teacher. And by all accounts that’s sort of where he expected to be for quite some time. Then I came to America in 1995. First a trip to the States. And first time in my life I touched to keep all the computers.

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And he started searching things on the Internet. When he searched China, nothing came up in the search results. So he said to himself, “If I can put Chinese companies on the Internet and allow them to connect with business people in the U.S.

And other countries, I could create possibly a really powerful business.” I called myself at that time like a blind man riding on the back of blind tigers. Without knowing anything about technology or computers, we started our the first company. He’s gone against all convention. He says that he doesn’t know anything about technology. It’s hard to believe. When he started his first company, called China pages, he would go knocking on the doors of government officials. They would really just turn him away saying that what he was doing wasn’t appropriate. He should just go back to maybe teaching English. This was opening day for something called Windows 95 that has something to do with computers. With Deng now gone, China’s future will be shaped by a great power struggle.

Well, 1997 proved to be a watershed year for Asia, the year when the Asian economic miracle became a thing of the past. There seems to be no stopping the speeding tech train; technology stocks keep climbing into record territory. 2000 and when the internet was starting to boom in China, a friend told me that there was a company trying to go global from an apartment in Hangzhou. Eighteen years ago, in my apartment, I told the 18 founders that one day we would build up a site.

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This site would be the top 10 sites of the world. Very few people believed that we would make it happen. Jack’s greatest strength is bringing together ordinary people to do these incredible things that they never thought was possible. Most of my colleagues and 18 founders they were my students, my friends. None of them were very successful. Among the 18 people, there were only three people who know something about computers. Being first in China was a key. You’ve got to remember there was not great infrastructure for even the telephone.


We believe in the future. We believe in Internet. And we believe that if we do not succeed, somebody will. The big investment came when Masayoshi Son of Softbank met with Jack. And the story is that Masayoshi Son was in Beijing meeting with a number of Internet entrepreneurs who presented very detailed business plans, but Jack got Jack Ma got up with no presentation and just a story – a vision of what he wanted to do, what he wanted to Alibaba to become – and the Masayoshi Son got so excited about it that he pledged to invest as much as 40 million dollars in the company. And Jack turned it down and said you know what, we only need 20 million at this time. Masa obviously gave capital to Jack Ma that he desperately needed. And also made the single greatest investment one can argue, ever. Period. Jack Ma’s played a very key role in sort of the development of the Internet in China but not as we originally imagined the Internet would develop. He has used it as a vector for commerce.

Jack turned this into a mass movement across China where he educated small businesses about why they needed to use the Internet.

And he really created a revolution by educating his customers one person at a time. This is such a big monster. It is something that never happened in the history before. So we think we are changing China. We’re helping China to the second level. He understood what technology could do for the Chinese people in terms of affording them access to the worlds of product. And he’s done it. Alibaba went from this sort of optimistic expansion phase to to this somewhat depressing phase of cutting back and I think for just a moment in time he even wondered if the company would survive.

The ecosystem of Africa, the lives is not designed by lion, tiger and elephants. Life is designed by the minor insects. For us, consumers, small business are the key. If we can serve these consumers and small businesses well, big companies will get involved. They will start to see it coming. So if you keep good sides of shrimps, all the sharks will come. Big fish will come. When we started Alibaba B2B, we are helping small business selling things across the board.

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So we think: “Which country has the best technologies on the Internet?” We say USA. So we decided to build up a huge office in San Francisco. But what happened was it created a disaster inside the company. We had a division where half the team was in the US, half the team was in China and there was a lot of friction between the management.

This is huge. The number of products on fun Alibaba is gigantic. I don’t know the number but it’s phenomenal. I don’t think I could ever appreciate the pressures that Jack Ma is under to be a hard-charging entrepreneur at the same time as he’s a part of a communist system in some way. That takes people away. Leaders of businesses can disappear. I believe the three things should not touch. Power, money, the glory. If you keep the power in your office, you’re in trouble. If you keep the money in your own pocket you will be trouble. If you put the glory on your head, you’ll be in trouble. So when you have the money, spend the money supporting more people.

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When you have power, empower in the others. With the glory, let the others have that hat. Joe it’s quite a mob here. There are more than 130 press organizations waiting here to see Jack Ma. You felt like it was The Oscars. I was oohing and ahing because you have to admire that kind of thing.

He is so enthusiastic about what he’s doing and what he’s doing is pretty simple. It takes a genius to think of the simple. One of the secret sauce for Alibaba is that we have more than 48 per cent of the people in the company – they are women. He’s supporting women in an era where, you know there’s still residue of disrespect for women.

And I think for him to be able to bring that to China is extraordinary. I do everything to make sure that I’m- my customer happy, employee happy, the society is good. It’s healthy. Social responsibility is the key. For somebody who is sort of preposterously unlikely to have become what he’s become, he’s more or less stayed who is. He is someone who wants to do good not only in business but in the world. He has the power to inspire other people. He has the ability to understand what he doesn’t understand, but knows that he can find people who can and will for him. I think he saw the possibilities of a new way of not only doing business, but of life.

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He’s focused on these bigger issues and where are the company’s going in the broad sort of arc of history. If you were to ask Jack Ma what’s his greatest accomplishment, it would not be, you know, becoming the richest man in China or building a company worth hundreds of billions of dollars. I think he might measure his own success by the impact that he’s created on China rather than impact he’s created on just himself and his own team. It’s always scary looking far away. Oh my God, that’s a difficult place. Go there. Test. Jump into it. You never learn to swim until you’re in the water..

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