30 Things To Know About Jack Ma – The Chinese E-commerce Leader


Jack Ma, born Ma Yun, on September 10, 1964, rise to glory from a very humble background, in spite of several failures, at various stages of his life, is an awe inspiring lesson to anyone who aspires to accomplish in life. Here are 30 interesting facts about him:

  1. Jack Ma was born second into his family with an elder brother and a younger sister, to the parents who were traditional musical storytellers, in the south-eastern part of China, Hangzhou, Zhejaing.
  2. In school, Ma had always been a below the average student. He admits to have failed his primary school exams twice, barely making to middle school, where he failed his exams thrice again. He was not good at math either and never heard the term “computer” until his adulthood.
  3. He had a keen interest to learn the English language, used every opportunity to learn and hone his language and his speaking skills, by visiting hotels, frequented by foreigners, near his home.
  4. For nine years, Ma acted a tour guide around to the tourists taking them around the city, for free, just to improve his communicative English language.
  5. He cultivated healthy relationships with those foreigners and it was one of the female pen pals who nick named “Jack” as she found his Chinese name difficult to pronounce.
  6. Ma failed his College Entrance Exams thrice before he enrolled himself into the Hangzhou Normal University, which was known as the Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute back then, and graduated, with BA in English, in 1988.
  7. After graduation, Ma had applied for several jobs in various fields, but faced rejection in almost every attempt. His 30 applications were turned down. When he attempted to become a police officer, he was politely declined with simple words “You’re no good.”
  8. Ma had applied along with 23 other applicants, to KFC when it was first introduced in China, but out of the total 24 applicants, all the 23 except for Ma were hired. He associates his failure to his short stature, thin frame, and lack of good looks.
  9. Ma had persistently applied to the Harvard University only to be rejected all 10 times he had tried. Later he became a lecturer, at Hangzhou Dianzi University, teaching English and International Trade. He loved his job and made $12 a month.
  10. He met Zhang Ying (Cathy Zhāng Yīng) while at school and married her briefly after graduation. They worked together as teachers in Hangzhou Dianzi University. The couple has two children, a son and a daughter.
  11. In an interview, Zhang Ying who had stood by her husband in all his success and failures said, “Ma Yun is not a handsome man, but I fell for him because he can do a lot of things handsome men cannot do.”
  12. Despite being a successful teacher, Ma quit his job to start a Translation Company. It is on one such trip to the United States on business, Ma stumbled upon Internet.
  13. His first search on the Internet was “beer.” Though amazed by the amount of data accessible, he was disappointed to see there was no information about or products related to China.
  14. Returning from the States, Ma started “China Yellow Pages” an online directory, which is widely believed to be one of the first internet-based firms in China, created Websites for various Chinese companies. He was 33 when he acquired his first computer.
  15. Realizing the power of Internet, with a drive to introduce and familiarize his hometown with Internet, he started a new e-commerce company, Alibaba, along with 17 other friends, from his apartment. This company has morphed itself into a household name in the business world.
  16. In an interview, Ma confessed that he came up with the name “Alibaba” when he was at a coffee shop in Malaysia. He jestingly added that the name “Alimama” was also registered for just “in case someone wanted to marry us.”
  17. Ma was met with several rejections wanting to raise funds to begin Alibaba. The initial three years were not profitable. At a point, the company was just 18 months shy away from bankruptcy. As Ma once said, “I call Alibaba ‘1,001 mistakes.’”
  18. One of the qualities the self made billionaire is best admired for is his tenacity to accomplish things. He claims he is reaping his rewards for his persistence and patience. He lives by the philosophy “Today is cruel. Tomorrow is crueler. And the day after tomorrow is beautiful.”
  19. Ma accepts that he had learnt from his mistakes and more than one or more wrong decisions. He believes “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”
  20. He stresses that it is not important who leads, it is the vision that is more important. According to him not every person involved in the business can be convinced to believe or trust. Rather than trying hard to accomplish it, a different approach, uniting toward a common goal can be adopted to attain success.
  21. He thinks the “employee should have superior technical skills than” the employer, if not it means a wrong person has been hired. He adds, hiring people with higher skill set, building a team of your own, and guiding them toward the command goal has to be the important strength for great company.
  22. Ma founded an online auction Website “” which went head on and rivaled an already established site “eBay.” The new website had grand success in Chinese market and gradually eBay had to back out of China. eBay even offered to buy, but Ma refused to sell after acquiring Yahoo’s support.
  23. The first Chinese citizen to serve on The Nature Conservancy’s board is Jack Ma. In 2009, he was the trustee of The Nature Conservancy’s China program, in 2010, he joined its global board of directors and, in 2013, he became chairman of the board. He had also played a pivotal role in funding a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.
  24. Several new ventures like the Alipay, eTao, Ali Mama, Alibaba Cloud Computing, Lynx,,, and Juhuasuan were also founded and headed by Ma.
  25. Ma was mentioned in The China Central Television’s “Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year” list, in 2004. The Business Week magazine featured him in the list of “25 Most Powerful Businesspeople in Asia,” and named him the “Businessperson of the Year,” in 2005. Time’ magazine listed him in “World’s 100 Most Influential People” and he was awarded the “CCTV Economic Person of the Year: Business Leader of the Decade Award,” in 2009.
  26. In 2012, Ma was dubbed “trillion Hou,” literally meaning in Chinese “Trillion Yuan Marquis,” when the online transaction volume of Alibaba had exceeded one trillion yuan. In 2014, he was listed as the 30th most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine. He received the “Entrepreneur of the year” award, in 2015, at the Asian Awards ceremony.
  27. Many varsities like the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Peking University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, etc. have invited Ma often to conduct lectures. Even Harvard University had invited Ma making his wish to teach at the campus true.
  28. His advice to the young entrepreneurs is that, “you should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die.” At the 2017 annual outing of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Ma advised every government to consider “the 30-30-30 focus.”
  29. He says that attention should be paid to the next 30 years which will be critical for the world. It will take 50 years for the Technological revolutions to catch up. The companies/technologies are established for the first 20 years and the next 30 years will see the implications of the technological developments.
  30. For the second 30 he says that the 30 year olds should be paid more attention because they belong to the internet generation and can change the world by trying to build a new tomorrow. The next 30 for the focus to be on small businesses, the companies with less than 30 employees. As an inside joke Ma quotes, Forrest Gump, favorite Hollywood movie, “Nobody makes money catching whales. People make money catching shrimps.”
  31. Bonus Fact: Jack Ma Net Worth: $22 Billion US

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Jack Ma, Alibaba, Jack Ma Facts, Jack Ma Net Worth US $22 billion

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