During the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; Jack Ma The Alibaba founder spoke of his mistakes, sacrifices, rejections and triumphs, all of which have brought him to where he is today.
During the interview, he discussed the importance of the word “beer,” his desire to learn English, the 10 rejections from Harvard University, and even how he plans to outsell WallMart.
Next you have the most important business lessonsof one of the most influential men in the world.
At age 12, Jack fell in love with English. Unfortunately at that time there was no way to learn it in his city; there were no books, courses, teachers, there was nothing…there was only a hotel where tourists arrived.
Realizing that people who spoke English were arriving there, Jack Ma decided to go outside the hotel every morning for 9 years, giving guided tours to tourists in exchange for learning the language.
From a young age, Jack Ma was exposed to rejection. As a young man he tried to enter 3 universities in China and in all of them he was rejected. He even had to repeat several years of his primary school for having lost them.
In the workplace it was the same, Jack applied to more than 30 jobs and was rejected in all of them. To add insult to injury, when the KFC restaurant chain came to his city in China, of the 24 people who applied to work there, he was the only one who was rejected.
In case you didn’t know, Jack Ma applied 10 times to Harvard University, and on all 10 occasions he was also rejected.
Today, Ma he thinks that all these refusals made him stronger; They made him question many things that he did, to change others and always, always, be clear about where he wanted to go.
In 1995, Jack visited the United States for the first time, it was there that he met the internet. His first reaction was: what is this for? he didn’t have the slightest idea what he could do there in the browser; A friend from back then replied that he was used to search for whatever he wanted, so the first thing he did was search for the word “beer”.
After “navigating” for a while, he wanted to find out what was about China on the famous “internet”, and found that there was not a single piece of information that spoke of his country.
So he decided to set up a site, and in a few hours, with this friend, he managed to create a horrible site with facts about China. Interestingly, a few hours later they already had 5 emails from people who wanted to work with them.
When his friend told him the wonderful news, Jack’s first question was, what is an email?
His favorite movie is Forrest Gump. He has always felt a great affinity towards her for two reasons: Forrest was always simple, and above all, he never gave up.
The values offered by movies Hollywood Jack is quite attracted to them, because as he says, “In China no one wants to be a hero, because all heroes in Chinese movies die, unlike in America where they fight and work hard to succeed.”
This philosophy is what Jack Ma wants to bring to Chinese citizens through his platform and these Hollywood movies. They are currently working on the development of this new business model.
Few know that during Alibaba’s first five years, the only goal they had, as a company, was to survive. Nothing else mattered, in fact, the first three years did not generate a single dollar of profit. The only thing that kept us going was the excitement of knowing that we were changing lives.
«Many times when I went to eat at restaurants and asked for the bill, the waiter told me that someone else had already paid it, and that they had left a note for me. One of these read “Mr. Ma, I am a customer of the Alibaba platform. I make a lot of money, and I know you don’t, that’s why I’m paying your bill.”
Its growth has been impressive, it went from having 18 workers in April 1999 in its apartment, to having more than 30 thousand workers. When asked if the Chinese government has invested in his company, he recalls:
“At first I wanted and needed money from Chinese banks, and they never wanted to give it to me. Today they offer it to me, but I am no longer interested in receiving it.”
Jack Ma says that, a few years ago, many people said that Alibaba’s business model was lousy.
They said they weren’t going to make any money, that they had a lot of problems, and even eBay and Amazon were better. Jack never believed this to be true. And after collecting more than 25 billion dollars and becoming one of the richest men on the planethe also didn’t think they were as good as everyone was starting to say.
In 2001, Jack Ma sought his first financing, or investment round, worth between $3 million and $5 million. Said attempt was a complete failure, since nobody wanted to invest; hearing the negativity from investors, he graciously asked if he could come back and ask for more money.
Remember: “If you don’t do it, nothing will be possible, if you try at least you will have hope.”
In the year 2000 everyone thought that Jack Ma was crazy; nobody understood his business idea and very few wanted to invest since they did not know how they were going to get their money back. After several years, Yahoo! invested more than a billion dollars.
Today Jack, between laughs, comments: «we are crazy, but not stupid».
During its IPO (Initial Public Offering) the company raised more than 25 billion dollars, making it the company that has raised the most money in the history of Wall Street.
Currently Alibaba has more than 100 million daily shoppers. Its business model is based on advertising and commissions from the thousands of daily transactions that are generated per day. And best of all, these sales are benefiting more than 10 million small businesses.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about the trust in us to do better.”
One of Jack Ma’s goals and dreams is that within 15 years people will not talk about the benefits of online commerce, of e-commerce platforms. As he says: “Today no one thinks about electricity, no one talks about it, and this is because everyone has it. He also wants it to happen with the internet».
When you ask him where he wants to go with Alibaba, his answer is clear: today we are behind Wall Mart in sales. In 10 years we will surpass them, and the reason is very simple: for them to attract 10,000 new customers they have to build a huge hypermarket, while I only need 2 servers.
The mission for which Alibaba was founded was to make life easier for small Chinese entrepreneurs. Today they are achieving it by far, but their goal does not stop there, today they want to connect all these small global companies through their platform.
“At first I wanted to change the world; Today I understand that to change it, we first have to change ourselves»
Here is the full interview: