Jack Ma: English teacher turned Internet billionaire

May 21, 2012

After being knocked back by American venture capitalists in 1999, Jack Ma -- a cash-strapped entrepreneur -- convinced friends to give him $60,000 to start Chinese online retailer Alibaba.com.

Thirteen years later, the company owns one of the world's biggest trading sites for small businesses and Ma, a former English teacher, is among the growing ranks of billionaires in China.

In 2005 he sold a 43 percent stake in Alibaba to Yahoo! for $1 billion, but relations between the struggling US Internet pioneer and China's top e-commerce player have deteriorated in recent years.

On Monday, after more than a year of tedious negotiations, Yahoo! said it had agreed to sell its stake in Alibaba back to the company for at least $7.1 billion.

Alibaba Group includes Alibaba.com and Taobao, China's largest online marketplace for consumers with more than 800 million product listings and 370 million registered users.

Ma, 47, gave up his university teaching job after discovering the Internet in 1995. That same year he launched his first Internet company -- an online directory for Chinese companies called China Pages.

"The first time I used the Internet, I touched on the keyboard and I find 'well, this is something I believe, it is something that is going to change the world and change China'," Ma later told CNN.

Seeing an opportunity for small businesses to buy and sell their goods online, he later started Alibaba.com, initially running the company out of his apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

David Wolf, Beijing-based chief executive of corporate advisory firm Wolf Group Asia, said Ma had proved an "impressive businessperson" in China with his ability to "understand how the winds are blowing both from the market and regulatory standpoint".

His success was evident when US auction site eBay decided to largely withdrew from China in 2006 after Alibaba's Taobao won the lion's share of the country's market, which now has more than half a billion Internet users.

Hong Kong-listed Alibaba.com now has a market capitalisation of more than HK$66.7 billion ($8.6 billion), and posted a net profit of 1.71 billion yuan ($270 million) in 2011, up 16.6 percent over the previous year.

"The money we make is helping small businesses to survive," said Ma in a speech he gave last year at Stanford University in California.

"Before the history of the Internet, no company could help over 50 million SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). Today we are trying, and I feel proud of that."

Explore further: Sony's quarterly loss balloons on mobile woes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alibaba chief 'interested' in buying Yahoo!

Oct 03, 2011

The head of Chinese Internet giant Alibaba is "interested" in buying Yahoo! and has been approached by private equity firms and other groups about doing a deal, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

China grants Alibaba payment system license

May 26, 2011

(AP) -- An online payment system founded by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group was granted a government license, the company said Thursday, following an ownership change that rattled investors in partner Yahoo Inc.

China's Alibaba chief silent on Yahoo stake

Sep 10, 2011

The head of Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, Saturday gave no hint of the future of Yahoo!'s stake in his firm but said he wasn't responsible for the recent ouster of its chief.

China's Alibaba splits online shopping unit Taobao

Jun 16, 2011

China's largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group announced Thursday it has split its consumer online shopping platform Taobao into three firms to adapt to an increasingly competitive landscape.

China e-commerce firm Alibaba in privatization bid

Feb 21, 2012

(AP) -- Alibaba.com's parent company wants to take the Chinese e-commerce company private for $2.5 billion, the firms said Tuesday, part of a shift in business strategy that also includes plans to buy back a stake from Yahoo ...

Recommended for you

Sony's quarterly loss balloons on mobile woes

7 hours ago

Sony's losses ballooned to 136 billion yen ($1.2 billion) last quarter as the Japanese electronics and entertainment company's troubled mobile phone division reported huge red ink.

Will Apple Pay be mobile pay's kick-start?

15 hours ago

If anyone can get us to use our smartphones as wallets, it's Apple. That's what experts think about the recent launch of Apple Pay, the first mobile wallet to work on an iPhone.

Google execs discuss regulation, innovation and bobble-heads

17 hours ago

Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg help run Google, one of the world's best-known, most successful - and most controversial - companies. They've just published a new book, "How Google Works," a guide to managing what they ...

LinkedIn reports 3Q loss but sales climb

17 hours ago

LinkedIn Corp. posted a third-quarter loss on Thursday, but its results were better than expected as revenue grew sharply, sending shares of the online professional networking service higher in extended trading.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.