Jack Ma – The Inspirational Story of Alibaba Founder

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We are all social creatures always looking for fantasy in real life to trigger our thought process and seek inspiration from them. On a daily basis we come across a lot of strangers but we seek inspiration from only a few of them, and what sets them apart is the stories that they have to tell. Even as a child, we grow up listening to stories of how a hero comes to the rescue of his people and his family, we find solace in such stories. Studies have also found that such inspirational stories have a positive effect on our brains and helps us become more emphatic, generous and improve our overall outlook on life.

So, today we’ll talk about a story. The story of the life of a man who has impacted the entire economy and internet industry of China almost single-handedly. His life is nothing less than the story of Robert, The Bruce and the Spider, that we were taught as kindergartens. That’s is the story of Jack Ma.

Who is Jack Ma?

Jack Ma at World Economic Forum
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Jack Ma is the founder of the E-commerce giant Alibaba and is a stakeholder at Alipay, it’s sister company which is an e-payment portal. He is now officially the richest man in China with an estimated net worth of $25 Billion, on the back of the recent world record $150 Billion IPO filing of his company. Given all of this, Jack Ma only holds a 7.8% stake in Alibaba and a 50% stake in Alipay. Alibaba and Jack Ma, although are not household names out of China, you must know that Alibaba is worth more than Facebook, and processes goods more than eBay and Amazon combined!

This might be beginning to seem like the story of an arrogant and rich billionaire who hasn’t seen the dark. But don’t be mistaken by the numbers that you see above, they can fool anyone. Although as simple as it may sound, Jack Ma has had it hard in his life to get to where he is today. A true rags-to-riches story and definitely a one which will inspire you even in your darkest days.

Jack Ma – The Backstory

Jack Ma Childhood
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Ma Yun a.k.a. Jack Ma is one of those self-made billionaires with humble beginnings. Jack Ma was born in Hangzhou, located in the south-eastern part of China. He was born and raised along with an elder brother and a younger sister during the rise of communist China and its isolation from the Western regions. His parents were traditional Musicians-Storytellers and they didn’t make enough to be even considered as middle class during those days.

Former US president Richard Nixon’s visit to Hangzhou in 1972 improved the situation of tourism in his home-town and Jack wanted to make the most of this opportunity. Jack always wanted to learn English as a kid and he spent his early mornings riding on his bike to a nearby park, giving English tours to foreigners for free. It was then he met a foreign girl who gave him the nickname ‘Jack’ for his name was hard to spell for her.

Jack, after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English, worked as an English teacher at Hangzhou Dianzi University with a pay of $12 a month! Now here comes the part where it gets more interesting, even before he has received that degree and became an English teacher.

Rejected, But Not a Failure.

Jack Ma Quote
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Jack Ma as an extremely lucky bloke who just became a billionaire in a snap. But it is safe to know that Rejections are synonymous with Jack Ma. You wouldn’t believe the number of times this man has been rejected and failed.

In his early childhood, Jack Ma Failed in his Primary School examinations, not once, but Twice!  He Failed Thrice during his Middle School exams. When applying to universities after his High school, Jack failed the entrance exams thrice, before finally joining Hangzhou Normal University. He even applied and wrote to Harvard University ten times about being admitted – and got rejected each time. This was only during his education!

During and after his Bachelor’s degree Jack tried and failed to get a job at a multitude of places. After spending three years to get into a University, Jack failed to land a job after applying to them 30 times! He recollects in his interview, “When KFC came to China, 24 people went for the job.  Twenty-three people were accepted.  I was the only guy who wasn’t.” He also one of the 5 applicants to a job in Police force and was the only one getting rejected after being told, “No, you’re no good.”

Also, on his Entrepreneurial undertakings, Jack Ma went on to fail on two of his initial ventures. But that didn’t stop him in any way of dreaming bigger.

Down, but not Out!

The Resurrection of Jack Ma

Jack Ma at Alibaba IPO
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In one of his interviews, when asked about his rejections, this is what he had to say, “Well, I think we have to get used to it.  We’re not that good.” Overcoming the pain of rejections and treating rejections as opportunities to learn and grow was what Jack Ma made of it.

After finally coming to terms with all of his rejections and failures, Jack Ma visited US in 1995, for a Government undertaking project related to the building of highways. It was then that Jack Ma was first introduced to the Internet and Computers. Computers were pretty rare in China then, given the high costs associated with them and Internet or E-mails were non-existent. The first word he searched on the Mosaic browser was ‘Beer’, and it popped out results from different countries, but signs of China anywhere. He then searched ‘China’ and not a single result popped out! He decided it was time for China and its people to get on the Internet.

Finally, after persuading 17 of his other friends to invest and join him in his new e-commerce startup – Alibaba, the company began from his apartment. Initially, Alibaba didn’t had a single penny in investment from outside investors, but they later raised $20 Million from SoftBank and another $5 Million from Goldman Sachs in 1999. Building trust among the people of China that an online system of payment and package transfers is safe was the biggest challenge Jack Ma and Alibaba faced, a challenge that Jack will cherish for his lifetime.

Having started his first successful company at the age of 31 and even after never having written a single line of code or selling something to anyone, Jack Ma runs one of the biggest E-commerce networks in the world. The company went on to grow rapidly, expanding all across the world, quickly growing out of its China shell. Only second to Walmart now in terms of sales per year, Alibaba has become the E-commerce giant that Jack Ma has envisioned for it.

The Key Takeaway here

Jack Ma Full Interview

What does all of this lead to? With a positive and childlike demeanor to him, the one who himself draws inspiration from is the real-life ‘Forrest Gump,’ who never considers himself disadvantaged due to events occurred to him.

Believing in yourself, Being Persistent in the face of adversities and treating rejections and failures as opportunities to propel yourselves ahead is what Jack Ma’s extraordinary life speaks out to the world. Here are some of my favorite quotes by Jack Ma:

This is the story of the exceptionally optimistic and determined Entrepreneur who has changed the face of business and Internet in China and across the world.

So what do you think about Jack Ma and his Entrepreneurial journey so for with Alibaba? Shout out your thoughts and comments about this business tycoon below.

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Authored By
A Shouter whose articles got mentions from the likes of The New York Times, Kissmetrics and AllTopStories. He writes articles, novels and poems; spends most of his time reading everything he could get his hands on. Srikanth is currently pursuing his Masters from The University of Illinois and holds a Bachelors in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai. He is a programmer, a motivational writer and speaker.

39 thoughts on “Jack Ma – The Inspirational Story of Alibaba Founder”

  1. I know about Jack Ma and his achievements from the time he worked as English tutor which was very litte but your article gave me the complete life story of the legend Ma Yun. The way you narrated the article is amazing.

    Thank you for sharing such a great inspiring anecdote. Keep sharing its motivating us a lot…

    1. Believe in God and Believe in yourself one day,i mean one day story will change for the better. dont focus on your challenges focus on your victory.challenges are part of all the problem you need to face before getting to where you wanted to be.keep moving you are almost there.NEVER GIVE UP…

  2. Thanks a lot for such a very good story, kindly post more inspirational stories, at least one in a week. so that readers can read it and take benefit. Thanks a lot once again

  3. I think the last Quote says it all about how to become successful in business “You should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die”.
    That an awesome motivational story. Thanks for sharing such an inspirational journey.

  4. It is very inspiring to know the story of Jack Ma. Please keep sharing such motivational articles on shoutmeloud

    1. Hey Saurabh,

      Thank you for your lovely comment. We are actually planning on chalking out a series on inspirational stories, stay connected to ShoutMeLoud for more of these.

  5. Thanks so much for this inspirational story!!! Knowing ‘Jack’ Ma was an Internet Billionaire did NOT motivate me. Knowing more of his life story and humble beginnings really motivates me!!!

    1. Hey Jim,

      Yes, that was the gist of his motivational story. What was seeming obvious in the beginning had a lot of persistence supporting it throughout. Glad that you find this motivating.

  6. I like the Article in the way you have written…
    Today’s The Hindu Newspaper has this Artcle about Jack Ma and you expressed it in very interesting way ….

  7. Really Inspiring Story and a great entrepreneur. he is a really inspirer and motivation for others. Thanks for sharing his journey.

  8. Wow One Of Those Inspiring storing I Like The Most .
    Thanks For sharing The Post With Us About The Entrepreneur.
    Keep It Up


  9. Bilal Tahir Khan

    Really inspirational and really motivational things in this post
    Nice story Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  10. Ryan Biddulph

    Srikanth I absolutely love this! The guy is a star of stars although things weren’t always that way. Thanks for the inspiring share 🙂


  11. Jack Ma , a True Entrepreneur . An inspiration for young entrepreneurs . Well said ” Go big or Go home”. Keep sharing such inspirational stories.

  12. Gordon Chong Ling

    His uphill battle draws pause to those in need that extra inspiration to adapt walk through and overcome, at this present moment, this untimely flash in my life, I too need to draw strength, history aint short of people that faced battles and succeed but Mr Ma being a realistic Forest has given me that potent push to NEVER GIVE UP.
    One day, if God spares my life I hope to mirror a similar success and be the inspiration for those I effect both in my circle and out.
    Be the pebble thrown in the pond and let your life like the ripples, affect those around you positively that echos through barriers.

  13. Well, we should not forget everyone is fighting there own battles. Some get successful, so they become great but majority doesnt. Everyone around is doing hard work but luck plays a very important part. A man who is in US from China on a Government job is at a luxury, do remember this.

    1. Bro, most of the people get only inspired but only few take a step to get in to action.
      so either you judge Jack Ma or do hard work consistently to become a successful person.
      Now how ur doing the hard work is something one need to learn. If you still think like a Employee, then you will end up doing hardwork for someone not for you.

  14. Charlene Javines

    Srikanth AN, you have an impressive writing skills and you used that to enlighten us of a real life story of a successful human trying to be a lifter for someone who is almost giving up to everything in life! <3

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