Jack Ma – Successful Entrepreneur

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Jack Ma founded the largest Chinese E-commerce store, Alibaba, which is quite popular in China and many other countries for its wholesale and easy-to-access buyer-seller interactions. Many call it the “Amazon of China” because of its estimated 150 Billion dollar IPO. But many do not know that its founder, Jack Ma, was not always living this lavish billionaire lifestyle; instead, he started from nothing. At the beginning of his career, he had a monthly income of just 12 dollars. So, how did Jack Ma’s life turn from rags to riches? Let’s find out:

Who is Jack Ma? 

Jack Ma is the fifth richest person in China, having an estimated net worth of 34.1 billion dollars. He started the company “Alibaba” which skyrocketed in China and other parts of the world. Jack Ma then started brand sisters like “Alipay” and “TaoTao.” Since then, he has reached success in every corner of his life. But the truth about his early life and upbringing is unknown to many people! Jack Ma is a billionaire who started from mere pennies as a child. From the start, he built himself as a brand and made us cement our belief in the rags-to-riches archetype.

Jack Ma attends the 20th Anniversary Schwab Foundation Gala Dinner on September 23, 2018 in New York, NY USA. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Ben Hider

Early Life of the Biggest Business Tycoon:

Jack Ma’s hometown is “Hangzhou,” a city in southeast China. He was born on October 15, 1964, along with his two other siblings to his parents. His birth name was “Ma Yun”. He had a brother and sister. This time was crucial in China’s formation as it rose forward as a Communist nation and separated from its western regions. The economy of China during this period suffered significant blows, and many people could not afford a decent lifestyle.

Panoramic night view of Hangzhou, China

Jack Ma’s parents were traditional Chinese musicians and storytellers. In an era where even prominent business people losing money, Jack Ma’s parents struggled to provide a decent income for the family. Jack Ma was quite a short-tempered kid, as he would get into many fights with his classmates. He would even gang up against his class’s most challenging and biggest goons. Besides beating others up, Jack Ma had many hobbies, like playing cricket with the neighbor’s kids.

During his childhood in 1972, US- President Richard Nixon visited his hometown, resulting in Hangzhou becoming a tourist attraction. Due to this, many hotels opened up, and Ma Yun visited them. He met a tourist there, was nicknamed “Jack,” and learned English.

Jack Ma came from a humble neighborhood with no influences or connections to get him to work. And his education was also average at best. Jack Ma was not very bright in his studies either. He failed his Primary school Examinations twice and failed three times in Middle School Examinations.

Jack Ma applied to a College after completing his high school education. But he failed the entry test twice. Finally, after multiple attempts, he worked hard and passed the entry test on the last attempt. Jack was admitted into the “Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute”. He graduated from college, hoping to have a job and a much better financial life finally.

Jack Ma applied for several jobs but faced rejection every single time. The hope of building a successful career after completing a degree became a lie in Jack’s life. He applied to more than 30 jobs but failed to secure even one. Jack even applied for a KFC job when KFC recently moved to China, but he was the only one rejected. In Jack Ma’s words:

“I failed so many times; people probably know that I applied for so many jobs, over 30 jobs, all rejected, not even getting a chance: 24 of us interviewed for a KFC job, 23 got accepted, and I was the only guy rejected,”

It does not end here. Jack was the fifth and last applicant in the Police Force and was the only one rejected. He was told, “You are not good enough,” right to his face. In these moments of failure, he tried to study further by applying to Harvard about ten times, but he faced rejection each time.

Any person would give up after so many failures, but Jack Ma remained strong and kept on dreaming about achieving more.

This resilience proved that he did not let rejection get in the way of his dreams!

First Not-so-Dreamy Job:

After so many rejections, he finally landed a job, but it could have been a lot more successful. Hired as an English teacher at “Hangzhou Dianzi University,” he was comfortable with the students and was a good professor, but he only made 12 dollars a month. Jack Ma was overworked and underpaid.

How Jack Ma’s interest became his Profession.

Jack Ma had no coding or computer experience, but he became largely interested in the new technology at that time. Internet was rare in China, and he was only introduced to it when traveling abroad to recover a firm payment for a Chinese client. Jack Ma also started a small “Translation Payment Business” during this time and started working hard on it!

His first search on the Internet was “Beer,” but he was disappointed that no Chinese beer brands appeared in the search results. At that time, Jack Ma decided to pursue his interest in business and the Internet and start a Chinese company.

First-failed Attempts:

Jack Ma followed his ambition of starting his own business and worked hard day and night to achieve it, but his first two business ventures failed.

Starting of a perfect Business:

Jack Ma convinced 17 of his friends and got them to invest in his dream of a Chinese business company named “Alibaba.” His startup office was in his apartment. Slowly and not-so-steadily, the startup began to work. Initially, no outside investor would trust this Company. However, after a while, Alibaba collected 5 million from Goldman Sachs and 20 million from Softbank. The Company started to expand, and Jack Ma began to hire people from all over the world. Jack Ma started Alibaba at 31 and has never looked back since.

Work-life and the Atmosphere of Alibaba:

Jack Ma’s work life was fun, and he would come up with unique ideas to lighten the stress of his staff. Jack Ma explains:

“I found that the more you care about your team, the team will care about you, and the team will care about their customers.”

He and his team were close to each other, but Jack Ma would ensure that everyone was doing their work right. He would gift employees stuff here and there. When the Company started to get big, Jack Ma gave each member of the Company a can of Silly String. He had the team do handstands during breaks when the workload was intense to keep their energy levels high.

His Business Ventures take off!

After his first Company became profitable, Jack Ma continued and started many other companies like TaoTao and Alipay.

Alibaba’s Popularity Skyrockets:

In 2005, Yahoo invested in the Chinese Company Alibaba for a 40% stake and 1 billion dollars. This investment made Alibaba a huge business. Alibaba’s IPO skyrocketed to 10 billion.

Buildings at the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Jack Ma Steps down as CEO:

After finding the most successful Chinese Online e-commerce store and making it achieve unimaginable heights, Jack Ma decided to step down as CEO in 2013, agreeing to stay as an Executive Chairman. Even after that, Alibaba kept expanding, and its net worth recently blew up to 300 billion dollars.

Alibaba becoming a perfect company:

Jack Ma had long forgotten the dream of having a perfect job where he would be treated as a respectable employee. But he started a company that would give people their dream jobs. Alibaba’s employees frequently threw parties whenever the Company would cover huge milestones. Jack Ma explains the purpose of his Company in the words:

“A batch of genuinely noble people, a batch of people who can help others and are kind and happy.”

Jack Ma’s life perfectly encapsulates the rags-to-riches archetype. Jack Ma considers his failures as a lesson, and he believes that.

“You have to get used to failure.”

Jack Ma’s philosophy is that to succeed, we must keep trying and never give up. In Jack Ma’s words, a person who gives up is the biggest failure.

“If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

He even says that his biggest business granted him the position of the fifth richest man in China as a pioneer of mistakes. He exclaims,

“I call Alibaba’ 1,001 mistakes.”

Jack Ma’s Humble Lifestyle:

Even after going through a complete 180 degrees in his life, Jack Ma still holds a humble lifestyle. He does not have many fancy properties. He is still quite a fan of writing kung fu fiction. His other hobbies include playing poker, practicing Tai Chi, and meditating. His love for Tai Chi showed when he paired up with Jet Li to spread awareness and show everyone the true capabilities of Tai Chi. Despite Jack Ma’s humble living, he still spends a few thousand dollars here and there on a few luxury purchases. In 2014, Alibaba spent 49.7 million dollars on a Gulfstream G550 for Jack Ma’s travel.

Family Life:

Jack Ma has kept his family private. He married Zhang Ying, who was also a teacher, and he met her in the 80s. They have a daughter and a son.

Zhang Ying, the wife of Jack Ma, has said about him,

“[He] is not handsome, but I fell for him because he can do many things handsome men cannot do.”

A natural performer:

Jack Ma is quite popular in China and is a spontaneous natural performer. He loves to perform on stage. Alibaba hosts annual functions, and Jack Ma loves to perform in them. He once dressed up as a punk rocker for an annual Alibaba performance in front of 20,000 employees, and he nailed the performance!

Starting an Entertainment Career;

Jack Ma’s first short film, “Gong, Shou Dao,” was released in 2017, and this marks Jack Ma’s debut in the acting industry. The fifth richest man in China also loves to sing and regularly performs during Alibaba events. Jack Ma was a judge in “Africa’s Business Heroes.” However, he was replaced by another Alibaba executive due to schedule conflicts.


Jack Ma also developed an interest in conserving the Environment because his wife’s relative passed away from a pollution-related disease. He joined the “Global Board of the Natural Conservancy” and helped raise funds for a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.

Jack Ma’s Lack of Public Appearance:

Jack Ma has made very few public appearances. While many billionaires love to come on screen and show off their wealth, Jack Ma is a private person who does not disclose much of his activities.

Inspiration of Many Youngsters:

Jack Ma has undoubtedly become an inspiration for many youngsters. His life story of being nothing more than an average guy who had no future and who rose to become the fifth richest man in all of China and own a business everyone applauds is a true inspiration for many people. The life story of Jack Ma proves that dreaming big is not unusual. Instead, no matter the circumstances, one should always think big and try to achieve such goals.

In the words of Jack Ma,

“If you want your life to be simple, you shouldn’t be a leader.”

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