22 Crazy Things We've Learned About Alibaba Billionaire Jack Ma
As someone who rose from being rejected from Harvard 10 times to becoming the second-richest man in China, Jack Ma’s rags to riches story is inspiring. Through persistence and experimentation, Ma built one of the most successful, record-breaking companies to date, the ecommerce giant Alibaba.
Of course, his success didn’t happen overnight, and his story is full of lessons in failure. Growing up, Ma struggled in school, constantly failing tests. When he finally got accepted to college, after he failed the college entrance exam twice and was rejected from Harvard 10 times, Ma eventually became an English teacher. However, once he was introduced to the internet during a work assignment in 1995, the rest was history.
Motivated to help the internet catch on in China, Ma launched Alibaba, an ecommerce site for small- to medium-sized businesses, in 1999. From there, it took years to build the site into the massive online wholesaler it is today, powered by Ma’s motivation and passion. Today, Ma is worth a whopping $39 billion, and since he stepped down as Alibaba’s CEO in 2013, he’s devoted much of his time and money to social causes.
There’s much to learn about the Chinese billionaire. Here are 20 interesting facts about Ma you probably didn’t know.
He wasn’t a great student.
He began learning English when he was 12.
He was rejected from Harvard University 10 times.
He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life after college.
After graduating from Hangzhou Normal University, Ma applied for 30 different jobs, and he got rejected from each one. During the process of applying for these jobs, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, so he submitted his resume for a variety of unique positions, one even being a police officer.
He was rejected from KFC.
He loves "Forrest Gump."
He became a teacher and made $12 to $15 a month.
He was first introduced to the internet in 1995.
He was kidnapped and threatened with a handgun.
His first entrepreneurial venture ended in failure.
After borrowing $2,000 from friends to launch China Pages in an attempt to popularize the internet in China, Ma’s venture didn’t quite go as planned. It ran on a server with a dial-up connection in his small apartment, which made pages take more than three hours to load. At the time, his direct competitor was China Telecom, from whom Ma accepted an investment of $185,000 for a joint venture. In the end, however, Ma found he did not have much say in the business. Eventually, he left and took a job with China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.
He announced Alibaba in a videotaped meeting from his small apartment.
The name “Alibaba” came from a children’s story.
While growing Alibaba, Ma and his team made mistakes along the way.
Alibaba holds the record for most money raised in an IPO.
But Ma wishes Alibaba never went public.
He says he doesn’t know much about technology.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ma admitted that he actually doesn’t know much about technology, despite owning one of the most successful tech companies in the world. “I know nothing about technology," he said. "The only thing I can use my computer [for] is [to] send [and] receive email and browse."
He loves to perform.
He’s the second-richest person in China.
He stepped down as Alibaba’s CEO because he felt he was too old.
After stepping down as CEO, Ma refocused his efforts on social issues.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ma shared what he planned to do after leaving his executive position. “In China, because of problems in water, air and food safety, in 10 or 20 years, we will face a lot of health problems, like increased cancer. So that is one area where I will invest my money and time." Alibaba bought a stake in Citic 21CN in 2014, changing its name to Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd. Since then, Ma has spent much of his time and money attempting to bring hospitals and pharmacies online.
That same year, Ma launched the JackMaFoundation, which focuses on education, the environment and public health. In 2015, Ma was recognized as China’s biggest philanthropist, having donated a total of $2.4 billion (after share options) to his foundation.