Jack Ma still giving back in pursuit of his dream
While internet entrepreneur Jack Ma Yun finds himself at the centre of multibillion-dollar deals that could transform his company, Alibaba Group, these are apparently just a means to even loftier goals.
Ma, who shows a business savvy that defies his modest training as a high-school English teacher in Hangzhou, is behind Alibaba Group's reported deal to buy back the 40 per cent stake that internet firm Yahoo bought from the mainland company for US$1 billion in 2005. That stake may now be worth up to US$14 billion.
Alibaba Group, which Ma founded in 1999, is reportedly also in a potential deal to privatise Alibaba.com, its Hong Kong-listed flagship e-commerce company.
Ma, the group's chairman, has expressed confidence that lining up the cash needed for deals is not a problem. But it was not always that easy.
'In 1995, I had knocked on the doors of investors and lenders one by one and was refused by one after another. Today, it is not I that knock on the door of banks but banks that knock on my door,' Ma told an audience of small entrepreneurs on the mainland in 2009.
'Many know the success of Alibaba now, but few know that when we first went to San Francisco to meet over 40 venture capitalists in seven days, only one answer was given: 'No.' Some of them even said we had the most foolish business plan they had ever seen.'
Ma and his 17 colleagues in Alibaba eventually received a 30,000 yuan loan that gave the company a chance to grow.
Today, Alibaba Group employs about 25,000 staff on the mainland and in international markets.
Subsidiary Alibaba.com is the world's largest business-to-business e-commerce company, with about 72.78 million registered members worldwide. Its three privately held Taobao online shopping platforms lead the mainland's internet shopping market.
As a means to give back and help other small entrepreneurs, Ma has not wavered on these commitments he outlined in 2009: creating e-commerce platforms for 10 million small companies, create 100 million jobs in those small online businesses around the world, and provide an online retail platform that will supply the everyday needs of a billion people around the world.
Ma admits these goals 'will certainly draw a lot of criticism, ridicule and satire'. That does not matter, he said. 'We have come to Alibaba not for a job, but for a dream and for cause. What I would like to share here is not only to inspire myself, but also to inspire everyone else.'
The amount raised, in Hong Kong dollars, by Alibaba.com when it listed on the stock exchange on November 6, 2007