Jack Ma Davos: I was rejected by Harvard 10 times! @alibabagroup #businessmodel #entrepreneur

Jack Ma Davos World Economic Forum Interview by Charlie Rose: I was rejected by Harvard 10 times! Maybe I should go teach there in the future.

About Jack Ma

Jack Ma or Ma Yun (Chinese: 马云; born September 10, 1964) is a Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist.

He is the founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, a family of highly successful Internet-based businesses. He is the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes.

As of November 2014, he is the richest man in China and 18th richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $29.7 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Early life

Ma was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. His parents are traditional musician-storytellers. At an early age, Ma developed a desire to learn English so he rode his bike each morning in order to go to a nearby hotel and converse with foreigners. He would guide them around the city for free in order to practice and improve his English.

Later in his youth and although he failed the university entrance exam three times, Ma attended Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute (currently known as Hangzhou Normal University) and graduated in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in English. While at school, Ma was elected student chairman. He later became a lecturer in English and International Trade at the Hangzhou Dianzi University. He later went on to attend further education at Beijing-based Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), founded in 2002 by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, graduating in 2006.

First he started building websites for Chinese companies with the help of friends in the US. He has said that “the day we got connected to the Web, I invited friends and TV people over to my house,” and on a very slow dial-up connection, “we waited three and a half hours and got half a page…. We drank, watched TV and played cards, waiting. But I was so proud. I proved (to my house guests that) the Internet existed.”

At a conference in 2010, Ma revealed that he has never actually written a line of code nor made one sale to a customer. He encountered a computer for the first time at the age of thirty-three.


In 1994, Ma heard about the Internet. In the early of 1995, he went to the United States occasionally, and with his friend’s help he got introduced to the Internet. In April 1995, Ma, his wife and a friend collected twenty thousand dollars and started an Internet company. Their company was dedicated to creating website for companies. He named their company “China Yellow Pages.” Within three years, his company had made ¥5,000,000 Chinese Yuan which was equivalent to $800,000 US dollars at the time.

From 1998 to 1999, Ma headed an information technology company established by the China International Electronic Commerce Center, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. In 1999, he decided to quit his job and went back to Hangzhou with his team in order to found Alibaba in his apartment with a group of 17 friends. He started a new round of venture development with 500,000 Yuan. Alibaba is a China-based business-to-business marketplace site which currently serves more than 79 million members from more than 240 countries and territories.

In October 1999 and January 2000, “Alibaba” won twice total of a $25 million international venture capital investment. The program was expected to improve the domestic e-commerce market, and build a perfect e-commerce platform for those Chinese enterprises especially SMEs, to meet the “WTO” challenge. Ma wanted to improve the entire e-commerce system, and since 2003, he founded Taobao, Alipay, Ali Mama, and lynx etc. After the rapid rise of Taobao, eBay offered to purchase Taobao, but Ma rejected. Ma got support from Yahoo’s co-founder Jerry Yang with a $1 billion investment.

In September 2014 it was reported Alibaba was raising over $20 billion in an IPO at NYSE. Alibaba became one of the most valuable tech companies in the world after raising $25 billion from the IPO. Ma now serves as Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, which is a holding company with nine major subsidiaries – Alibaba.com, Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, eTao, Alibaba Cloud Computing, Juhuasuan, 1688.com, AliExpress.com and Alipay. In November 2012, Alibaba’s online transaction volume exceeded one trillion yuan. Ma was thus labeled “trillion Hou”, meaning literally “Trillion Yuan Marquis” in Chinese.

Because of Ma’s success, Ma was often invited to lectures at world’s famous universities, such as the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Peking University.


In 2004, he was chosen by China Central Television and its viewers as one of the “Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year”.

In 2005, Ma was selected by the World Economic Forum as a “Young Global Leader”.

In 2005, Ma was named one of the “25 Most Powerful Businesspeople in Asia” by Fortune. He was selected by Businessweek as a “Businessperson of the Year” in 2007 and one of the 30 “World’s Best CEOs” by Barron’s in 2008.

In 2006, Ma also graduated from further education at Beijing-based Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, founded in 2002 by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

In May 2009, Ma was honored by Time magazine with inclusion into the Time 100 list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In reporting Mr. Ma’s accomplishments, Adi Ignatius, former Time senior editor and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review, said, “Meeting Jack Ma, you might be forgiven for thinking he’s still an English teacher. The Chinese Internet entrepreneur is soft-spoken and elflike — and he speaks really good English.

But as founder and CEO of Alibaba.com, Ma, 44, runs one of the world’s biggest B2B online marketplaces, an eBay for companies doing international trade. Alibaba and Ma’s consumer-auction website, Taobao.com, did so well that in 2006, eBay shut down its own site in China.”

In 2014, he was again included by Time in the list of the world’s 100 most influential people. He was also chosen as one of “China’s Most Powerful People” by BusinessWeek, and one of the “Top 10 Most Respected Entrepreneurs in China” by Forbes China in 2009. Ma received the “2009 CCTV Economic Person of the Year: Business Leaders of the Decade Award”.

In 2010, Ma was selected by Forbes Asia as one of “Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy” for his contribution to disaster relief and poverty.

In 2011 it was announced that one of his companies had gained control of Alipay, formerly a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, so as to “comply with Chinese law governing payment companies in order to secure a license to continue operating Alipay. Numerous analysts reported that Ma sold Alipay to himself below market value without notifying the board of Alibaba Group or the other major owners Yahoo and Softbank, while Ma stated that Alibaba Group’s board of directors were aware of the transaction. The ownership dispute was resolved by Alibaba Group, Yahoo! and Softbank in July 2011.

He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in November 2013 and has audited classes at the University of California, Berkeley

Ma is a board member of Japan’s SoftBank and China’s Huayi Brothers Media Corporation. He became a trustee of The Nature Conservancy’s China program in 2009 and joined its global board of directors in April 2010. In 2013, he became Chairman of the Board for the Nature Conservancy’s China Program; this was one day after he stepped down from Alibaba as company CEO. Ma is the first Chinese citizen to serve on The Nature Conservancy’s board.

In 2014, he was ranked as the 30th most powerful person in the world in an annual ranking published by Forbes.

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