He’s one of the world’s richest men; definitely, one of the most powerful, tech titan, 54-year-old Jack Ma has surprised the business world and decided to step down from his company Alibaba after 19 years at the top.
After deciding to move the company over to his successor, CEO Daniel Zhang, he now wants to take up a more philanthropic role in his life.
Worth an estimated $40 billion, he developed his e-commerce company from his apartment in 1999 with just 17 people and now boasts an incredible 66,000 full-time employees.
Alibaba is now worth a reported market value of US$420 billion and when it IPO’d in 2014 for $150-billion it was the largest offering for a US-listed company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange.
After years of trying his hand as an entrepreneur, he went from failing several times to a verified product of China’s economic explosion almost overnight. Now he wants to give back by focusing on education. Last year he invested $60 million in a rural education project in China.
Alibaba has become a dominant e-commerce platform in China offering online banking, cloud computing, digital media, and entertainment services. It is one of the world’s largest single e-commerce markets, often compared to Amazon. It has also expanded to incorporate retail stores as well as moving into emerging markets like Southeast Asia and India.
It’s unusual for someone of that stature in the middle of their career to step down so early. But Bill Gates the worlds second richest man (after Jeff Bezos) has done the same, but Mr. Ma has been vocal about helping others and wants to continue on that path. He has been a huge proponent for the rights of women as well having said recently that the cause of Alibaba’s success is because he hired women.
China’s success story is all part of a tiger explosion over the last 20 years. At this moment in time, China’s middle-class numbers more than the entire United States population combined.
This has been the fuel for the company which has seen tremendous growth and prosperity. The question is whether it can keep up with the demand? A country whose population verges on 1.4 billion people has developed a taste for the finer things in life, clamoring for Westernized fashion brands, moving to the cities in droves and even recently as 2017 welcoming the prestigious WSOP tournament to its shores in Hainan.
The Chinese middle class is earning between $9,000 to $34,000 per year at the moment, and that is posed to balloon over the next fifteen years. More than 75% of urban consumers will fit that profile by 2022.
Jack Ma’s backstory is truly incredible, and a representation of just how much China has changed. He grew up in poor communist China, failed his university entrance exam twice, and was even rejected from a job at KFC. Most astonishingly he was rejected by Harvard ten times. That goes to prove that you don’t need a fancy Ivy League university degree to fulfill your dreams.
He had no prior experience with technology that is until he tried the internet for the first time in 1995. That’s when he got hooked. His first two ventures failed before he started Alibaba but by 2005 people from all over the world were shopping on the site. That was when the big money came in – Yahoo invested $1 billion for a 40% stake.
Jack Ma is a modest and private man for someone with that kind of wealth, according to his friends he has simple hobbies like kung fu and meditating. His personal life remains out of the limelight. He married a teacher early on and has been with her ever since.
There is no doubt Jack Ma is a fascinating character and a superstar in this new China; his company has helped to fuel an insatiable appetite for consumers that will no doubt grow over the decades. We look forward to seeing what he’s up to next.