How a visit to Australia helped Jack Ma become an internet tycoon

Judy Cobb
September 8, 2018

He will focus on his Jack Ma Foundation and dedicate his time to improving education, he told the Times.

After being knocked back by US venture capitalists in 1999, a cash-strapped Mr. Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start Alibaba, which operated out of an apartment in Hangzhou.

Alibaba has one of the strongest management teams in corporate China and, even if he steps down, Ma is likely to still have a role in setting top level strategy, said Brock Silvers, managing director of Kaiyuan Capital. But the company he founded has had a profound impact on Chinese society and business, although it has struggled to expand its reach outside of China. Liu Qiangdong, the billionaire founder of online retailer JD.com, was arrested on rape charges last week on a business trip to Minneapolis.

Ma's success was evident after Alibaba's Taobao bested eBay in China, forcing the USA auction site to largely withdraw from the country in 2006.

Jack Ma or Ma Yun, left, Chairman of Alibaba Group, talks with Malcolm Turnbull during his visit at headquarters of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Ma, who turns 54 on Monday, plans to step down from Alibaba on that day, he told the New York Times.

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Ma graduated from the Hangzhou Teachers College with a major in English-language education, and went on to teach at another university in the city, where Alibaba is still headquartered.

Ma is part of a generation of billionaire entrepreneurs who made their fortunes as China embraced the digital age, creating some of the country's largest and most successful companies in the space of little more than a decade. It has since expanded into digital media, cloud computing and entertainment, among other services. The company's annual revenue totals about 250 billion yuan, or $40 billion.

Earlier Friday, Ma said he could "retire earlier" during a conversation with Bloomberg about Bill Gates' career. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", he said. Ma was among the first foreign business leaders to meet with Donald Trump after his election.

Ma has long shown an admiration for Microsoft founder Bill Gates who has donated vast amounts of his wealth to philanthropic causes.

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