Born Ma Yun to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers in Hangzhou, he taught himself English aged 12 and offered free guided tours to practice his English with foreign visitors. Ma graduated from Hangzhou Teachers College and became an English teacher, paid $15 a month. He encountered computers during a trip to Seattle as an interpreter for Chinese and American businessmen. With some friends he created “China Pages,” which established websites for small businesses, and then headed an information technology company established by a department of the Chinese government.
However, in 1999 he quit and started Alibaba.com, a business-to-business marketplace for small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises, backed by $60,000 from 18 friends. By 2002, it had reached 1 million users and acquired investment from Goldman Sachs and SoftBank. Ma also built Taobao, a retail site, as well as payment platform Alipay. In 2013, Ma stepped down as chief executive, although he remains chairman. The company went public in 2014 on the New York Stock Exchange in the largest IPO in history, raising $25 billion.
In the fashion and e-commerce sphere, Jack Ma’s “New Retail” is the company’s guiding investment principle — a strategy to redefine commerce by enabling seamless engagement between the online and offline world, by building omnichannel retail ecosystems. The company has stakes in department store chain Intime, retail big-data firm Shiji, Indonesian marketplace Tokopedia, retail platform YCloset and Southeast Asian e-commerce site Lazada.
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