1. Jack Ma: Early Life and Education
  2. Jack Ma: Success Story
  3. Jack Ma: Most Influential Quotes

Jack Ma is known as the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, a social media and e-commerce giant in China and, increasingly, the entire globe. (See also: Jack Ma’s Worth and Influence.) He was born Ma Yun in 1964 in Hangzhou during China’s Cultural Revolution, during which his family was persecuted because of his grandparents, who were members of the Nationalist Party. If Jack Ma’s background, education, and path to success to can be distilled into a few characterizations, they might be failure, rejection, determination, resolve, hard work, agility, and vision. All throughout Jack Ma's life, from childhood until his experience building a multibillion-dollar global e-commerce technology giant, he has failed many times, been rejected and called crazy. Ma’s father was among his prominent detractors when he cautioned Ma about his unique and “dangerous” ideas. For an earlier generation, these ideas might have led to imprisonment. 

Ma's education

Jack Ma learned more from his and others' failures than through the traditional channels of education. As he declared in an interview with Charlie Rose in Davos, "I failed a key primary school test two times, I failed the middle school test three times, I failed the college entrance exam two times and when I graduated, I was rejected for most jobs I applied for out of college.” Ma was the only one out of five applicants to the police force to be rejected and the only one of 24 applicants to be a KFC manager to be rejected. "I applied for Harvard ten times, got rejected ten times and I told myself that ‘Someday I should go teach there.’" In the late 1990s, after starting Alibaba, Ma tried to get venture capital funding in Silicon Valley for Alibaba and got rejected for running an unprofitable business model. He eventually went back to China without funding. (See also: Top 10 Chinese Entrepreneurs.)

Unlike many idolized college drop-outs turned successful entrepreneur, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, Jack Ma earned his MBA from Cheung Kong University while already building Alibaba in the early 2000s. Though critical of traditional teaching practices, especially at business schools, Ma is fond of academics. He was a university English teacher himself, and he talks about teaching again someday in the future.

Ma struggled academically, especially throughout his early years in primary and secondary schools, where he failed repeatedly. However, he excelled in the things that he was passionate about, and he managed to teach himself English. During these formative years, Ma thought that, as long as he kept his resolve and worked to achieve his objectives, he had a chance to succeed. Ma said, "if you never tried, how do you know there's no chance?" Eventually, Ma was admitted to Hangzhou Teacher's College. (See also: What's Next For Alibaba?)

Ma's Moxie

When one listens objectively to Ma's speeches about his early, formative years, one can observe that Ma learned most by experimenting, observing and questioning the status quo. As an adolescent, he taught himself English and polished it by becoming an unofficial tour guide to foreign tourists. Through those tourists, pen pal relationships he cultivated with some of his tourist clients and his interaction with some relatives in Australia, Ma learned much about the outside world (especially the Western world). More importantly, he developed a level-headedness that prompted him to question the world around him.

That ability to question and reexamine issues helps him to look at situations from various angles and see opportunities where most see only problems. For example, when most people feared conducting e-commerce in China due to an unreliable and untrustworthy payment system, Ma got Alibaba to build Alipay without approval of Chinese banking authorities and at the risk of his personal freedom. Now Alipay facilitates more business globally than PayPal, as measured in U.S. dollars. (For more, see: How Counterfeiting Affects Alibaba's Business.)

Ma his MBA from Cheung Kong University. He is heavily influenced by martial art teachings, especially Tai Chi, which he claims helps him to find balance that he applies to both his personal and business life.

Jack Ma: Success Story
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    Jack Ma's Worth and Influence

    Jack Ma is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Learn more about his successes and rise to affluence in the tech industry.
  2. Investing

    Alibaba Aims to Become World's Fifth Largest Economy by 2036

    The e-commerce giant plans to reach its ambitious targets by enabling small businesses to sell goods across borders.
  3. Investing

    Alibaba's Ma Warns of Tech's Darker Side

    Alibaba chief Jack Ma warned about the negative impacts to society from AI and other tech advances.
  4. Investing

    Jack Ma: US Govt. to Blame for Economic Woes

    In response to Trump, the Alibaba boss gives his two cents on real cause of U.S. job problems.
  5. Tech

    Alibaba Wants to Become Equivalent to World’s Fifth-Richest Country by 2020 (BABA)

    Founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant announced his goal to double gross merchandise value to one trillion dollars in the next four years.
  6. Investing

    Alibaba's Ma: We're Not Looking to Invade US

    Jack Ma said his 2-day Detroit conference is only about bringing small US businesses to China.
  7. Investing

    How Mergers and Acquisitions Can Affect A Company

    M&A can have a profound effect on a company’s growth prospects and outlook, but with a significant degree of risk.
  8. Tech

    Should Investors Believe the Alibaba International Growth Story? (BABA, AMZN)

    Alibaba founder Jack Ma recently told Fortune magazine that 40% of Alibaba's business will be outside China in a decade. Should investors believe in the company's international growth story? ...
  9. Investing

    Alibaba’s Ma Channels Michael Jackson for Birthday

    Alibaba's Jack Ma channeled the America's King of Pop to celebrate the company's 18th birthday
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Short Selling Vs. Put Options: How Payoffs Differ

    The payoff difference between the two comes down to the difference between option and obligation.
  2. What are the differences between divergence and convergence?

    Find out what technical analysts mean when they talk about a divergence or convergence, and how they can affect trading strategies.
  3. Can coupon in fixed-income security effect bond yield maturity?

    See how fixed-income security investors can expect to use coupon on semi-annual payments if the bond or debt instrument is ...
  4. How are savings bonds taxed?

    Learn who is responsible for reporting U.S. EE savings bond interest for taxation and when the interest can be reported for ...
Trading Center