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Alibaba Founder Is Ready to Return to Education

Jack Ma

Jack MaJack Ma was a teacher in China before turning entrepreneur, but he succeeded in growing Alibaba into a global ecommerce powerhouse because he paid attention to the needs of small businesses both in his own country and around the world.

Nineteen years after founding the company, and five years after stepping down as CEO of Alibaba Group, Ma announced he will step down as executive chairman next year on September 10, 2019. Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed him.

Alibaba helped online merchants by helping to match them with suppliers in China and elsewhere through a marketplace model. Small sellers in the US were able to do what previously only large companies could do – source inventory directly from overseas manufacturers. And companies in China found a way to expand their customer base through the internet, which Ma helped introduce in China – he had to explain to businesses what the Internet was and why they should be online.

Ma didn’t stop with the marketplace – he launched many services that small Chinese suppliers needed. And as the Chinese middle class grew, he launched the TaoBao marketplace for them to buy global brands.

One of Ma’s notable achievements: he successfully defeated eBay in China. Former CEO Meg Whitman had expanded the eBay brand geographically with such success up to that point, it was a crushing defeat for the US-based company.

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During the battle, Ma famously said, “eBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangtze River. If we fight in the ocean, we lose – but if we fight in the river, we win.”

In his letter on Monday to Alibaba customers, employees (known as Aliren), and shareholders, Ma explained that he had begun preparing 10 years ago for the day when he would step down, and said the company had created a strong foundation for its legacy.

He ended by saying he had lots of dreams still to pursue and did not like to sit idle:

“I plan on continuing my role as the founding partner in the Alibaba Partnership and contribute to the work of the partnership. I also want to return to education, which excites me with so much blessing because this is what I love to do. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?!

“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

In January, he had shared some advice with a group of young leaders invited to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, as CNBC reported. “When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people, the next generation,” he told them.

Ma will celebrate his 55th birthday when he steps down as Chief Executive of Alibaba next year. He will remain on the board until his term expires in 2020.

Edited last paragraph on 9/10/18 for clarification.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

3 thoughts on “Alibaba Founder Is Ready to Return to Education”

  1. Some of Mr. Ma’s wisdom.

    On fighting eBay’s efforts to enter China:
    “EBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangtze River. If we fight in the ocean, we lose ― but if we fight in the river, we win.”
    On priorities for management:
    “Customer first, employees second, shareholders third.”
    On the distraction of rivals:
    “Do not focus on your competitors, focus on your customers.”
    On the role of technology:
    “I believe it’s not the technology that changes the world. It’s the dreams behind the technology that change the world.”

    One wonders what his vision for eBay would be.

  2. Ebay could learn a lot from him. BUT they think that they know all there is to know SO THEY ARE FAILURES. Sellers will go elsewhere and be successful while Fleecebay and its smart CEO’s will wallow in the crap of California. They will never recover from past 5 – 10 years of bullying leading.

  3. Jack ma os as bad as any greedy business man. He created a lerfect venue to sell chinas fake crap and no matter what alibaba says…its FULL of illegal fake items

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