How I started Alibaba: Jack Ma

Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma
At a ‘year end’ event in China, Alibaba founder Jack Ma recently spoke about his departure from the world of teaching, and how he got wrapped up in the world of startups.

Excerpts from his speech:

In 1994, I was 30 years old, and I had been teaching for six years. I had graduated from Hangzhou Normal University and was the only one of my classmates teaching at a college. Our school president told me, ‘Jack Ma you’ll be teaching at a college, you shouldn’t leave there for at least five years.’ When I finally made it to my sixth year, it felt like having completed a prison sentence.

That year I went to America and discovered the internet. After I came back I began preparing to do a startup. I didn’t know how to do a startup and I didn’t have any experience. After coming back I told our school president I was getting ready to do a startup on this thing called internet. He was a Stanford grad who had studied computers, but after explaining it to him for quite a while he still didn’t get it, and I didn’t really get it either.

He said: ‘Jack Ma, don’t go.’ But I still wanted to, and I figured I could take ten years to try to do something. The next week, I asked 24 friends over to discuss it, all my night school students, and 23 of them said don’t do it. When I turned in my resignation, the president told me that I should come back if it didn’t work out. I said I’d retire and come back in ten years, regardless of how it went. That’s how I got started.


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