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English Teacher turned Internet Billionaire
Jack Ma was a cash-strapped entrepreneur who convinced his friends to give him $60,000 to start a Chinese online retailer named Alibaba.com after Beijing was being knocked back by American venture capitalists in 1999.
Thirteen years afterward, the company owns one of the world’s biggest trading sites for small businesses. Ma, who is a former English teacher, is now among the growing ranks of billionaires in China.
He sold a 43 percent stake in Alibaba to Yahoo! for $1 billion last 2005. But affairs between the struggling China’s top e-commerce player and US Internet pioneer have deteriorated in recent years. After more than a year of dull negotiations, Yahoo! said it had approved to sell its bet in Alibaba back to the company for at least $7.1 billion.
Alibaba.com and Taobao are included in Alibaba Group. It is China’s largest online marketplace for customers with more than 370 million registered users and 800 million product listings.
Jack Ma discovered the Internet in 1995 and gave up his university teaching job at the age of 47. That same year when he launched his first Internet company called China Pages — an online directory for Chinese companies.
“The first time I used the Internet, I touched on the keyboard and I find ‘well, this is something I believe, it is something that is going to change the world and change China’,” Ma said.
Initially running the company out of his apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou, when he started Alibaba.com, he saw an opportunity for small businesses to buy and sell their goods online.
Beijing-based chief executive of corporate advisory firm of Wolf Group Asia named David Wolf said, Ma had proved an “impressive businessperson” in China with his capacity to “understand how the winds are blowing both from the regulatory standpoint and market “.
His accomplishment was clear evident when US auction site eBay decided to largely withdrew from China in 2006 right after Alibaba’s Taobao won the lion’s share of the country’s market. And it has now more than half a billion Internet users.
Alibaba.com has now a market capitalization of more than HK$66.7 billion ($8.6 billion).It also posted a net profit of 1.71 billion yuan ($270 million) in 2011, over the previous year it reached up to 16.6 percent.
“The money we make is helping small businesses to survive”, Ma said this in a speech he gave last year at Stanford University in California.
“Before the history of the Internet, no company could help over 50 million SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). Today we are trying, and I feel proud of that.” He added.