In 1995, on a fateful trip to Seattle, Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma was introduced to the Internet by a friend, who told him to search for whatever he wanted online. Today, Ma is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Alibaba Group, the leading name in Chinese e-commerce. Among the list of companies managed by Alibaba Group are Yahoo! China; Taobao, China’s top online consumer-to-consumer (C2C) shopping portal; and Alibaba.com, the world’s largest online business-to-business (B2B) marketplace and the group’s flagship company.
Named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people on the planet, Ma started Alibaba.com in 1999 with 17 other people in hopes of helping small businesses grow via e-commerce. From a simple bulletin board service where entrepreneurs could exchange trade leads, Alibaba.com has developed over the past decade to become an international online network for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Additionally, Alibaba Group offers other e-commerce services, such as online payment and cloud computing, to millions of users around the world.
When asked about success, Ma states that being successful is not just about earning money, and that successful entrepreneurs are those who provide value to their customers and employees. According to him, recognition and profits are the results of taking care of one’s customers and employees, not goals.
Ma also accredits the success of Alibaba Group to its six core values, which he considers the most important aspect of the company. These are Customer First, Teamwork, Embrace Change, Integrity, Passion, and Commitment. He adds that all employees are not only evaluated on their performance, but also on how well they represent these core values.
For Ma, a successful entrepreneur is someone who is not afraid to make mistakes and stands by their dream despite the challenges they face. He recalls how people in China thought he was crazy when he talked about e-commerce back in 2000, as well as the many mistakes his company made along the way. But Ma is where he is today because he never gave up on his dream.