From KFC Reject to Broke English Teacher to Richest Man in China

Jack Ma (Ma Yun) is a true rags to riches story.

I study the stories of billionaires and how they achieved success, and I can confidently say that while all billionaires have persevered through failure, this man has failed more than any billionaire on record.

GROWING UP

He grew up poor in communist China, failed his university acceptance exam twice, was rejected from dozens of jobs before finally being hired as an english teacher making $12/mo at the local university and then finding success with his third internet company, Alibaba.

Somewhere in between growing up poor in communist China and finding success at his third internet company, Alibaba, Jack Ma failed middle school, was rejected by the police academy, was the SOLE reject among 24 applicants at KFC, and was rejected by Harvard 10 times.


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NOT GIVING UP

But Jack Ma doesn’t give up.

Even his wife, whom he married well before he had any wealth, is on record saying: “(He) is not a handsome man, but I fell for him because he can do a lot of things that handsome men cannot do.”

Damn.

After dozens of failed attempts at landing a job, Jack Ma was hired as an english teacher at a local university where he earned $12/mo.

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FASCINATED BY TECH

While he had no experience with coding or computers, Jack Ma was fascinated by what he saw during a trip to the U.S. in 1995. The only reason he was even in the U.S. was to help a Chinese firm recover a payment as he had started a translation business to help make ends meet (remember he was only receiving the equivalent of $12/mo as a teacher). 

Ma’s first online search was “beer” 🍺 and he was surprised that no Chinese beers turned up in the search results. It was during this discovery that Jack Ma decided to start an Internet company for China.

His first two Internet ventures failed.

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HOW ALIBABA STARTED

Four years later, he squeezed 17 of his friends and former students into his apartment and convinced them to join him on building his vision for an online marketplace called Alibaba. 

Jack’s vision for Alibaba was to allow Chinese exporters to post product listings that customers could buy directly from the small businesses.

The service started attracting customers from all over the world and by October 1999 raised $5M from Goldman Sachs and $20M from Mayoshi Son’s SoftBank.


BUILDING THE CULTURE

Jack always prioritized people and built a strong culture at Alibaba. He is a big advocate for hiring more women and putting them in leadership positions, when the company first became profitable he gave everyone a can of Silly String to go wild with, he even had his team do handstands to keep energy levels up during their infamous battle with Yahoo’s expansion attempts in China.

LARGEST IPO OF ALL TIME

On September 19th, 2014 Alibaba went public on the NYSE with the largest IPO of all time at $150 billion - more than Google, Facebook and Twitter combined!

The stock was priced at $68 USD and today trades at over $295 USD.


While Elon Musk may not think the most of Jack Ma there’s no denying that he’s built one of the most awe inspiring rags to riches stories of all time!

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Related Content

01
Intro
02
GROWING UP
03
NOT GIVING UP
04
FASCINATED BY TECH
05
HOW ALIBABA STARTED
06
BUILDING THE CULTURE
07
LARGEST IPO OF ALL TIME
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