Alibaba: The house that Jack Ma built

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An engrossing, insider’s account of how a teacher built one of the world’s most valuable companies—rivaling Walmart & Amazon—and forever reshaped the global economy.

In just a decade and half Jack Ma, a man from modest beginnings who started out as an English teacher, founded and built Alibaba into one of the world’s largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend. Alibaba’s $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the largest global IPO ever. A Rockefeller of his age who is courted by CEOs and Presidents around the world, Jack is an icon for China’s booming private sector and the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of middle class consumers.

Duncan Clark first met Jack in 1999 in the small apartment where Jack founded Alibaba. Granted unprecedented access to a wealth of new material including exclusive interviews, Clark draws on his own experience as an early advisor to Alibaba and two decades in China chronicling the Internet’s impact on the country to create an authoritative, compelling narrative account of Alibaba’s rise.

How did Jack overcome his humble origins and early failures to achieve massive success with Alibaba? How did he outsmart rival entrepreneurs from China and Silicon Valley? Can Alibaba maintain its 80% market share? As it forges ahead into finance and entertainment, are there limits to Alibaba’s ambitions? How does the Chinese government view its rise? Will Alibaba expand further overseas, including in the U.S.?

Clark tells Alibaba’s tale in the context of China’s momentous economic and social changes, illuminating an unlikely corporate titan as never before.

Book Details


460 Pages





“China changed because of us in the past fifteen years.
We hope in the next fifteen years, the world changes because of us.

“Alibaba is an unusual name for a Chinese company. Its founder, Jack Ma, a former English teacher, is an unlikely corporate titan.
Yet the house that Jack built is home to the largest virtual shopping mall in the world, soon to overtake Walmart in the amount of goods sold. The company’s IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014 raised $25 billion, the largest stock market flotation in history. In the months that followed, Alibaba’s shares soared, making it one of the top ten most valuable companies in the world, worth almost $300 billion. Alibaba became the most valuable Internet company in the world after Google, its shares worth more than Amazon and eBay combined. Nine days before the IPO, Jack celebrated his fiftieth birthday, the soaring value of his stake making him the richest man in Asia.
But since that peak Alibaba’s life as a publicly listed company has not gone according to plan. Its shares fell by half from their post-IPO peak, even briefly falling below the initial offer price. Investor concerns were sparked in early 2015 by a surprising entanglement with a government agency over intellectual property, then fueled by the slowing Chinese economy and volatile stock markets, which dragged down Alibaba’s shares in their wake.
Despite the ups and downs of the stock market, with a dominant share of the e-commerce market, Alibaba is uniquely well positioned to benefit from the rise of China’s consuming classes. Over 400 million people, more than the population of the United States, make purchases on Alibaba’s websites each year. The tens of millions of packages generated each day account for almost two-thirds of all parcel deliveries in China.
Alibaba has transformed the way Chinese shop, giving them access to a range and quality of items that previous generations could only dream of. Like Amazon in the West, Alibaba brings the convenience of home delivery to millions of consumers. Yet this comparison understates Alibaba’s impact. Taobao, its online shopping website, has given many Chinese people their first sense of being truly valued as a customer. Alibaba is playing a pivotal role in China’s economic restructuring, helping move the country away from a “Made in China” past to a “Bought in China” present.
The Old China growth model lasted three decades. Based on manufacturing, construction, and exports, it delivered hundreds of millions out of poverty but left China with a bitter legacy of overcapacity, overbuilding, and pollution. Now a new model is emerging, one centered on catering to the needs of a middle class expected to grow from 300 million to half a billion people within ten years.
Jack, more than any other, is the face of the new China. Already something of a folk hero at home, he stands at the ehwutmifpiav ah Cwyno’n dezwaedm tasrq ut zeldysawabf uwt edlfufcywuawjnyg.
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