Jack Ma, Alibaba Group: Stanford GSB 2015 Entrepreneurial Company of the Year (Transcript)

Then on his first trip to the US, 20 years ago in 1995, Jack first saw the internet and realized the potential to connect people within and outside of China. He founded Alibaba with a group of friends in his apartment in 1999. From the beginning Jack and his co-founders shared a focus on the small business and entrepreneurial community. It was their collective belief that by leveraging technology it will bring small businesses across China into the global economy.

Now Jack is an unlikely tech entrepreneur in that he openly admits he’s never written a line of code, but he is a visionary in every sense of the word. In just fifteen years, Alibaba has become the largest online and mobile commerce company, as Jeff mentioned. And not even Jack could have predicted the change he would bring to China, creating jobs and prosperity for millions in the urban and rural China, empowering millions of entrepreneurs and changing the way that people live. Not only live, but shop and work online in China.

And before I bring Jack up, we’re going to run a brief video. Can we roll the video please?

[Video clip: (voiceover) Alibaba was created in China, and founded on a simple belief that small businesses are the bedrock of a prosperous society. And that everyone who wants to do business should have the chance to succeed. We built what has become the world’s largest online marketplace where millions of small businesses can connect with their consumers. And where everything they need to start, run and grow their business is only a click away. We helped entrepreneurs thrive in China, brought millions of people into the economy, and transformed how people shop, work, and live. Our efforts help to create jobs, spur innovation, and drive the growth of a new middle class.

Although Alibaba was born in China, it was created for the world. And now, we’re ready to help small businesses prosper in every corner of the globe. We’re building the infrastructure of commerce for the future using technology to break down barriers, and expand the boundaries of what’s possible. So that some day anyone who wants to do business anywhere will be able to connect with people everywhere. – Video ends]

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Please join me in giving a very warm Stanford welcome to my friend, Jack Ma.

So, we’ll go to about 30, 35 minutes where I have some questions that I prepared for Jack. He hasn’t seen them. So hopefully, we’ll make it somewhat entertaining. And then, Alicia, where is Alicia? She’ll wave at me, and then we’ll do some Q and A. We have mics set up, and I’ll talk about that when we get to it. And it is a fireside chat.

JACK MA: Where is my fire?

JERRY YANG: Fireside chat. So the GSB is nice enough to provide a little picture of a fire. Although with 95 degrees out there, I’m not sure we needed any fire. Jack? We were both in Seattle. I’m not reading my email, I’m reading my notes here. We were both in Seattle last couple of days, and you were part of the delegation that traveled with President Xi. And there were many interesting things that were discussed. And you were on a panel Tuesday morning that included, entrepreneurs that were selling sausages and brewed coffee. And what common themes with President Xi, what common themes did you all explore both on the Chinese side and what did you hear on the US side?

JACK MA: Well, first I would like to thank Stanford for giving me this great honor. I never thought I can have the privilege to get this award. Remember 20 years ago when Seattle discovered Internet, and 19 years ago, first trip to come to the Silicon Valley and I was so excited by people, especially, in the evening, all the roads, traffic jam, I’m excited about that, especially, Sunday and Saturday weekends, all the parking lots, there is no place to park your car. I think this is so exciting; China should have that. And I go back and, that’s right, now we have a traffic jam.

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So we went back to start the business. Well, and I never know I would be able to survive for 20 years. So I call myself like a blind man riding on the back of blind tigers. And for 20 years, survived to today, still surviving. We want to make this company last 102 years. So we’ve finished only 16 years, there are 86 years to go. So I hope that 86 years later.

JERRY YANG: Explain why 102, so you started in 1999.

JACK MA: Yeah, because in China, everybody want to be big company for last 100 years. This become a slogan. Nobody takes it seriously. So if you want to give the KPI to your people, it should be very specific. Then people know this is serious. 102 years, that a little boy in 1999, Alibaba, so last century we had one year, and this century we want to have 100 years, next century 1 year, 102 across three centuries. So very specific, so in our company we never talk you’re successful or not, because we think there are 86 years, next 86 years. There are many chances that you will fail. So that’s why we say don’t talk about you’re successful. 86 years later we’ll talk about it.

Well, I think the Seattle trip was very good, and we heard what the American entrepreneurs and business leaders worry about. And I think the American business leaders also hear what we worry about, what we need. But I think that in the essence, all the entrepreneurs and the business leaders in the world are the same. We want to create values for the others. But there is a lot of a misunderstanding between us. And my suggestion is that US and China should not like chicken talks to ducks. Everybody want to tell, nobody listen.

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