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

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

JERRY YANG: I think you’re right in that for a consumption and a service economy to take off and drive China as the third engine. It is going to require more businesses rather than governmental policies. So I do think that’s an opportunity for not just Alibaba, but you’re right in the middle of it, but everybody.

JACK MA: Oh, by the way, the other thing is the new economy. You see the traditional business is going down, but the new economy is growing up tremendously. So not only the VAT, we have so many wonderful startups today coming up and that is the rising star and this is what China should go, not keep those things. Yeah, nobody can go back to yesterday and even if you want to go back to yesterday – even if you can go back to yesterday, you don’t want to. So, I think we are –

JERRY YANG: Well, I mean, my perspective from being there yesterday is that I think both the government leadership and especially the business communities are emphasizing that our differences are not that big in the grand scheme of things in that the US and China are going to have to be key partners to solve the world’s problems in the next 30 years. So it is largely a collaborative effort. And I think Jack –

JACK MA: Yeah, if we collaborate, we can a lot of American dreams and Chinese dreams and world dreams. If we don’t collaborate, then we do not —

JERRY YANG: Well let’s turn and, you are here tonight because of the entrepreneurial spirit of you and your founders. And obviously when Alibaba started it was no such thing as e-commerce. But before if, I may get, before we get to Alibaba, you were kind of a serial entrepreneur. In fact, you also know about government because when I first met you in 1997, you were in a government in between startups, I guess. And you always dreamed of creating something, and maybe you can talk a little bit about what did you see when you were at the government. You were coming off of another start up. Everybody is very familiar with your story, but I think that part of it was very important to you because then you went back to Hangzhou and started Alibaba. So maybe talk about that, and then talk about what did you end up seeing in 1999 that make you decide that Alibaba was it.

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JACK MA: Yeah, okay, good. Jerry knows me so well, and by the way, Jerry not only the entrepreneur and he’s a wonderful investor. Probably one of the investors right?

JERRY YANG: I’ll give you my version.

JACK MA: He’s sitting on my board because very few people see the real stuff that’s in his heart. He’s so smart. I remember the day when we negotiated with Yahoo, buying the Yahoo, and getting $1 billion. Today, people think it’s a good deal, but at that time, it was a big risk. It’s not easy. That year, that many years ago put $1 billion inside. And we are almost a separate carcass, we are not happy about this and that and at that time he wasn’t the CEO, right. And then he said, we are almost just separate then he said call me, Jack can you come and tonight we have our drink?” For final effort.

JERRY YANG: You can’t drink that much back then.

JACK MA: And then I say okay. So he took me to small, tiny Japanese restaurant, bought me big glass of Saki. And we drink and try to convince me how wonderful Yahoo is. And after drink we say, okay let’s keep on talking good. The most expensive Saki I’ve ever had in my life. I’m pretty sensitive about a Saki now.

JERRY YANG: I know, I was going to invite you to some Saki after this but I guess I better — I think that –

JACK MA:  I will continue answer your question. I went back to China with the Seattle dream of Internet. I believe this thing is going to change the world. I believe this thing will be big, but whether Jack Marr and his team can be successful, I don’t know. I told the team somebody will be successful, but not us. May not be us. We have to work very hard.

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So, tough days in China, year 1996, 1997, and then go nowhere, because we, only, I borrowed $2,000 from my friends and families and relatives together. So we compete with the China Telecom. They have money, they have the SOE, they’re state owned business. They’re competing with us. Finally, they cannot kill us because we want to survive. And we of course cannot kill China Telecom. So we had a joint venture, they have 70%, we have 30%. And I was so stupid I think they really love us but they got us, because they want to kill us. Seven ball seats they got a five, two everything without even say our idea. They say they don’t like it.

So I say maybe I should go into Beijing. Go to Beijing, join the government, maybe they can help us in promoting the Internet. So we went to Beijing, joined the Minister of Foreign Trade, as part time job, contract for 14 months. Working side of government can never, ever promote the, or make Internet business. Because the philosophy of Internet is try to develop, how to make other people develop the business. But the government, they want control at that time. So it’s totally different philosophy. They are smart. They are good people, but they think how can I make it using Internet to manage and control? But we think we should make not control, making other people develop. So different philosophy, I think it won’t work are left and during these days I met Jerry Yang, all right.

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