As the founder and executive chair of China’s largest tech company, Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma surely knows everything about leadership.
As the founder and executive chair of China’s largest tech company, Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma surely knows everything about leadership.
During his keynote at Gateway event in Toronto organized by Alibaba to showcase the company’s services for businesses interested in selling their products to China, Ma shared so many nuggets of wisdom that everyone would surely enjoy reading.

On mistakes:

During the talk, he shared some insights into his entrepreneurial journey and here are some noteworthy quotes from him for you to take note of:

Every day, we make mistakes. Every day we are rejected. I think being rejected, being refused by people, is very natural. Why should people help you? You have to prove yourself: The thing I feel most thankful for is all of the mistakes, all the refusal I got. Because without that, there would never be Alibaba.

On success:

Do not study success stories: People love to see success stories. However, most success stories succeed because of their mistakes. I encourage all young people, entrepreneurs, to learn from your mistakes and then reflect on them. Learning from your mistakes does not mean you avoid mistakes. You learn the attitude towards these mistakes, and never give up fighting.

On complaints:

As entrepreneurs, we never complain. When people complain: that is your opportunity.

On role models:

When I was young, I complained a lot: Microsoft took away my job! Oracle took away my job! Later I realized we should not learn from Bill Gates; we should not learn from Larry Ellison, we should learn from the grandmother next door. How can she make her business so good by opening a dumpling shop? Because when you compare yourself to Bill Gates or [Larry Ellison], you end up getting frustrated and jealous. However, when you compare yourself to the person next door, you learn how to do business by focusing on details. You learn how to know what people want. Start from the simple things, always!

On starting:

I remember when we launched Taobao [the company's signature platform], we thought we were going to have a big business in one month. However, for the first five days, nobody comes here, even shopping. So the seven employees doing calls in my apartment started buying [the merchandise] ourselves. The first month, whenever somebody came to sell, no matter what he sold, we'd buy it. That would tell the seller, "Whoa! This thing can sell." So more people came to sell. We bought a whole house of garbage, things that have no use. However, at least we built up our customers' trust.

On the difference between IT and digital transformation:

The difference between the last century and this century, the difference between IT and DT is that IT is about empowering yourself. DT is about empowering others. When you are helping others, you are helping yourself as well.

On the impact of artificial intelligence:

Many jobs will be taken away because of artificial intelligence: Don't worry about that. We invented trains and cars and electricity, and at the time we all worried about [the impact of] these cars and trains and electricity.

On the next technological revolution:

Every technology revolution takes 50 years. The first 20 years is about developing technology. The next 30 years is about implementing technology. Electricity was not invented in America; it was invented in Europe. However, America made it big. Cars were not invented in the U.S., But the U.S built their country on the wheels. So the past 20 years was about Internet companies such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Alibaba. However, these companies might not be as necessary for the next 10 to 20 years if they do not continue to be innovative so who will be the next wave? The companies and countries that make full use of the Internet as infrastructure.

On the perils of money:

Many companies don't make mistakes when they don't have money. When they have money, they start to make mistakes. There are a lot of fancy offices, great graduates from Harvard and Yale and if you are a tractor, these guys are like a 747 engine. When a 747 engine is put in the tractor, the poor tractor is going to go nowhere.

On building a good team:

A good team [is good] not because they listen to you, but because they can comprehend the things you are not good at. One reason why lots of American Internet companies that go to China are not successful is that they send people there not to make customers happy; they send people that make the boss happy. Do not hire the people who make you happy. Hire the people who believe your dream, and make the customer happy."

On trade:

Trade is not buying things. Trade is an appreciation of the culture of the other side.

On what lies ahead:

Don't get used to success. Get used to failure. Today's difficult. Tomorrow's more difficult. The day after tomorrow is beautiful. Most people die tomorrow evening.

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