Jack Ma, executive chairman of China’s Alibaba group, has been named as a special advisor on youth entrepreneurship and small business to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).Ma, who recently headed a small business task force at the G20, will support UNCTAD in its mission of maximizing trade, investment and economic advancement in developing countries and the UN’s 2030 ‘Agenda for Sustainable Development.’Ma has recently been campaigning for what he calls the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP),...
A former English-language teacher in Hangzhou, Ma doesn’t write code and is an unlikely technology disruptor. He is, however, a visionary entrepreneur. He struggled to find his direction until the mid-1990s when he made money building websites for other companies and a directory of the Chinese Internet.
He founded Alibaba in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace based in his apartment and has not looked back. An early alliance with Yahoo provided finance for growth, but the pupil quickly outgrew the master. As the company has diversified into consumer businesses and finance, its scale within the Chinese economy falls into the too-big-to-fail category.
Ma piloted the world’s largest IPO in September 2014 when Alibaba floated on the NYSE, but handed over the CEO role. That leaves Ma as a brilliant cheerleader, ambassador and strategist-in-chief worth some $25 billion. Entertainment is an integrated part of Alibaba’s ecosystem – tickets, merchandise, online search and streaming — but is still an exception in that it actually produces.
Filmmakers now working for Alibaba Pictures now include Steven Spielberg, David Heyman and Wong Kar-wai. Ma’s C-suite trappings include owning a newspaper, multiple overseas properties and a French vineyard.