At its helm is founder Jack Ma, a charismatic leader who started the company with 18 friends out of his small apartment in 1999. Although Ma is no longer CEO of Alibaba, he’s still the face of the company.
Ma has succeeded because he is relentless, and some of his more memorable quotes — “Today is cruel, tomorrow is crueler” — illustrate how that relentlessness has formed his thinking.
On past mistakes from 'the dark days at Alibaba': 'If you don't give up, you still have a chance. And, when you are small, you have to be very focused and rely on your brain, not your strength.'
On having a larger mission: 'It doesn't matter if I failed. At least I passed the concept on to others. Even if I don't succeed, someone will succeed.'
On work: 'If we go to work at 8am and go home at 5pm, this is not a high-tech company and Alibaba will never be successful. If we have that kind of 8-to-5 spirit, then we should just go and do something else.'
On Alibaba.com's 2007 IPO: 'Alibaba is not just a job. It's a dream. It's a cause. Let the Wall Street investors curse us if they want.'
On the benefits of his technological ineptitude: 'Intelligent people need a fool to lead them. When the team's all a bunch of scientists, it is best to have a peasant lead the way. His way of thinking is different. It's easier to win if you have people seeing things from different perspectives.'
On growth: 'In carrying out e-commerce, the most important thing is to keep doing what you are doing right now with passion, to keep it up.'
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