An engrossing insider's account of how a teacher built one of the world's most valuable companies - rivaling Walmart and Amazon - and forever reshaped the global economy.
In just a decade and a half, Jack Ma, a man from modest beginnings who started out as an English teacher, founded Alibaba and built it into one of the world's largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend. Alibaba's $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the largest global IPO ever. A Rockefeller of his age who is courted by CEOs and presidents around the world, Jack is an icon for China's booming private sector and the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of middle-class consumers.
Duncan Clark first met Jack in 1999 in the small apartment where Jack founded Alibaba. Granted unprecedented access to a wealth of new material including exclusive interviews, Clark draws on his own experience as an early advisor to Alibaba and two decades in China chronicling the Internet's impact on the country to create an authoritative, compelling narrative account of Alibaba's rise.
How did Jack overcome his humble origins and early failures to achieve massive success with Alibaba? How did he outsmart rival entrepreneurs from China and Silicon Valley? Can Alibaba maintain its 80 percent market share? As it forges ahead into finance and entertainment, are there limits to Alibaba's ambitions? How does the Chinese government view its rise? Will Alibaba expand further overseas, including in the US?
Clark tells Alibaba's tale in the context of China's momentous economic and social changes, illuminating an unlikely corporate titan as never before.
©2016 Duncan Clark (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
While it did contain some critical info on the development of the China's dotcom industry as well as some bitesized nuggets of Jack Ma wisdom, I found myself continually wincing at the narrator's pronunciation of the names of Chinese individuals and places. However, this is just one of many audiobooks on China blighted by this headache-inducing problem.
While the story is amazing, the obvious lack of effort in correct Chinese pronunciation hurts my ears and takes away so much from the book.
This performance is so vastly different from the likes of "Chaos Monkeys" in which the reader eloquently pronounced various Italian and French phrases.
The book itself is both interesting and insightful. As somebody engaged in the China Internet space for work, and consequently very familiar with the content I found learned quite a bit about personalities and backstory delivered in engaging prose. True the book is very pro Jack and BABA but this is not a surprise, and does not obscure facts.
But if you know any Chinese, preparing to spend the entire book alternating between cringing and puzzling over the generally incomprehensible narration of every single Chinese word other than Alibaba, Ma, and Tsai. The inability to select a Chinese speaker to conduct narration on a book about China is inexplicable and disappointing.
Retired Political Science professor from a community college. Especially like Legal Thrillers.
A good overview of the Alibaba story. Until I listened to this book, I wasn't aware of the nature of the company, thought that it was just another Amazon, but found that it was more akin to E-Bay.
Urban planner. Environmentalist. Geek.
"Alibaba" is a good book despite a near-fatal flaw. The author is an investor and he cares about what investors care about: deal-making, IPO's, threats to valuations, etc. Sometimes he lets that interest overshadow the actual storytelling.
One example is so flagrant it is hilarious. Most of the launch of Alibaba—surely the critical turning point of Jack Ma's life—happens "off-screen." We learn about some deal-making that went into convincing the first employees to join the project. A page or two later we learn about a deal with some early investors, and as a note in that deal Clark mentions Alibaba had by then gained over 250,000 customers. Nothing worth mentioning went into getting their first quarter million customers?
Such moments of early launch play a central role in Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" and Vance's "Elon Musk." In this book, it was left out. The omission leaves a big question open. Clark notes that Ma runs a technology company despite knowing nothing about coding or the internet's machinery . How did he do that? I would like to know. The book skipped over that part.
Clark makes other strange choices. He describes the life story and character of multiple Chinese entrepreneurs and then never returns to them.
And yet, despite all this, it's a good book and it's worth reading. The perspective of an investor on one of the world's highest valued companies is interesting. He appears to do a great job conveying what it's like to do business in China and the history of entrepreneurship in the country. Jack Ma's life makes for a compelling story—despite some of the odd choices in focus.
Should you read Alibaba? Yes. Chinese technology firms are starting to overtake silicon valley ones in a number of arenas. It's a good idea to understand what they are all about, and it's a fun book to do it with. Just join me at rolling your eyes at Clark's investor-myopia.
i would recommand this book to anybody who has interest in international business. you will learn alot. this is particalarly good for us audiance who don t know much about chenise companies and how they operate differently.
This is the most intriguing story I have ever listened to, about a man set on conquering the world. Extremely well written and narrated, that it put me inside Jack Ma's world literally.
PROS: you get to learn about Jack Ma as a person.
* flow of story is slow, old-fashioned, with uninteresting perspective.
* narrator's pronunciation of Chinese was intolerable!
After all, I'm listening to this book to learn the key players, places, etc. Hence, getting all the Chinese nouns/ pronouns is very important. As a Chinese descendant that had lived/ worked in China for 4years, AND already knew most of the players/ nouns/ places, I couldn't make out what this narrator was trying to say! What a shame.
* narrator's tone sounds like a snobbish, conceited old man.
I really liked this book but I wish there was more detail about Jack Ma's process and struggles after the .com bust instead of a straight forward explaination of what happened to Ali Baba during the time period (basically the news highlights).
To be fair the first half of the book has a lot of information about Jack Ma's, just hoped it would continue throughout the whole book.
Overall great book, definitely going to listend again.
An interesting story told in a very boring way, like a dry, unchallenging newspaper article. What a shame. Had to listen at x2 speed to get through in double quick, toe-curling time.
"Very average book"
The Chinese pronunciation is really terrible as other listeners have mentioned. The story isn't great either. You never really get to know Jack Ma and there isn't much backing to statements like 'Jack Magic'. It's almost like a Wikipedia article mixed with some hearsay and a few newspaper articles. I'd give Steve Jobs book 5 out of 5. In contrast this book struggles to get 2 out of 5.
"Commentary with little insight"
Didn't get passed chapter 2 before losing the will to listen any further.
Learned little that's not already published in interviews and profiles.
great story of determination, China development and personal skill well worth a read, the end
"Interesting & unique entrepreneurial story!"
Jack Ma's entrepreneurial journey is interesting and unique. The journey teaches lots of lessons for those who want to learn and apply.
"nice book about china entrepreneurial ecosystem"
Anybody who thinks the Chinese just copy or steal technology from the West should read this book and think again.
The Steve Jobs of China, we call his distortion field : Jack Magic.
He stragglers to get an university as he is so weak in Math, he tried for several years the entry exam and finally he got a degree in English in low ranking university in China.
Book prove that China is special case : EBay, Yahoo, PayPal, Google has failed to compete against the locals. They thought that applying same magic formula that worked in US & Europe will work in China but that was a big failure. Even buying local company and controlling them was a failure.
I like the success formulas that Japanese Masayoshi Son used to know if he should invest or not : he smells the guy and see how sharp is his look that's all ( this is the richest man )
Book explains the topology of china case and its own growing silicon valley, and how capitalism is spreading.
and explain the dynamic and contradiction between state and private sector.
"great insight to one of the world's smartest men"
good read and great insight to a man that has helped so many entrepreneurs. highly recommended!
"Great glimpse of what's happening in China"
I heard the author introducing the book prior to listening it and I think author's voice carried throughout the book. The book is a great read/listen for those who want to know what is going on in China.
Only thing really not that great was the pronunciation of Chinese names and locations. If one has spent some time in China then some of the pronunciations were quite hard to understand and made you miss out the next sentences when trying to figure out what place or person was in question.
great story of a man that went from rags to riches. a book I really enjoyed listening to.
It's very Informative and Educational. Greatly impressed with Jack Ma. Wish Alibaba ALL Success. Congratulations!
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