Jack Ma was born in Hangzhou, China, in 1964; the first time he ever touched a computer was in 1995; now, according to Forbes, he is the 33rd richest man in the world.
Jack went to the States as an interpreter for a Chinese company while he was still a full time teacher in university, earning a little extra money with his own translating agency.
The first time I touched a computer I got scared, not many Chinese companies had them. They were high technology… and very expensive.
The first thing he did, says Jack Ma, was to type in “Chinese beer” in the search tab, but no results came up. He enlisted the help of a friend to make a webpage for his agency, and in less then eight hours he had received five emails.
That’s when Jack Ma understood the potential of internet.
The birth of Alibaba
In 1999, Ma quit his job and went back to Hangzhou to create Alibaba along with 17 friends.
In 2006, Ma told the story of how he came up with the name Alibaba. He was sitting in a coffee place in San Francisco and asked the waiter: Do you know who Alibaba is?. To which she replied: Sure, open Sesame. So Ma went out to the street and started asking random people if they knew who Alibaba was, everybody said yes: “Indians, Germans, Chinese,… they all knew who he was”.
“Alibaba was a polite, smart person who helped people, it’s easy to pronounce, and he opened doors”. It was the perfect name for a platform for sales in between companies, a platform that would open the doors to Chinese exports, and that now has more than 80 thousand users.
Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou / CC-BY-SA 4.0
What about AliExpress?
Alibaba isn’t only one website, it’s a business group run by Ma offering a variety of services: Taobao, a platform for sales among consumers (like Ebay); eTao, a product price comparison site; or AliPay, the Chinese equivalent of Paypal.
Among these services you can also find our beloved AliExpress. Born only 5 years ago and dedicated exclusively to retail sales. Suppliers using the platform are small or medium Chinese companies, while most of the clients come from foreign countries, such as Rusia, Israel, Italy, countries from South America, England, etc…
This shouldn’t come as a surprise: AliExpress has a clear sight on international expansion and to get direct insigne into these markets, it’s hiring more and more foreign employees every day.
Present and Future
Last year, when Alibaba went into stock Exchange, it broke all the records and captured international attention. Then, on May 6th, 2015, Alibaba broke all the records once again: it surpassed its own sale record and increased its volume of business 45% in comparison to the previous year. AliExpress generates less than 10% of the overall business volume.
If there is one thing we should get out of all this is that AliExpress is on the rise, with more users learning about it and using it every day.