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Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built Hardcover – April 12, 2016
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In just a decade and half Jack Ma, a man who rose from humble beginnings and started his career as an English teacher, founded and built Alibaba into the second largest Internet company in the world. The company’s $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the world’s largest, valuing the company more than Facebook or Coca Cola. Alibaba today runs the e-commerce services that hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend on every day, providing employment and income for tens of millions more. A Rockefeller of his age, Jack has become an icon for the country’s booming private sector and as the face of the new, consumerist China is courted by heads of state and CEOs from around the world. Granted unprecedented access to a wealth of new material including exclusive interviews, Clark draws on his own first-hand experience of key figures integral to Alibaba’s rise to create an authoritative, compelling narrative account of how Alibaba and its charismatic creator have transformed the way that Chinese exercise their new found economic freedom, inspiring entrepreneurs around the world and infuriating others, turning the tables on the Silicon Valley giants who have tried to stand in his way. Duncan explores vital questions about the company’s past, present and future: How, from such unremarkable origins, did Jack Ma build Alibaba? What explains his relentless drive and his ability to outsmart his competitors? With over 80% of China’s e-commerce market, how long can the company hope to maintain its dominance? As the company sets its sights on the country’s financial and media markets, are there limits to Alibaba’s ambitions, or will the Chinese government act to curtail them? And as it set up shop from LA and San Francisco to Seattle, how will Alibaba grow its presence and investments in the US and other international markets?
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Telling the story of the founder, Jack Ma, illustrating Ma’s philosophy and praxeology, the “Jack Magic”, and illuminating the role it played in Alibaba’s runaway success is where Clark shines. Clark’s discussion of the business environment, competitor strategies, and the later maturity of the internet industry indicates a lack of knowledge and insight, with various actors coming across as dry and two-dimensional. It feels tedious to read.
While the narration leaves much to be wanted in several departments, the story itself inspires, and the zeitgeist of a few key moments are well preserved. As a Stanford graduate student and Silicon Valley resident, I found a window into an entirely different world - a different dogma - of entrepreneurship; refreshing in a scene where a multitude of playbooks and listicles have converged a set of what seemed to be immutable rules.
The description of the volatily of the .com start- ups was hair-raising for the uninitiated. The convergence of sheer luck, keeping your powder dry and recognition of opportunities in addition to hard work made Jack so successful. He proved that western companies have a lot to learn about the Chinese business climate.
Written in a way that was understandable for for the low-tech reader.