The Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, made history last Friday with the world's largest initial public offering ever: $25 billion.
If you don't know what Alibaba is, imagine that eBay, PayPal and Amazon had a baby -- a giant baby.
That's what Alibaba is: a massive online trading platform where you can literally find just about anything. For example, if you're interested in buying a life-size silicon Paul Walker statue, Alibaba is the place for you.
Alibaba is now the 18th biggest company on the planet by valuation. It's worth around $230 billion, making it worth more than Facebook, Amazon and eBay. Likewise, in terms of tech companies, Alibaba ranks in the top 5:
Largest tech market cap: 1 Apple — $610B 2 Google — $401B 3 Microsoft — $385B 4 Alibaba — $231B 5 all other tech companies in the world — Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) September 20, 2014
Perhaps the most miraculous aspect of this company -- aside from its rapid ascension -- is the humble and personable character of its founder, Jack Ma.
Jack Ma =Forrest Gump! A humble hero for a humble man! — Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) September 19, 2014
Jack Ma tells @cnbc that his hero is Forrest Gump $BABA — Lauren Goode (@LaurenGoode) September 19, 2014
Stunning success for Jack Ma & Alibaba. Stk closes at $94, up 38% Jack Ma is China's 1st global leader: he's humble, authentic, & passionate — Bill George (@Bill_George) September 20, 2014
Jack Ma founded Alibaba 15 years ago from his tiny one-bedroom apartment in China with a group of 17 friends. At one point, Ma couldn't even get a job at KFC; they wouldn't hire him. Now, however, he is one of the world's 100 richest people with an estimated worth of $14 billion.
Life really is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get -- and Ma is proof of that. He's an exceptionally inspirational individual.
From humble beginnings in Hangzhou, China, Ma rose to build one of the most powerful companies in the world. And now, he's the richest man in China. He went from English teacher to billionaire -- you can't make this stuff up.
In the early 1990s, Ma struggled to find work. Eventually, in 1995, he landed a job as a translator, which brought him to the United States. This led to Ma's first introduction with the Internet during a visit to Silicon Valley.
In retrospect, this was quite a serendipitous moment, as Ma would go on to found his own online company just a few years later with the help of a few friends and $60,000.
From a young age, Ma greatly desired to learn English. Apparently, he used to get up every morning and ride his bike 45-minutes to the nearest hotel in order to practice speaking with foreigners.
He also gave them free tours of the city. Eventually, he became an English teacher in local schools. Obviously, this led him directly to where he is today.
Ma took the initiative to learn English on his own accord and it has paid off astronomically. This is a lesson for us all -- just because you're not getting monetary rewards for something doesn't mean hard work won't pay off.
His rise to the top certainly didn't come without struggles, but Ma said he found inspiration in one of America's most treasured movie characters: Forrest Gump:
The hero I had is Forrest Gump -- I really like that guy! I've been watching that movie for about ten times. Every time I get frustrated, I watch the movie. I watch the movie before I came here again for coming to the New York. I watched the movie again. No matter what changes, you are you. I'm a stupid guy -- fifteen years ago I only earned like $20 a month.
If you haven't seen the movie, Gump is a bit of a dimwit who ends up becoming a billionaire, but remains humble despite his success. Ultimately, Gump places more value in his relationships and helping others than he does in money.
In many ways, Ma seems like a real-life Forrest Gump: He has a great sense of humor and is very self-aware. He has also stated his desire to help small companies get ahead, and apparently has a fantastic relationship with his son. In an e-mail he once sent to employees, Ma stated:
We've worked so hard, but not for the sake of turning into a bunch of tuhao [a Chinese term basically meaning an ill-mannered newly rich person].
Humility is often absent from corporate culture, which is what makes Ma such a refreshingly positive presence. He is a fervent optimist, and model for entrepreneurs, reminding them not to give up on their dreams.
On perhaps the biggest day of his life -- last Friday -- Ma modestly declared:
They call me ‘Crazy Jack.' I hope to stay crazy for the next 30 years.
If you want to hear more about 'Crazy Jack,' his company and his story, check out this video of him speaking at Stanford University: