Book Excerpt: Seeds Of Alibaba’s IPO Planted In 2004 Battle With eBay

In light of Alibaba’s upcoming IPO, I thought it would be appropriate to run a series of excerpts from my book The Chinese Dream, which documents Alibaba’s humble beginning, its triumph over eBay, and Jack Ma’s legendary story.

The first episode is set in 2004. eBay just entered China and planned to dominate China’s nascent online market. An unknown Chinese company, Alibaba, started a sister site called Taobao to compete with eBay. Everyone thought this was a crazy idea. However, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and CEO, was undeterred. He asked his team to stand upside down so that they could look at the world from a totally new perspective.

He said, “EBay may be famous in the United States, but in China, if you ask one hundred people whether they’ve heard about eBay, I believe that less than 10 percent have heard of it. But if you ask one hundred people whether they’ve heard about Alibaba, 90 percent know about us…. I believe we have a chance.”

Read the full story on Forbes.com.

Jack Ma’s Real Intention: Yahoo! or Alibaba?

Soon after Jack Ma gave his keynote at the China 2.0 conference at Stanford University, the U.S. media was flooded with news that “Jack Ma is interested in buying Yahoo.” At a time when Yahoo!, one of the world’s first Internet pioneers, is struggling, a Chinese suitor sounds particularly alarming.

I was at the conference. Ma started his speech by assuring the audience that his appearance in the States has nothing to do with “getting to Yahoo.” But no one seemed to believe him. Most questions directed to him were in the vein of: “Do you plan to buy Yahoo?” “Have you approached Yahoo for a deal?” “How are you going to buy Yahoo and when?”

Jack Ma’s answer to these questions was, not surprisingly, politically correct: “I am very interested.”

People who speculate that Jack Ma’s aim is to acquire Yahoo! may have missed the point. His real intention may very well be to expand his Alibaba Group to the U. S. market. “I want to learn one thing here,” he said, “how we can help U.S. SMEs (small and medium enterprises). What value we can create between us, Amazon and eBay.”

That has always been Jack Ma’s ambition. People who have followed his story may know his famous line: “eBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangtze River.” Now, the crocodile is testing the water in the ocean. Will the crocodile turn into a shark?

Read the full story by me on Forbes: Beware of Crocodile Entering the Ocean.

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Lessons from eBay-Alibaba Battle

This weekend, eBay’s CEO John Donahoe shared the stage with Alibaba’s maverick founder Jack Ma at his annual Alifest conference in Hangzhou, China. Gady Epstein, Forbes Beijing bureau chief, has an intriguing blog about how Mr. Donahoe wished a happy birthday to Jack Ma who not only defeated eBay in China, but also “encroaches on eBay’s home turf.” Since Epstein referenced my recounting of the eBay-Alibaba battle, I thought it might serve readers well to provide an excerpt here from my book The Chinese Dream:

In 2004, eBay had just entered China and was planning to dominate the China market. Alibaba was a local Chinese company that helped small- and medium-sized enterprises conducting business online. Most people in the West had barely heard about it. Continue reading