Where does all this stuff come from? Modern shipping practices and the global economy mean that goods are no longer manufactured in the places that they are used. Everything from spoons to t-shirts to lightbulbs travels around the world and back again to get to the homes and businesses where it’s used.
Making that happen, making goods get from there to here, that’s what Alibaba is all about.
This multinational conglomerate corporation is a holding company that has focuses in tech, internet, retail, and eCommerce. It provides business to business services over the web, as well as search engines for shopping, cloud computing, and even electronic payment. Whatever is needed to get goods bought and sold, Alibaba is here to do it.
Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma and a team that included seventeen of his friends. It was created as a Chinese based marketplace online. Working out of Hangzhou, the company quickly made a huge impact. Within six months of getting started, Alibaba managed to secure a twenty-five million dollar investment from Softbank and Goldman Sachs.
The point of the company, from the very beginning, was to facilitate sales by small and Chinese manufacturers. This was a niche that founder Jack Ma saw and that he knew needed to be filled. Alibaba wasn’t the first web-based commerce platform to do this, but it was the first one to do it really well. That early entry into the online market is part of what is credited with the success of this company.
It’s important to note here that founder Jack Ma is considered a model for global startups. He’s become an icon in his own right thanks to the success of Alibaba, venturing into politics, philanthropy, and investment. His work with Alibaba has made him one of the richest people in the world, with a net worth of more than thirty-five billion dollars.
Part of the success of Alibaba has been its constantly competitive nature. It rejected a buyout of one of its subsidiaries by rival online marketplace eBay in 2003. The company has welcomed foreign investment. In 2005, Yahoo invested one billion dollars in the company to gain a forty percent stake of it. Alibaba’s own stock rose by ten billion dollars as a result of that investment.
Alibaba has come into plenty of controversies however. It’s been caught up in the illegal brokering of international sales of uranium, and there have been numerous cases of counterfeit material being sold on its site.
The competitiveness of Alibaba extends to its branding and business partnerships. In 2017, the company announced that it would spend eight hundred million dollars to sponsor the Olympic Games for the next decade.
Even the name Alibaba is a marketing tool. When founder Jack Ma was looking for a name, he chose Alibaba because the story with Middle Eastern origin that featured Ali Baba had universal appeal. Everyone knew it. By extension, everyone would remember his company. It’s a branding strategy that worked.
In just twenty years, Alibaba went from a startup to the fourth largest internet company in the world. At the heart of this startup has always been its competitive spirit and its commitment to ingenuity and free market trade.