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Summary

An engrossing insider's account of how a teacher built one of the world's most valuable companies - rivaling Walmart and Amazon - and forever reshaped the global economy.

In just a decade and a half, Jack Ma, a man from modest beginnings who started out as an English teacher, founded Alibaba and built it into one of the world's largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend. Alibaba's $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the largest global IPO ever. A Rockefeller of his age who is courted by CEOs and presidents around the world, Jack is an icon for China's booming private sector and the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of middle-class consumers.

Duncan Clark first met Jack in 1999 in the small apartment where Jack founded Alibaba. Granted unprecedented access to a wealth of new material including exclusive interviews, Clark draws on his own experience as an early advisor to Alibaba and two decades in China chronicling the Internet's impact on the country to create an authoritative, compelling narrative account of Alibaba's rise.

How did Jack overcome his humble origins and early failures to achieve massive success with Alibaba? How did he outsmart rival entrepreneurs from China and Silicon Valley? Can Alibaba maintain its 80 percent market share? As it forges ahead into finance and entertainment, are there limits to Alibaba's ambitions? How does the Chinese government view its rise? Will Alibaba expand further overseas, including in the US?

Clark tells Alibaba's tale in the context of China's momentous economic and social changes, illuminating an unlikely corporate titan as never before.

©2016 Duncan Clark (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Alibaba

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great insight to one of the world's smartest men

good read and great insight to a man that has helped so many entrepreneurs. highly recommended!

8 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Rather dull

An interesting story told in a very boring way, like a dry, unchallenging newspaper article. What a shame. Had to listen at x2 speed to get through in double quick, toe-curling time.

5 people found this helpful

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Very average book

The Chinese pronunciation is really terrible as other listeners have mentioned. The story isn't great either. You never really get to know Jack Ma and there isn't much backing to statements like 'Jack Magic'. It's almost like a Wikipedia article mixed with some hearsay and a few newspaper articles. I'd give Steve Jobs book 5 out of 5. In contrast this book struggles to get 2 out of 5.

3 people found this helpful

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Commentary with little insight

Little objectivity.

Didn't get passed chapter 2 before losing the will to listen any further.

Learned little that's not already published in interviews and profiles.

2 people found this helpful

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PR nonsense

didn't enjoy this at all. The narrator bored the tits off me and it wasn't about Jack, it was just about alibaba and their steps to success, not what it looks like from the cover. boring didn't get past first couple of chapters.

1 person found this helpful

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Not a great book

It was more of read from someone marketing Jack Ma, ratherb than a clean unbiased view!

1 person found this helpful

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Not that interesting - felt biased

Just not that good or informative as other books in the genre. Dissapointed, would​ recommend to avoid.

1 person found this helpful

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Not a tech startup story

This book isn't a gripping history of Alibaba and its rise. It contains more like a bird's eye view of the Chinese tech scene, and Alibaba's and Ma's place in it.

1 person found this helpful

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Great read

Great read with a good understanding of how it all started. very insightful and well worth it.

1 person found this helpful

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uninspiring

Not very objective. Did not inspire at all. Jack comes across as a con man

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tristan
  • 02-09-16

Strange: Best part of story happens "off-screen"

"Alibaba" is a good book despite a near-fatal flaw. The author is an investor and he cares about what investors care about: deal-making, IPO's, threats to valuations, etc. Sometimes he lets that interest overshadow the actual storytelling.

One example is so flagrant it is hilarious. Most of the launch of Alibaba—surely the critical turning point of Jack Ma's life—happens "off-screen." We learn about some deal-making that went into convincing the first employees to join the project. A page or two later we learn about a deal with some early investors, and as a note in that deal Clark mentions Alibaba had by then gained over 250,000 customers. Nothing worth mentioning went into getting their first quarter million customers?

Such moments of early launch play a central role in Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" and Vance's "Elon Musk." In this book, it was left out. The omission leaves a big question open. Clark notes that Ma runs a technology company despite knowing nothing about coding or the internet's machinery . How did he do that? I would like to know. The book skipped over that part.

Clark makes other strange choices. He describes the life story and character of multiple Chinese entrepreneurs and then never returns to them.

And yet, despite all this, it's a good book and it's worth reading. The perspective of an investor on one of the world's highest valued companies is interesting. He appears to do a great job conveying what it's like to do business in China and the history of entrepreneurship in the country. Jack Ma's life makes for a compelling story—despite some of the odd choices in focus.

Should you read Alibaba? Yes. Chinese technology firms are starting to overtake silicon valley ones in a number of arenas. It's a good idea to understand what they are all about, and it's a fun book to do it with. Just join me at rolling your eyes at Clark's investor-myopia.

52 people found this helpful

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  • James Qiu
  • 27-07-16

Mispronunciation kills me

While the story is amazing, the obvious lack of effort in correct Chinese pronunciation hurts my ears and takes away so much from the book.

This performance is so vastly different from the likes of "Chaos Monkeys" in which the reader eloquently pronounced various Italian and French phrases.

29 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David Yulo
  • 11-04-18

Narrator ruined it for me

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Get a narrator who can actually correctly pronounce the Chinese words.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The further I listened to the audiobook, the more frustrated I got because the narrator kept reading the Chinese words in the "American way". You'd think with Amazon's resources, they could at least get someone who can pronounce Chinese words correctly. With a book centered around the development and rise of a Chinese technopreneur and a Chinese company with more than a dozen Chinese names and terms, all the mispronounced words made a profoundly negative impact on my listening experience. I myself am not a native Chinese speaker, but the "Americanized" pronunciations made it difficult to correctly search for the names of the various people and companies mentioned in the book - something I often do when I am interested to know more about certain topics.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-17

Not a Biography book about Jack Ma

If you are looking for a book about Jack Ma, about his life, ideas, thinking and what/how/why he becomes successful, this is NOT the book for you.
More like a Business report about Alibaba and summary his words from published interview.

15 people found this helpful

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  • cassiuswortmann
  • 26-10-16

Interesting story, bad narration

While it did contain some critical info on the development of the China's dotcom industry as well as some bitesized nuggets of Jack Ma wisdom, I found myself continually wincing at the narrator's pronunciation of the names of Chinese individuals and places. However, this is just one of many audiobooks on China blighted by this headache-inducing problem.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Nathan
  • 30-04-16

Terrible narration if you know Chinese mars good book

The book itself is both interesting and insightful. As somebody engaged in the China Internet space for work, and consequently very familiar with the content I found learned quite a bit about personalities and backstory delivered in engaging prose. True the book is very pro Jack and BABA but this is not a surprise, and does not obscure facts.

But if you know any Chinese, preparing to spend the entire book alternating between cringing and puzzling over the generally incomprehensible narration of every single Chinese word other than Alibaba, Ma, and Tsai. The inability to select a Chinese speaker to conduct narration on a book about China is inexplicable and disappointing.

50 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-03-19

BUTCHERING THE CHINESE LANGUAGE

If you speak any Chinese at all, do yourself a favour and buy the *hard copy*..

The reader completely butchers the Chinese language, to the point where I do not know what city he is talking about.

Not only does he not know how to pronounce any Chinese (which is an integral part of the book), but he often pronounces things differently throughout the book. Example 1 (of many): He first pronounces the city of YiWu correctly, but later begins to pronounce it YiWa... Not sure why.

I can't listen to it anymore unfortunately, in the audiobook it is quite difficult to understand what people, cities, or companies the author is referring to.

Extra minus points to the pronunciation of ZheJiang: "Jzayjeeang" :(

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • sb
  • 02-05-17

Not a very informative or insightful on Jack

I was missing to hear more about Jack management style, growth and personal advice. You won't get it here.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Liko
  • 22-01-19

Nice try, but i think narrator can do some more homework.

Really appreciated narrator’s effort, but it would be great if he can spend some extra effort on Chinese pingyin. He pronounced “Shenzhen” as “Sez chuan,” and Li Keqiang as Li qi kwan, and a lot of other mistakes.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ray
  • 20-05-16

AMAZON AND E-BAY COMBINED

A good overview of the Alibaba story. Until I listened to this book, I wasn't aware of the nature of the company, thought that it was just another Amazon, but found that it was more akin to E-Bay.

6 people found this helpful