Top 10 Rules For Success From Alibaba’s Founder Jack Ma

Sylvain Saurel
Sep 9, 2019 · 8 min read

Starting from nothing, Jack Ma has built an empire around the Alibaba company allowing him to become one of the richest men in the world with a fortune estimated at around 40 billion dollars. His story is very inspiring because he has been able to face many obstacles without ever giving up. His resilience and sense of innovation have enabled him to build one of the world’s e-commerce giants that could one day compete with Amazon globally.

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Throughout his journey, Jack Ma followed a set of rules and principles that helped him never give up and achieve great things. I suggest you discover the 10 rules of Jack Ma’s success in the following.

1. Get Used To Rejection

Jack Ma’s first rule of success is found in all successful entrepreneurs. Indeed, it is essential to get used to rejection and never to keep moving forward to pursue your goals.

Thus, Jack Ma was refused entry to the police academy when he was young. Then he flunked 10 times at the entrance to Harvard! Worse still, it was even refused by the first Chinese KFCs to simply serve chicken.

He has shown resilience and has never given up. He continued to move forward by doing odd jobs in anticipation of greater opportunities. He did well because by adapting to these failures, he was able to become a professor of English at Hangzhou Dianzi University.

This position opened his path to the United States in 1995 when he accompanied a Chinese delegation as a translator. It is during this trip that Jack Ma discovered the Internet and carefully observed the functioning of Silicon Valley startups.

Upon his return, Jack Ma launched one of the first Chinese websites with China Pages. This was the beginning of the Internet adventure that led Jack Ma to found in 1999. This platform is now an e-commerce giant controlling more than 80% of online commerce in China.

The first major lesson to be learned from Jack Ma’s history is therefore that we must get used to rejection and never hesitate to adapt following these rejections to achieve even greater goals.

2. Keep Your Dreams Alive

Jack Ma’s story is marked by the systematic pursuit of his dreams. This is a recurring theme for many successful entrepreneurs from Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk to Larry Page.

Jack Ma called his company Alibaba in reference to the character Ali Baba who was able to enter a secret cave with the code “Open Sesame”. He thus encourages all Alibaba employees to always believe in their dreams. For Jack Ma, Alibaba’s secret code is “Keep Your Dreams Alive”.

When you look at the phenomenal success of Jack Ma and Alibaba over the past twenty years, it is clear that it is essential to always believe in your dreams. This gives meaning to one’s life and allows one to move forward on a daily basis while working hard.

3. Focus On Culture

In an interview, Jack Ma once explained what is at the heart of Alibaba’s success. For him, it is not technology that is only a tool and not an end in itself. What makes the difference in Alibaba’s success is the corporate culture that he has always tried to infuse into his employees as the company grows.

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This corporate culture gives meaning to the employees’ work by making them adhere to the company’s missions and values. Giving meaning is essential to make employees want to help others rather than just be concerned about profits and money. Going from 18 employees to nearly 70,000 in just 20 years cannot be achieved without the establishment of a true corporate culture.

This rule applies to all people who wish to create their startup. Growing quickly without focusing on your company’s culture will necessarily lead to problems.

4. Ignore The Critics, Focus On Positive

If you want to achieve great things in life, you must learn to ignore negative criticism in order to pursue your goals to the end. Of course, it can be interesting to listen to constructive criticism. Nevertheless, when you have a vision, you must commit yourself to going all the way to the end so that you don’t regret anything.

In 2004, when Jack Ma wanted to launch Alipay, Alibaba’s Internet payment solution, many people told him that it was a hopeless or even stupid idea. Sure of his idea, Jack Ma persevered without taking into account all this negativity.

Well, it did because today Alipay has more than 600 million active users in China. Deployment in Europe is also underway.

If criticism makes it possible to move forward, it is necessary to know how to give it the importance it deserves. They can be used to self-evaluate and change certain methods, but when you have a deep conviction, you must go for it.

5. Get Inspired All The Time

Jack Ma explained that he had been inspired many times by films such as The Godfather and Forest Gump. The anecdote may seem amusing, but it is highlighted to show how open you always have to be to new ideas.

Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash

Jack Ma was inspired by the performances of the actors in these films. It also made her realize that when people act in a natural way and speak from the heart, the impact is all the greater on the audience. All this inspired him to become a better public speaker.

Whatever your level, you should always seek inspiration. This involves reading books, watching movies from time to time and going to see shows why not.

In short, you must remain open and observe the world around you.

6. Never Lose Focus On Your Goals

Having goals is essential in life. This gives you a common thread that allows you to get up every day and give your best. Jack Ma advises us never to lose sight of our objectives.

You must always remain focused on your objectives. This means that you will sometimes have to refuse certain opportunities that could take you away from your real goals by dispersing your energy.

As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to say no. A certain Warren Buffett, known as one of the greatest investors of all time, even advises systematically saying no in order to reserve the yes only for exceptional opportunities.

7. Pick A Good Name

As a company founder, your number one duty for Jack Ma is to choose an excellent name for your company. But what is an excellent name?

An excellent name is a name that is easily remembered first of all. He named his company Alibaba because everyone knows the history of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It is therefore easier to remember this name.

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Then, creating your company with a name starting with A made it possible to appear in the top directories of websites such as Yahoo! which was the leader at the time Alibaba was launched.

Finally, when choosing the name of your company, you have to think about storytelling. To sell your company better, it is essential to be able to associate it with a unique story that will attract people’s attention. By naming his company Alibaba and explaining that the name came from the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Jack Ma found an excellent way to attract attention.

8. Prioritize People With Customers First

When you start a company with the ambition of making it what Alibaba has become, it is essential to define clear priorities. Jack Ma has always been clear on this point. For him, the priority is customers. It’s even the number one priority! He thus joins the obsession for Jeff Bezos’ client who founded and led Amazon to the top over the same period.

It is clearly no coincidence that two entrepreneurs who put the customer at the centre of all their concerns have been so successful.

Behind the customers, Jack Ma says that you should always put your company’s employees ahead of shareholders. Indeed, if it is the customers who bring money to the company, it is the employees who will lead the company’s innovation and allow its development.

It is therefore essential to know where the priorities lie if you want to achieve success with a startup.

9. Don’t Complain, Look For Opportunities

At a conference, Jack Ma once said he thought that people who complain miss opportunities. And it must be said that he is absolutely right. Indeed, opportunities are everywhere but even more so when you encounter obstacles on your way.

So, in difficulty, when faced with an obstacle, if you waste time complaining, you will necessarily miss opportunities. The great successful entrepreneurs of this world still see obstacles as opportunities. Why? Simply because they have the millionaire’s mindset!

Jack Ma is that kind of guy. For him, an obstacle is an opportunity, so there is no need to complain. Better still, it is when faced with obstacles that the best opportunities emerge. You know what you have to do now.

10. Have Passion, Work Hard

Jack Ma discovered the Internet by chance during a trip to the United States in 1995. He was immediately fascinated by the possibilities offered by the Internet. By observing the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, his passion only grew stronger and he immediately knew in which direction he should go with his future company Alibaba.

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Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

This passion has allowed him to work hard without respite. He also tried to instill this mindset in Alibaba’s employees by explaining that what he was doing was much more important than simply conquering the Chinese market. Jack Ma immediately had the ambition to conquer the world with Alibaba. Gradually, he tries to make his vision a reality.

Being passionate about your work will also help you stay motivated and face difficult times by working hard. It is essential to achieve great things.

As Confucius said:

“Choose a Job You Love, and You Will Never Have To Work a Day in Your Life”


Jack Ma is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the Internet. Despite this tremendous success that allowed him to become a billionaire, Jack Ma has always kept it simple and humble. The 10 rules presented in this article will have allowed him to reach the top and stay there. As an entrepreneur, we must be inspired by stories such as Jack Ma’s. You need to have high goals, to keep your dreams intact and to always trust his deep convictions.

In this way, it becomes possible to achieve great success in life and in the business world.

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Sylvain Saurel

Written by

Entrepreneur / Developer / Blogger / Author. In Bitcoin We Trust:

The Power of Knowledge

Knowledge is the key to getting better and better every day. The publication is aiming to provide you with stories on different topics to help your better understand the world: personal development, productivity, motivation, inspiration, money, finance, racism, women, …

Sylvain Saurel

Written by

Entrepreneur / Developer / Blogger / Author. In Bitcoin We Trust:

The Power of Knowledge

Knowledge is the key to getting better and better every day. The publication is aiming to provide you with stories on different topics to help your better understand the world: personal development, productivity, motivation, inspiration, money, finance, racism, women, …

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