Book Review:
Alibaba’s World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business – Review by Porter Erisman, former Vice-President of Alibaba who started out as Alibaba Jack Ma’s Public Relations Man

Porter Erisman wrote this stellar memoir of the his experience while being employed as a Vice-President of Alibaba. He highlights how Alibaba Jack Ma, a Chinese schoolteacher, rose from obscurity to establishing Alibaba which today is the world’s most dominant e-commerce player.

Even before Alibaba was launched online, its founder, Jack Ma, talked about making the fledgling e-commerce company a global player.

At Alibaba Group’s first staff meeting in 1999, a video shot by an employee shows Jack Ma rallying a workforce of 17 of his friends. They met in a cement-floored apartment in Hangzhou, a city southwest of Shanghai, at a time when few Chinese were online. Ma was an English teacher with no training in business or computers. Yes he was a novice with BIG ideas and HUGE ambition.

“Our competitors are not in China but in Silicon Valley,” says Alibaba Jack Ma in the video, which is included in a documentary about the company, “Crocodile in the Yangtze,” made by former Alibaba vice president and PR man, Porter Erisman. “We can beat government agencies and big, famous companies because of our innovative spirit.”

Such Silicon Valley-style bluster was new to China, but Ma delivered. Over the next 15 years, he helped propel Alibaba through technical and financial challenges and a battle with eBay Inc. to become the world’s biggest online bazaar.

eBay began going after Alibaba in 2004, according to Porter Erisman, who was a Vice President at Alibaba from 2000 to 2008. In his new book, “Alibaba’s World,” he reveals that eBay CEO Meg Whitman was stunned to learn a year later that Alibaba chose to enter into a deal with Yahoo. That was a global shocker, indeed!

Alibaba was a good fit with eBay, whose merchants used the Chinese platform for product-sourcing. Why battle eBay in China? Ma believed that while eBay would start with consumers in China through its acquisition of Eachnet, over time they would start going after Alibaba’s wholesalers.

Jack Ma succeeded big time. TaoBao was a thorn in eBay’s side in China. Yet eBay was confident it could win there. “Whoever wins in China wins the world,” Whitman famously said.

ebay could have owned China and the book kept me mesmerized and captivated watching Jack Ma and Meg Whitman fight it out to the end. Jack Ma and Alibaba kicked some Meg Whitman. Ebay China butt. Ebay had to go back home with their tails between their legs. You can’t just drop a western company model into a foreign country and expect it to be successful simply on the merits of the success of Ebay in the USA.

Back in 2014, Forbes headlined an article “Alibaba Claims Title For Largest Global IPO Ever With Extra Share Sales”. See

Alibaba Jack Ma Largest IPO in the World

Alibaba Jack Ma Largest IPO in the World

Alibaba Group Holdings went public in the fall of 2014, with the Wall Street Journal calling it one of the most valuable technology enterprises in the world.
In raising $25 billion, Alibaba’s IPO surpassed the 2010 offering from the Agricultural Bank of China, which raised $22.1 billion in it debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Alibaba was able to sell more shares due to its over-allotment, or “greenshoe,” option, which allows underwriters to placate investor demand for the stock by obtaining more shares from the company at the IPO price.

Alibaba’s World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business by Porter Erisman is a MUST READ! There are so many lessons to be learned by anyone who wants to tangle and wrestle in the startup arena.

Faith Sloan

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