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Will Jack Ma’s Retirement Be a Silent Memoir in a Wobbling Startup Era?

Jack MaAlibaba’s co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, shared his retirement plans to continue his philanthropy in education. Jack Ma, a business magnate who created an e-commerce business empire of $420 billion internet company.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999,  Mr. Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and built it into one of the world’s most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things.

Ma told The New York Times that he plans to step down from the company, referring to his retirement as “the beginning of an era” rather than an end.

After being knocked back by US venture capitalists in 1999, cash-strapped Chinese entrepreneur Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start an e-commerce firm called Alibaba.

As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China’s super-rich. His net worth was estimated at $36.6 billion by Forbes. Ma will turn 54 years old on Monday, the day he is retiring.

He gave up his university teaching job after discovering the internet. Seeing an opportunity for small businesses to buy and sell their goods online, he started Alibaba, initially running the company out of his apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

“The first time I used the internet, I touched on the keyboard and I find ‘well, this is something I believe, it is something that is going to change the world and change China,'” Ma once told CNN.

Ma has inspired strong devotion among his employees and users, drawing comparisons with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs — although he practiced a more open management style.

A devotee of tai chi, he has made references to Chinese martial arts in both business strategy and corporate culture.

Porter Erisman, a former Alibaba employee who made a documentary about the firm, “Crocodile in the Yangtze,” said: “What Silicon Valley is known for, he embodies a lot of that with Chinese characteristics — that spirit of openness, risk-taking, innovation.”

Chinese state media have burnished his rags-to-riches story, saying his parents were poorly educated and his father depended on a monthly retirement allowance of just $40 to support the family.

“He’s a symbol of the health of China’s private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not,” Duncan Clark, author of the book “Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built,” said of Mr. Ma. “His retirement will be interpreted as frustration or concern whether he likes it or not.”

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Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.

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