I’m so honored. I never expect there are so many people coming here to listen to my talk.
And when I sitting there I feel so important. Thank you, thank you very much.
Before my talk I would like to ask how many people here have used Alibaba services. Good, not many. [Laughs]. And how many of you here have never been to China? Never been, never been to China. Good, thank you very much.
Well, 20 years ago I came to America. My first trip to America, to Seattle. Before that I learned so much about America, from my books, from my teachers, from my school, and my parents. And I think I know enough about America. But when I came to America I thought totally wrong. America is not what I learned from the books. And in Seattle I found the Internet.
And then I came back and tell my friends that I’m going to open a company called Internet. I invited 24 of my friends, had a two-hour discussion. And finally we had a vote. 23 of them against me. “Forget about it. There’s no such kind of network called Internet. Don’t do it.” There’s only one person who said “Jack, I trust you. I don’t know what that is, but if you want to try it, go ahead, try it. Because you’re still young.” At that time I was 30 years old.
So I started my business, without knowing anything about computer, without knowing anything about business. I started my first company, my wife and I and a school mate. We borrowed [start] from US $1,000 we start the business. It was so difficult. I called myself like a blind man riding on the back of blind tigers. Jumping around for the past 20 years I survive today. For the first three years life was really bad. I remember I tried to borrow US $3,000 from the banks. It took me three months asking any friends I know to borrow the money. Still failed, coz everybody said “Jack is telling a lie, because there’s no such network called Internet in 1996.”
So one day, later 1996, China was connected to the Internet. I invited ten media friends to my apartment. I want to tell them I’m not telling a lie. There is a network called Internet. We waited three hours and a half to see the first – to download the first picture. And people said “Is that thing going to work?” And I say “Yeah, it’ll work, but not today. In ten years it’ll work.” But at least it proved that I was not telling a lie.
I remember when we tried to help our small business to sell online. Nobody want to sell because nobody come to buy. So first week we have seven employees, we buy and sell ourselves. The second week somebody start to sell on a website. We buy everything they sell. We have two rooms full of things we bought for New Year’s, [all garbage] for the first two weeks. In order to tell people that it works. It was not easy. Since 1995 to 1999 we failed. We go nowhere, our business, because nothing was ready.
In 1999 I invited 18 friends of mine who came to my apartment. We decided to do it again. We call the name alibaba.com. And people say why Alibaba? We believe Internet is a treasure island which opens sesame for small business. And we used Alibaba because it’s easy to spell, easy to remember. And we want to focus on helping small business.
Because at that time we see commerce [with the] American e-commerce they focus on helping on big companies, they’re focusing on helping big companies to save the cost. We believed China we don’t have a lot of big companies, we have so many small business, and small business it’s so difficult for them to survive. If we can using Internet as a technology to help small business it’ll be fantastic.
So we start to say if America is good at helping big companies, just like America is good at making basketball we should play ping-pong in China, we should help the small guys. And we should not helping small guys to save cost, because small business know how to save the cost, but small business should learn how to make money. So our business is focusing helping small business to make