Where does greatness come from?

If you were sitting in someone’s garage, which was also their office, and they told you they were going to build the world’s biggest online retailer 20 years ago you probably would have laughed a little, told them they were dreaming and left. If that garage were in China you probably would have tried to shepherd the person to the local mental institution.

Jack Ma or Ma Yun, was that guy, a humble school teacher who decided that he was going to fight an online war with silicon valley that would ultimately make him one of the world richest human beings (and me one of the worlds happiest). You see Jack created a business called Alibaba, which most of you will have never heard of and probably will scoff at the stupid name, but if I told you ONE of its subsidiaries on one specific day last year did 20 billion USD in sales I may peak your attention.

jack ma

Let me put it to you this was, Jack Ma created, among other things I have to say clearly, TMall & Taobao. The other businesses are huge B to B online setups that I don’t really use so my love affair is with the above two.

If I asked you to look around your desk, office, house, car or wherever you are reading this, and you see all the different products that make up the world around you? Every single one of those you can buy on TB or TM, not only that you can get them in a million options, sizes, colours, brands (real & fake). Jack Ma created the bastard step child of Ebay & Tabao with person to person selling as well brands to individual selling. He created the market where pretty much half a billion Chinese consumers buy most of their goods. Not only that but they, depending on where you live, arrive for me in Shanghai the next day.

taobao logo

If I had to tell you the list of real and fake items I have bought on Taobao ranging from crystal glass, to Bose sound systems, to TVs, to Martini cocktail toothpicks, to Bonsai tree fertilizer, to a Nespresso machine and its pods (both real & fake), to a bicycle, to knives, and on and on and on (oh and a 20 square meter home gym training mat?!) You get the picture.

Imagine living in a place where any single thing you want you can get online through reliable sellers and if you’re not happy with it or there is something wrong you send it back immediately and get your money back (I did this with one Nespresso machine & one wrong size pair of GAP jeans, other than that not one) and it arrives at your home or office the net day. I was trying to buy the Tim Knoakes book in South Africa and those absolute idiots at Exclusive Books to almost 2 months to deliver it IN SOUTH AFRICA!


Jack Ma is a far more impressive human being than I can explain and like TENCENT (Wechat), Xiomi and others he is now moving out of China and he will do so with the same ruthless efficiency and creative genius he has done here. Alibabas IPO in Hong Kong is likely to make Facebooks look juvenile (as it should because this is a real fucking business) and from then on I suggest the rest of the world best WATCH out for the crocodile of the Yangste.

I’ve been waiting a while to write something about Jack and TB / Tmall but with this on the way I thought now is the perfect time! Enjoy!