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While you might not know anything about Jack Ma right now, you'll be hearing a lot about him very soon.
That's because Ma is the man who has helped Alibaba become one of the world's largest e-commerce companies – one that will make many people rich when it goes public later this year.
The Alibaba IPO will be one of the largest Internet IPOs of all time. It could even eclipse the $16 billion public offering of Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) from 2012.
Here's how Jack Ma ended up heading a $168 billion e-commerce giant.
Who Is Jack Ma?
The man behind China's largest online retailer had an inauspicious start.
Jack Ma was an English teacher in his hometown of Hangzhou until 1995.
When Ma first used the Internet, his initial search for the word "China" returned no results. Intrigued, Ma began working on a simple Chinese translation website.
Without any prior computing experience, Ma then created a site called "China Pages." It was an index of Chinese businesses. It was also one of the country's first registered Internet companies.
In 1999, Ma gave Internet business another try. That's when Ma created Alibaba.com, a business-to-business website that allowed Chinese exporters to sell to overseas customers.
The company started small – with 17 friends in Ma's apartment – but the founder's tenacity was apparent from the beginning.
"We will make it because we are young and we never, never give up," Ma is seen telling employees in the documentary "Crocodile in the Yangtze."
Ma brought in Joseph Tsai to help run the business. Established U.S. and Asian companies then began investing in the company.