Jack Ma, Harvard and Rejection

If there is a man who has known failure, it is JACK MA!


Born in 1964 into abject poverty; Jack’s parents could not afford basic education. To enter elementary school it took him four years; he failed on three occasions.

To learn English he gave tourists a free bike ride for about one hour each day. He did this for nine years. Jack applied to Harvard on ten occasions. He got rejected ten times.


He applied to over thirty jobs and got rejected in ALL. ALL, including KFC where every other twenty three applicants were taken. He was the only one rejected.  He applied in the police and was also rejected.


He made acquaintances with some of his American friends and as fate would have it, his eyes were opened to the immense potentials of the internet. Ma started China Yellow pages, a company which created websites for hundreds of Chinese businesses.


In 1999; with eighteen friends and 500,000 yuan, Jack started Alibaba.com. That company went on to raise US$25Billion on the New York Stock Exchange in an Initial Public Offering that is adjudged the biggest in the history of US IPO’s. Today, Alibaba.com is the biggest e-commerce platform in the world, grossing over 1Trillion yuans in sales.



Today, Jack is China’s richest man with net-worth of about US$30Billion. In that same Harvard where he was rejected ten times, Jack receives regular invitations to speak and the entire faculty is there to listen.

Rejections are signs of progress. Yes! It doesn’t necessarily mean you are not good enough. Sometimes, it means THEY are not good enough for you. Get going. You can also be another Jack Ma


Bunmi Jembola

CEO, Sales Ruby | Sales Coach |Trainer | Speaker | Author | Product Launch | Sales Technology


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