Born on October 15, 1964, Ma grew up in Hangzhou, China. At the time, communist China was the most isolated it had ever been from the West, and his family didn't have much money.
In 1972, Ma's hometown became a popular tourist destination since US president Richard Nixon visited. Once Hangzhou became a tourist mecca, Ma started waking up early to go to the city's most popular hotel to offer incoming visitors tours of the city in exchange for English lessons. He received the name Jack from one of the tourists that he befriended.
He knew his only way out of his current life situation was education, so after high school, he applied to go to college. Not once but twice Ma failed the entrance exam, passing on the third try.
After college, he applied for 30 jobs in his home city, where he was rejected by every single one. The worst one was KFC. 24 people applied, 23 were hired, and he wasn't one of them.
Ma heard no quite often throughout his early life. His breakthrough came in 1999 when he founded the Chinese e-commerce site, Alibaba. In 2001, he came to the US in search of venture capitalists that were willing to help raise $5 million. As always, he was rejected.
Those venture capitalists definitely regret their decision since Alibaba now has a market cap of about $400 billion and when it went public in 2014, it broke a record for the largest IPO (initial public offering) ever.
He now has a net worth estimated at about $44.8 billion.
WATCH: Jack Ma talks decisions that will change your life
Jack Ma encourages failure. As a matter of fact, he passes around case studies about failure to his Alibaba colleagues instead of studies on success. So what can we learn from Jack Ma? Failure is the most important thing on your journey to success. Jack Ma once said, “if you cannot get used to failure — just like a boxer — if you can’t get used to [being] hit, how can you win?”