Alibaba shouldn't be a new name. If it is, then know that it is the e-commerce giant of China. Here are some of the lessons that startups can learn from Alibaba.

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Alibaba group was founded on April 4, 1999. is one of the biggest platforms that connects the Chinese manufacturers with the overseas buyers. Basically, the e-commerce platform provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-business, and business-to-consumer sales services. At the time of its entrance, tencent was the internet company in China and its area of focus was quite different than Alibaba’s; this provided Alibaba ample opportunity with literally no major competitors in the market. Here are some of the lessons that startups can learn from Alibaba:


The Internet is inundated with the success stories of startups. If you search for one common mantra in all of the success stories, you find persistence. Research shows startups that stay long enough are the ones to succeed in the long run. Success is no overnight phenomenon. Therefore, entrepreneurs should learn from the mistakes and find their way to success.

The idea of Alibaba was rejected by 23 out of 24 of prospective investors. No one could see the e-commerce as a viable business. However, the persistence of the founder paid off in getting investors into the venture, the result of which we are well aware of. Alibaba generated no profit for the 3 consecutive years. Alibaba was also extremely challenged to process the payments in different currencies; most of the banks rejected to partner with Alibaba to make the process smooth. Later, Alibaba introduced Alipay, which is its own payment transfer system. The life of Jack Ma also perfectly exemplifies persistence. He failed three times in University examination, got rejected from Harvard 10 times and was only the one out of 24 applicants to be denied in getting a job at KFC.

Jack Ma said that “No matter what one does, regardless of failure or success, the experience is a form of success in itself.”

Therefore, persistence is equally important in the startups.

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Right team

The importance of the right team for the startups is a well-known fact. Alibaba’s founders and co-founder can’t be labelled smart. After all, the founder was just an English teacher who ‘saw’ the computer and Internet in the 1990s and also the most of the co-founder were little known to the tech world. Alibaba faced the right team crisis when it hired ivy-alums managers with extraordinary CVs; the sole reason Ma attributed to this is a lack of fit into organizational culture and failure to work as a team. Nevertheless, when Alibaba was back into its original team, things started getting right. However, Alibaba never rejected the need for qualified candidates, however. The need of the team members to buy into the culture and work as a team is what it matters the most, according to Alibaba. In different interviews, Ma has attributed the corporate culture to Alibaba’s success.

Innovation is the Key

Startups should never give up on innovation. Stagnation can prove to be detrimental to the growth and development of the startups. The quality of the product/service can be improved or the features can be added. The service and product can be tailored according to local tastes. The startups should always innovate and create new ways of doing things. After all, innovation is what creates the edge among the already established brands in the market.
Alibaba was launched solely as a business-to-business platform but the passage of time showed more portfolio being added under its name. Currently, Alibaba operates China’s largest business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform amongst others.

Prepare for Failure

If a startup wants to succeed, it must know it is bound to fail at times. The success does not come overnight. The path of entrepreneurship is full of obstacles. Preparing for failure is anything but having the second plan, being mentally prepared and motivated enough to lead the company through the hard times. Therefore, preparing for the winter is better while it is still summer.

Chinapages, an Internet startup of Jack Ma failed utterly. The journey of Alibaba-no matter how successful it is- has witnessed failure in many periods. Alibaba did not perform as expected in the United States. It recently got lawsuit dismissing its platform as being the safe haven for the counterfeit products, a fact which even Alibaba agrees on. Its first IPO made the company witness more brickbats than bouquets. It failed in giving smooth pay processing to users from different countries in its early days.

Facts of Alibaba

  • There are more than 20,000 employees in Alibaba; it is more than number of employees of Yahoo and Facebook combined.
  • More than 50% of parcels sent in China are Alibaba parcels.
  • Jack Ma stills claim to have very little knowledge about technology.
  • Alibaba’s IPO is the biggest in the history of the stock market of the United States.
  • Alibaba claims to have 231 million annual users who account for 11.3 billion orders per year.