A Meeting With Destiny

Jack Ma announces Yahoo’s $1 billion investment in Alibaba in 2005. Behind him is a photo of himself and Jerry Yang at the Great Wall of China in 1997, when Ma was a government-employed tour guide.
Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo!, left on his first trip to China in 1997. A junior staffer in the economic ministry was assigned to take Yang on a tour of the Great Wall of China. The staffer’s name was Jack Ma, a former English teacher who had tried and failed to start a Chinese version of the Yellow Pages.

During the hike, the two hit it off and talked about the growth of the Web. Several months later, Ma began building another startup based on grand and rather vague plans to connect Chinese companies with the rest of the world. He called it Alibaba.

Yang became a gui-in for Ma, whom he happened to meet by chance. He first introduced Ma to SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, who then invested $20 million in Alibaba in 2002 so Ma could found a small company with ten employees with the money.

In 2005, Yang extended a helping hand to Ma. At the time, Ma was looking for capital to compete with EBay, which was moving into China. In a summit held in Pebble Beach, California, Yang and Ma took a walk on the beach on a whim as they hadn’t met for some time. Then, something unexpected happened: Yahoo! announced that it would invest $1 billion in Alibaba. Ma later said that he had never expected to negotiate with Yang at Pebble Beach.

As a result, Alibaba has grown into a company with a total market capitalization of $500 billion. Yahoo!’s investment capital has grown dozens of times greater. This capital has been a powerful aid each time Yahoo! has endured management problems. Now it is Ma who has become the gui-in.


Olson, Parmy. “Finding Alibaba: How Jerry Yang Made The Most Lucrative Bet In Silicon Valley History.” Forbes (Sep 30, 2014.)