There are books and articles that offer advice on how to become a millionaire, but this one could be called How to Become A Billionaire. Instead, it’s called “Alibaba’s World,” written by Porter Erisman, a man who was there at the beginning of a company that went public in America last year at a valuation that exceeded Amazon and eBay combined. It was the largest initial stock offering ever.
Erisman worked at the company for eight years. Joy heard him speak, bought the book, and read it in flash.
The story begins with Jack Ma, an English teacher making $12 a month in China, a typical salary in the 1990s. His first trip to the U.S. as a translator was a wake-up call. Friends in Seattle let him try out the web on their computers. He typed in “beer,” and marveled at the choices. He typed in “Chinese beer–” no results. Then “China–” no results. This was early days for the web, and although he knew nothing about computers, he set off to create one of the world’s most successful online shopping and auction sites. Remarkably, this was accomplished at a time when few Chinese owned credit cards or had ever been on the web. The first web pages had to be created on paper and mailed to the Seattle engineers from China.