Jack Ma said there are four people that are very important in his life. Two of them are Masayoshi Son and Jerry Yang, who helped bringing in capital for Alibaba. Another one is his idol Louis Cha (Jin Yong), a well-known material arts novelist. The fourth person was Joe Tsai, his closest partner on the entrepreneurial journey.
Jack Ma and Joe Tsai first met in May 1995. Joe flew from Hong Kong to Hangzhou to look for potential internet projects, and that was when he discovered Alibaba and met Jack Ma. He never thought this meeting could be the turning point of his career and even life.
So what did Jack Ma say to him when they meet? He told Joe about his great idea of creating the “best B2B company in the world”, which he expected to last for 80 years. Jack Ma’s speech was as influential and inspiring as always and Joe was greatly impressed by this charismatic entrepreneur. But more impressive was a scene that he saw in Jack Ma’s office: more than 20 people were sitting on the floor, littered with bed sheets, and they were shouting and laughing, just like a big family amazingly gathering.
After the first negotiation, Joe went back to Hong Kong. He was no more interested in research projects, only in the ‘Open Sesame’ dream that Jack Ma had pictured. Two weeks later, Joe returned to Hangzhou, this time with his wife. On a sunny day, Jack Ma invited the couple to go for a row on the West Lake, and they enjoyed a wonderful afternoon. When the boat drifted to the middle of the lake, Joe suddenly turned to Jack Ma and said: “I want to join Alibaba and do great work with you.”
Hearing this, Jack Ma was astonished and said, “In Hong Kong, you get an annual pay of up to RMB100,000, but I can only offer RMB500 per month.” But Joe’s serious face told him that he was not joking. And at this point, Joe’s wife became part of the conversation: “Ma, if you reject him, he might regret it for the rest of his life.” So, Ma agreed to the request.
Soon after, Joe resigned his position as senior professional manager at Invest AB, and became a founding member of Alibaba. Joe served as the first CFO of Alibaba, in charge of global marketing, expanding business as well as financial operation, and had presided over the establishment of the headquarter in Hong Kong. The arrival of Joe had helped Alibaba to normalise its operations. Besides, as he was proficient in law, finance and even international customs he was undoubtedly a big help to Alibaba, especially in the corporation with international enterprises and raising funds from venture investors.
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