Jack Ma is China’s richest man and the co-founder of China’s biggest e-commerce company, Alibaba. Through his foundation he pledged to donate 500,000 testing kits and one million masks to the U.S to help fight COVID-19, according to a tweet by the Jack Ma Foundation.
On April 4, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thanked Ma and his foundation in a tweet, along with the Chinese government and several other officials for helping facilitate the donation of 1,000 ventilators to the city.
Business Insider reported that Ma, 55, stepped down in September 2019 from his role as executive chairman of the company he helped create 20 years prior. In 2014 Ma established the charitable foundation named for himself.
In an open letter to Alibaba shareholders Ma talked about his future goals of being a full time philanthropist. He wrote, “As for myself, I will devote more time and effort to education, philanthropy and the environment. While I will not allow myself to sit idle, this time, I will be able to spend time on choosing interesting and meaningful causes that I can be passionate about.”
Here’s what you need to know about Jack Ma:
1. Jack Ma Came From Humble Beginnings & Now He Is Worth an Estimated $40.7 Billion
While Forbes lists Jack Ma’s real-time net worth at $40.7 Billion, it took him several years to reach that amount of wealth. According to various accounts of his life, Ma struggled in school, was rejected by Harvard 10 times and applied for 30 jobs that turned him down in his hometown Hangzhou, China, including KFC.
He graduated from Hangzhou Teacher’s College in 1988 and became an English teacher at the school until 1995, according to a New York Times article.
Then the internet happened. He told the NY Times that around 1995 he’d traveled to the U.S and “asked to see this thing called the Internet”. When he went back to China he showed his friends.
Ma told the Times, “The day we got connected to the Web, I invited friends and TV people over to my house, and on a very slow dial-up connection, we waited three and a half hours and got half a page,” he recalled. “We drank, watched TV and played cards, waiting. But I was so proud. I proved the Internet existed.”
2. Jack Ma Founded Alibaba With Friends Who Holed-Up in an Apartment for Several Months Working to Get it Off the Ground
In 1999 Ma along with a group of people worked and lived together in an apartment with a goal of becoming one of the top 10 websites in the world, Ma said in a video for Alizila news, which covers news from the Alibaba group. The entrepreneurs worked together to create a website that would “help millions of small businesses, young people, empower them, enable them to realize their dreams,” Ma said.
Ma keeps the apartment where it all started because he says “No matter how big Alibaba is, no matter where Alibaba will be, no matter what industry we are in, we always remember this Hupan Culture, this garage culture, and the thing that I want this company [to] never forget is the dream.”
3. Jack Ma Moonlights as a Performer & Artist Who Shows Up at Music Festivals & Even Stars in a Short Kung-Fu Film
Ma is known in China to perform at music festivals, company parties and conference openings, like the one in 2017 when he danced to Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” at Alibaba’s annual conference gala. The billionaire mogul has called himself a “playful young artist at heart” according to observer.com.
In 2015 he sold an oil painting of planet earth called “Paradise Found” for $5.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction. The painting was done with Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi and the proceeds went to The Paradise International Foundation, which is an environmental protection organization. Ma wrote that this was the first time he’d painted.
Ma has also starred in a short film produced by Alibaba called Gong Shou Dao as a martial artist who finds himself “confronted with multiple martial arts masters from around the world, where each martial arts discipline is tested,” according to the The film’s official Youtube page. It was directed by Wen Zhang and produced by Jet Li and features some of China’s top Kung-Fu celebrities.
4. Jack Ma is Married With 3 Children & His Parents Were Entertainers
Ma met his wife, Zhang Ying, while they were both at Hangzhou University. They married in 1988 and have three children; a boy, a girl and the third child’s identity is not disclosed according to marriedbiography.com.
She was his business partner when he founded Alibaba with 17 other people, according to ecommercestrategychina.com but gave up her position in 2004 to care for their children.
He was born on Sept. 10, 1964 to parents who were musical storytellers. Celebfamily.com reports that the family was poor but happy, and Ma would ride his bike to a local hotel to talk to foreigners in order to learn English since they couldn’t afford classes. It was there that he got the name “Jack”. His given name is Ma Yun.
5. The Jack Ma Foundation Has Donated Money & Resources Worldwide to Help Fight Coronavirus Since the Outbreak Began
According to the Foundation’s Twitter Page, the group had already donated “much-needed materials to combat COVID-19 to afflicted areas in Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.”
On March 3 the Jack Ma Foundation tweeted that they signed a funding agreement with the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, an Australian organization, to donate AU $3.2 million toward developing a vaccine against COVID-19.
On March 13 the foundation tweeted, “Through a donation of 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks, we join with Americans in these difficult times.”
The Jack Ma Foundation also tweeted on March 30 that “Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation will donate additional urgent equipment including 800 ventilators, 300,000 sets of protective gowns and 300,000 face shields to hospitals in Europe.”
The foundation continues to pledge donations to countries in need, particularly in Africa and also tweeted that they “launched an online platform for doctors and nurses around the world to exchange ideas, lessons and know-how to fight the virus. We welcome all hospitals to join Chinese hospitals on this open platform…One world, one fight!”