Book notes: Alibaba’s World by Porter Erisman

Alibaba’s World by Porter Erisman


Synopsis: In September 2014, a Chinese company that most Americans had never heard of held the largest IPO in history – bigger than Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined. Alibaba, now the world’s largest ecommerce company, mostly escaped Western notice for over 10 years, while building a customer base larger than Amazon’s and handling the bulk of ecommerce transactions in China. How did it happen? And what was it like to be along for such a revolutionary ride?

In Alibaba’s World, author Porter Erisman, one of Alibaba’s first Western employees and its head of international marketing from 2000 to 2008, shows how Jack Ma, a Chinese schoolteacher who twice failed his college entrance exams, rose from obscurity to found Alibaba and lead it from struggling startup to the world’s most dominant ecommerce player. And he analyzes Alibaba’s role as a harbinger of the new global business landscape – with its focus on the East rather than the West, emerging markets over developed ones, and the nimble entrepreneur over the industry titan. As we face this near future, the story of Alibaba – and its inevitable descendants – is both essential and instructive.

Initial thoughts:

Just like when I purchased The Automatic Customer during the Audible BOGO sale, this was the only other book in the list that caught my eye. I was largely ignorant to what Alibaba was exactly, but I knew its founder Jack Ma was one of the wealthiest men on the planet and had a reputation for being a business Titan.

I figured this would be a great opportunity to educate myself on one of the most influential companies in history. I figured I would learn a lot just like when I read Age of Amazon, the story of Jeff Bezos and his company.

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