Before Jack Ma became billionaire, Australia rejected Alibaba founder’s visitor’s visa application 7 times

By @vitthernandez on
Jack Ma
Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma smiles as he poses with attendants after watching real-time data of transactions at Alibaba Group's 11.11 Global shopping festival in Beijing, China, November 11, 2015. Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

In November 2014, Alibaba founder Jack Ma said that his US$28 billion (A$36.5 billion) could not buy him happiness. But it bought him Australia’s respect because when he was still a 12-year-old boy, his visitor’s visa application was rejected seven times by the Australian embassy.

Ma recounted his experience on Wednesday before an audience which included Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who witnessed the signing of an agreement between Alibaba, Ma’s ecommerce giant, and Austrade. The deal would launch a yearly sales promotion of Australian fresh food on Tmall Fresh, the food platform of Alibaba, reports The Australian.

Then known by his Chinese name Ma Yun, the 12-year-old was outside the Shangrila Hotel on Hangzhou’s West Lake to practice his English when he met an Australian family. He befriended David Morley, who was also 12, and the two became pen friends.

David’s father, Ken, invited Ma to visit them in Australia in 1985, but he was rejected by the embassy seven times before he was given a visitor’s visa, reports Australian Financial Review. He credits his 29-day visit to Newcastle to opening his eyes to the world and the trip totally changing his future. He remained in touch with the Morley family who even lent him money to buy his first apartment.

Ma is returning the favour to Australia by agreeing to the Austrade deal which would hike the 1,300 Australian brands already on Alibaba such as Suisse vitamins, Blackmores, Bellamy’s Organic, Penfolds wines, a2 milk and Jurliqe comsetics. An Australian food channel was also launched on Yuoku, a Chinese video-sharing site with 500 million active users.

It’s a full circle for Ma who met the Morleys in Hangzhou, and with the Austrade agreement inked at Alibaba’s head office in Hangzhou where the G20 leaders meeting is being held. Ma also plans to open an Alibaba office in Australia in the later part of 2016.

It was not only Australia which has rejected Ma several times. Harvard also rejected China’s richest man 10 times.

VIDEO: Alibaba founder Jack Ma: ‘Harvard rejected me 10 times’

Source: World Economic Forum

Join the Discussion