Last Friday in Hangzhou, China, Alibaba celebrated Taobao’s tenth anniversary (pictures below). But it didn’t feel like it was really entirely a celebration for Taobao. I’m sure that while enjoying the songs and dances at this concert-style event, at the back of the mind of everyone at the stadium was that it was Jack Ma’s last day as CEO.
True enough, Jack Ma’s speech reflected that. It felt a little more like a goodbye speech from the founder as he moves on to become chairman. It was a speech that paved the way for Jonathan Lu to take over his position as Alibaba’s CEO.
“Small businesses are where most of the Chinese dreams live”
After a couple of hours of music and extravaganza – including Ma himself singing – he gave his speech to the roaring stadium audience of over 20,000 employees, merchants, and guests. Below is our unofficial translation of Jack’s speech. I do hope it captured a large part of what he communicated:
Jack Ma: In the last ten years, there are many people who have paid a big price to live this dream. For our dream, we have walked ten years. I have been thinking, even if someone had removed 99 percent of Alibaba’s assets, we are still worthy. We have no regrets. We have our team, our partners, and friends. What is the thing that has made Alibaba what it is today? What is the thing that has made me what I am today? I have no reasons to succeed. Alibaba and Taobao have no reasons to succeed either. But today, we have walked so far and for so many years with so many aspirations for the future. I believe, it is trust that has made us walk this far.
When no one believes in the future, we chose to believe… we chose to trust.. that 10 years later, China will be better. We chose to believe that our colleagues will do better than myself. I believe, the younger generation of Chinese will do better than us. I’m very thankful that my colleagues have trusted me. It’s tough to be a CEO but being a CEO’s employee is even tougher. At times when trust was doubted, people actually bought things online, even when they haven’t even seen the items before. Over thousands of kilometers, through an unknown person, the goods fall safely into your hands. Today’s China has trust and belief. Everyday, there are 24 million transactions on Taobao signifying China’s trust.
I’m proud to be everyone’s colleague and working partner. Even after life, we will still be colleagues. Because of you, it allows this generation to see hope. All of you are building a new kind of trust. This trust helps to make the world more open, more transparent, and more responsible. I feel proud of you. Today’s world is ever-changing. 30 years ago, we didn’t expect what would have happened today. We didn’t expect China to be a manufacturing giant. We didn’t expect computers to be part of everyone’s life. We didn’t expect the internet in China could grow so rapidly. We didn’t expect Taobao can rise. We didn’t expect Yahoo could become what it is today. We’re in a rapidly changing world. We didn’t expect we can all sit together today to celebrate and look forward to the future.
Computers are fast, the internet is even faster. When we haven’t really understood what is mobile internet, big data comes along. Times of change are for the younger generation. Today, a lot of young people think that big companies like Google, Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba took all of your chances to succeed. Ten years ago, when we saw numerous giant companies, we were also once lost and worried. Do we have a chance? But ten years of determination, we have walked to today. If it wasn’t a time of change, the younger generation would not have a chance. We don’t need a rich father to succeed. What we have is determination and a vision. A lot of people hate change, but because we have embraced this change that’s why we have a future. The next 30 years, this world and China, will have even more change. This change is an opportunity for everyone. Grab this chance.
A lot of people complain about yesterday. We have no power to change yesterday. But this very day, 30 years later, is what we can control and decide. Change yourself, take baby steps, and stay determined for ten years. I thank the times of change and everyone’s complaints. Because when everyone is complaining, that is your chance, an opportunity. It’s only in times of change that someone can be clear of what he has and wants, and what he needs to give up.
Building Alibaba for 14 years, I’m honored that I’m a businessman. As we enter the modern age, it’s a pity that business people don’t get the respect they deserve. Business people in this age aren’t just doing business for profits. I think, we are the same as any artist, educator, and politician who’s doing our best to make this society complete. 14 years in business made me understand life, hardship, determination, and responsibility. It also made me understand that when other people succeed it means we have succeeded as well. What we look forward to most is the smile on our employees’ faces.
After today, I will no longer be a CEO. From tomorrow onwards, business will not be my sole focus. 14 years into business, I feel proud. In this world, no one can say that they will not age – make no mistakes, and be undefeatable. To make sure a company doesn’t age and make no mistakes, I chose to believe the younger generation. By believing in them, you also believe in the future. So I will not return to Alibaba as CEO. There’s no use for me to return because all of you will do better.
Building a company to this size, I feel humbled and proud. But what we have contributed to society is only just a start for Alibaba. What we achieved today, has greatly surpassed the efforts we have put in. This society, at this time, for Alibaba to continue to prosper, we have to solve problems in society. There are so many problems in society and these are opportunities for everyone. If there isn’t any problem, then there’s no need for all of you. All people of Alibaba, please continue to serve small businesses. Because small businesses are where most of the Chinese dreams live. 14 years ago, we set a mission that there will be no business too hard to do, helping small enterprises to grow. Today, this mission lies in your hands. People say e-commerce and the internet created an unfair advantage. But my understanding is that the internet created a truly fair platform.
Moving forward, I will be doing things that I’m interested in, such as working on education and the environment. Besides work, let’s work hard together to improve China. Let the water be clear, the sky be blue, and the food be safe. Everyone, please! (Jack Ma kneels down to the audience).
I’m very honored to introduce you to Alibaba’s future leader and team. They have worked with me for many years and understood me better than myself. Jonathan Lu worked for 13 years at Alibaba and has been through multiple positions and hardships. I should say both tears and smiles are equally the same. Taking over Ma Yun’s (Jack Ma’s) position is very difficult. I can walk till today all thanks to everyone’s trust. Because of trust, it has made the journey easy. I believe and I also urge everyone to support and trust Jonathan Lu and the team as you have always supported and trusted me.
Thank you everyone! From tomorrow onwards, I will live my own life of choice. From tomorrow onwards, life will be my work.