A linkedin post by early Alibaba employee, Brian Wong on meeting Jack Ma in San Francisco in 1999 after 30+ VCs had declined to invest in Alibaba. "These Silicon Valley investors saw Jack as an unqualified English teacher from an undeveloped China with less than 10 million internet users at that time. Ironically, it was exactly those elements that made him so unique and the opportunity so significant"
Alibaba’s journey has been a lesson in a new digital economy and realization of how data is today’s most precious commodity. China lacked many of the components of a traditional retail infrastructure, and as a result, China leapfrogged into e-commerce. It reaped the benefits of the new economy. In the traditional economy, businesses are characterized by a zero-sum mentality – commodities like oil are scarce resources, and value creation comes from hoarding those resources. But in the new economy, data is a renewable resource that can be easily shared, consumed by multiple parties simultaneously, and is made more valuable as more applications are found. Hence, the objective is “growing the pie” through network effects and collaboration.