Mark Zuckerberg launches The facebook in a Harvard dorm room with co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin— an act that’s now the stuff of Aaron Sorkin legend.
Former PayPal employees Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons found Yelp, and, after initially struggling to attract attention, hit on the idea of user-generated reviews. The concept takes off; the site now has 83 million reviews.
Backed by Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne conducts the first privately funded flight into suborbital space, winning the inaugural Ansari X Prize and drawing the world’s attention to the prospect of commercial spaceflight.
A few months after launching Gmail in beta, Google receives a $23 bil- lion market capitalization in a highly anticipated public offering.
Is there anything that Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group doesn’t sell? For your next beach vaca- tion, you could book fights on Alibaba-owned Alitrip, buy sunscreen on Alibaba’s Tmall, and archive your sun- kissed selfes on Kanbox, Alibaba’s cloud-storage platform. And with Alipay, a payments platform simi- lar to PayPal, you could do it all via digital wallet.
When Alibaba intro- duced Alipay in 2004, it was a signal that the then-fve- year-old company’s growing ambitions extended beyond
pure retail. Still, it would have been hard to imagine that a decade later Alibaba would achieve the largest IPO in history, a $25 billion debut on the New York Stock Exchange. At the time of Alipay’s launch, only 7% of shoppers in China had access to the Internet, and the e-commerce market was worth just $750 million.
Then, revolution arrived. Alibaba founder Jack Ma anticipated the value that smartphones would unleash when paired with the con- sumer demand of China’s fast-growing middle class.
His strategy: to become the one-stop shop for mobile consumers, with Alipay as the central infra- structure. Retail, messaging, transportation—if there’s an app for it, there’s an Alibaba solution on hand. Now the annual transaction volume on Alibaba’s primary e-commerce platforms is more than double what con- sumers spend on Amazon.
But there are challenges ahead. In China, competi- tors like Tencent’s JD.com are gaining share of the e-commerce market. At the same time, signs of slowing
WITH THE LAUNCH OF ALIPAY, ALIBABA TOOK ITS FIRST STEP BEYOND E-COMMERCE— AND KEPT ON GOING.
The rise of the Chinese tech giant
Alibaba.com Wholesale marketplace
Juhuasuan Daily-deals site
Taobao Peer-to-peer marketplace
Tmall Business-to-consumer e-commerce
Alipay Online payments platform
Ant Financial Small- business loans
Yu’e Bao Money market funds
Alitrip Online travel company
Aliyun Cloud services
AutoNavi Digital maps
Kanbox File-hosting and -sharing platform
Laiwang Mobile messaging
Xiami Online music distributor
Alibaba founder Jack Ma started the company in 1999 from his Huangzou apartment; today, he’s worth $22.5 billion.
A L I B A B A ’ S M A N Y
S U B S I D I A R I E S
economic growth sparked a massive downturn in Chinese equities this past summer. The uncertain outlook at home has put pressure on Alibaba to prove that it can succeed in other countries. The com- pany is well positioned for emerging markets, thanks to its expertise in operating in places where logistics are poor. But fnding a way to grow in the U.S., a ma- ture market where quality is paramount, is a different story. In the meantime, some Silicon Valley brands are laying the groundwork to compete with Alibaba on its home turf. Apple has fled paperwork in Shang- hai to launch Apple Pay, a direct Alipay competitor. —Ainsley O’Connell
52 FastCompany.com December 2015/January 2016
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