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Jack Ma gives advice to UW students during Alibaba visit

Alibaba founder Jack Ma welcomes President Ana Mari Cauce.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma welcomes President Ana Mari Cauce. Photo: UW

Try everything. Be optimistic. Don’t be afraid of failure. And make sure the people around you are empowered. Those are Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s guiding principles, and the advice he gave student journalists at the company’s Hangzhou headquarters Tuesday.

President Ana Mari Cauce asked Ma for his advice to students from The Daily and HUA Voice Radio who were at the session as part of their coverage of the UW’s events in China and Alibaba’s Singles Day.

Ma said he failed on three attempts to get into college before finally being accepted, and was even turned down from a job at KFC — the only one of two dozen applicants to be denied. He persisted and following a 1995 visit to Seattle, where he had his first experience with the Internet, and then Dallas, where he bought his first computer (“A 486,” he laughed), Ma went on to found one of the largest technology companies in the world.

You may be turned down, Ma said, but stay positive and “don’t turn down yourself.”

Alibaba is sponsoring the Pac-12 China game, as Ma believes team sports are a way to build teamwork and sportsmanship, and not just in athletics. He said that while businesses and nations are competitors, they should also respect each other and follow the rules.

After the Q&A, Ma met with the Huskies and the Longhorns — along with the two schools’ spirit squads and mascots — who presented him with jerseys. The teams each held a short practice on the company’s campus, before taking part in an educational seminar in the afternoon.

Members of the UW Men's Basketball Team tour Alibaba with founder Jack Ma.A delegation from the UW visit Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou.Student journalists from HUA Voice Radio interview President Ana Mari Cauce.Student journalists from The Daily and Hua Voice Radio with President Ana Mari Cauce.The UW Men's Basketball Team practices in Alibaba's court.


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