How a former English teacher is about to become one of the richest people in the world

By Lauren Lyster
May 9, 2014 9:28 AM (online blogging)
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Jack Ma went from English teacher to billionaire with Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company he co-founded. Also the Alibaba chairman, Ma now has a higher net worth than U.S. moguls such as Google's Eric Schmidt (worth $8.5 billion) and Tesla's Elon Musk (worth $8.8 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ma's expected to become even richer when his company goes public with a valuation estimated at $168 billion, an event that could happen in the next few months. (Disclosure: Yahoo owns a 22.6% stake in Alibaba.)

Laura Marcinek, a reporter covering executive compensation at Bloomberg News, tells us that when Alibaba offers shares in the U.S., the IPO could make Ma one of the top 20 richest people in the world (because of his 8.9% stake in the company and the expectations for its IPO). Already No. 87 on Bloomberg's list of billionaires, Ma has seen his net worth triple just this year to $12.5 billion. online investment

In recent years he has set records for things like paying the most per square foot for residential property in Asia — he purchased a five-bedroom, 7,088 square-foot Hong Kong penthouse for $38.7 million in November of 2007, according to Hong Kong’s Standard newspaper. blog

That’s a far cry from his earlier days. He failed his college exam twice (Ma was an English major), according to Fox News. He went on to teach at a local college and started his own translation company, while he moonlighted as a street peddler, selling flowers, books and flashlights to make ends meet. Ma originally learned English when he was younger, working as a tour guide and from the U.S. government-funded international news service, Voice of America.

How did he go on to create what Marcinek calls the "Amazon of China,” the largest e-commerce business in the country, and by some measures, the world? According to Marcinek, Ma created the company with $60,000 in cash, gathered from 80 friends, back in 1999. According to The New York Times, Ma had no background in computing but was introduced to the power of the Internet in 1995, when he first used it to search “beer” and “China” (no results). He created a basic web page for a Chinese translation service with a friend, which received a global response within hours.

He then left teaching to set up an online business. After a failed attempt at a business index site called China Pages and a stint creating websites for the Commerce Ministry, he started Alibaba. The company’s first site was, a business-to-business marketplace that remains part of the company today. Alibaba's main sites now include Taobao -- an online marketplace in China where eight million merchants sell goods -- and TMall, which sells higher-end branded merchandise.

When it comes to his leadership style, Ma holds a mass wedding annually for Alibaba employees (check out the video for pictures), and employees can apply for interest-free loans to buy first homes.

Correction: The video indicates that Ma’s net worth is higher that Rupert Murdoch’s. Since the video taping Thursday, Murdoch’s net worth has risen, placing Murdoch ahead of Ma in wealth, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. online investment

Lauren Lyster
May 9, 2014 9:28 AM
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Blogger: 5 things my mom taught me about being a dad

By Doyin Richards, special to HLN
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Fri May 09, 2014
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Editor’s note: Doyin Richards is a father, husband and author dedicated to creating and celebrating a world of great fathers. He blogs at Daddy Doin' Work and is on Facebook and Twitter. 

You'll be hard-pressed to find a bigger mama's boy than yours truly. My identical twin brother and I terrorized the heck out of our stay-at-home mom while my dad worked long hours as a professor at a local university. Not a day would pass that didn't involve one of us attempting to break a piece of furniture, each other's bones or her spirit as a parent.

We never succeeded with that last item, and now that I'm a dad to two little girls (3 years old and 10 months old), I can look back at my upbringing to document five memorable lessons from my mom that have helped me be a better man and father.

1. Be authentically you

When I was younger, I wanted so badly to fit in with the "cool crowd," but I was skinny, not very good-looking and socially awkward, and I was bullied like crazy, so I figured if I changed to become someone I wasn't, people would automatically gravitate toward me.

They didn't.

Finally, my mom sat me down and said, "You are amazing in ways you don't even know about. Let's sit down and write a list." I thought she was crazy at the time, but when we were done, the list was a few pages long, and I'll never forget how great that made me feel.

"Now who in their right mind would not want to be friends with someone like you? Just be authentically you. Nobody in the history of the universe has a 100% approval rating. The right people will love you for being you," she told me.

As a dad, husband, author and blogger, I now understand that no matter what I do, some people just won't like me and will judge me. That's totally OK. But one thing I know for sure is that I'll always be authentically me, and I owe my mom big time for teaching me the extremely valuable lesson of keeping it real.

If you're a parent who believes in the power of having an Enya sound machine playing on loop in your kid's bedroom, then own it. If it works for you and your family, don't let anyone influence you otherwise.

2. Parenting can be the worst job without a sense of humor

Remember that time when you were out with your kids by yourself and they both crapped themselves at the same time? And then you realized that you didn't pack the wipes, and you chased an extremely fragrant toddler through a CVS, trying to buy poop-preparedness supplies before almost drifting into unconsciousness due to the equally fragrant infant strapped to your chest in a baby carrier?

Yeah, that happened to me. I received some nasty looks from other parents, but I laughed them off because the situation was too insane not to be funny.

I can remember my mom laughing when we tried to separate the sanity from her mind as rambunctious kids. It never worked, because she always found humor in the craziest moments. Now that I'm a dad, I'm the same way with my girls.

The undeniable truth of parenting she shared with me is that it can be the absolute worst gig of your life if you don't have a sense of humor. Besides, our kids will only be little for a limited period of time, and then they're heading off to college, getting jobs and starting families of their own -- so why take everything so seriously?

About a week ago, my mom told me how much she missed the chaos she endured when we were kids -- and I believe her.

3. If you don't have your word, you have nothing

Want to know the quickest way to tick off my mom? Tell her you're going to do something and don't follow through.

After being raised in her household, I'm now raising my kids to be accountable. Granted, they're too young to fully grasp this concept, but I keep every promise I make to them. If I tell my daughter that we'll watch “Frozen” together at 7 p.m. and the basketball game I was enjoying goes into overtime, I'll just have to "let it go" and watch Elsa freeze up her kingdom for the 13,035th time.

This stuff matters. Kids need to know that the adults in charge of raising them are trustworthy and accountable. If we aren't, how can we expect them to be?

4. You're going to mess up a lot, and that's OK

Have you ever shared a parenting mishap with other parents only to hear them laugh, "That would never happen to me!"? Just know that that's a steaming pile of hot garbage. If that didn't happen to them, rest assured they probably did something even dumber.

My mom told me to embrace my failures and mistakes because they'll help me to become a better man, which helped me become a better dad. Every moment above ground is a moment to learn and improve. Anyone hoping to become a perfect parent raising perfect kids will be humbled very quickly.

5. Everyone deserves your love

This lesson always sticks with me. My mom doesn't care if you are white or black, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, thin or chubby, rich or poor, etc. She only cares about what's in your heart. If your heart is pure and kind, she'll be loud about it and let you know. However, when we encountered racists or other ignorant people growing up, she would silently love them and walk away. Granted, I haven't quite mastered that part yet, but I'm much better than before I became a father.

One thing I know for sure is hate will slowly snack on your soul until you're left with nothing but emptiness and bitterness. Nobody can live a happy life that way. No parent can be a good parent that way.

Tolerance and forgiveness are two words synonymous with my mom and me, and I plan to pass these two gifts down to my kids.

So I want to thank you, mom. You're my hero, my homie and my mentor, all rolled up into one extremely amazing lady. If I can be a fraction of the parent to my kids that you were are to me, then I will have won this daddyhood game. Happy Mother's Day. I love you.

Doyin Richards, special to HLN
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Fri May 09, 2014
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5 Startup Naming Rules From SXSW

March 14, 2013
by Bryan Keplesky
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If SXSW Interactive is any indication, and it usually is, then this is the age of the startup. It also means this is the age of the unfortunately named startup. We've all come across a company's name that's missing all its vowels, has superfluous "Z"s tacked on, or is so many words hacked together that its meaning is completely lost.

Gary Backaus, chief creative officer, and Justin Dobbs, associate creative director at Memphis-based ad agency archer>malmo gave a presentation on Monday at SXSW with five simple rules for naming your startup:

1. You're not naming a startup, you're naming a brand.

According to Backaus, the biggest mistake you can make naming your new startup happens at the very beginning. If you have a name already in mind, while it may be your first instict to see if the domain name is taken, that's the last thing you should do. More than likely it won't be available, and that's when the arbitrary alternate spellings and additional letters start happening for many entrepreneurs. A much better strategy is to think about your brand name in the context of the real world, not among other startups or as a URL. Come at the name from every possible angle, make lists of adjectives and the human qualities you want to emulate.

2. Make the right first impression.

Your name should create a first impression that’s positive, intriguing and clear. "Think of your name as your [brick and mortar] sign," Dobbs encourages. It can either drive traffic to you or drive it away. Your list of potential names should fit within your brand positioning, be unique, and be easy to read. This is where intentional misspellings or extra "Z"s could be a significant hindrance.

3. Don't create conceptual or technical hurdles.

Backaus put it simply: "You don’t need a big idea for your name. You need a name for your big idea." If you have to constantly explain the meaning or the pronunciation of your name to people, especially people that you pitch to, that's a major hurdle. In no way should your name be a disconnect from what you want to accomplish with your brand.

4. When necessary, be descriptive.

Descriptive doesn't mean boring, especially if your startup is in a niche or technical field. Another big reason to avoid the early pitfalls of checking domain name registries is because a company name you've invented that's unavailable could be paired with a simple descriptive word to create your final, custom, website name.

5. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Let's say you already have a startup name, but a shift in your company's focus arises and you feel the name should change. This is ultimately a judgement call, but if your current company name is not tied to an individual product, and your overall brand identity and values have not changed, your current name may be just fine.

"Naming is hard," Backaus said. It's not an exact science, and there's no perfect how-to guide that will work for every startup. If you spend time at the beginning thinking about the one thing you want your company to do, who your audience will be, and your competitors' names, you're on the right track. When you have your final candidates for a name, just be sure to Google them and check what Google Images comes up with. It's always a possibility someone else came up with your name first and it's tied to vulgar slang or images online.

What have been your experiences with naming your company?

Bryan Keplesky
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