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Alibaba

The House That Jack Ma Built
Narrated by: Jim Meskimen
Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (275 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An engrossing insider's account of how a teacher built one of the world's most valuable companies - rivaling Walmart and Amazon - and forever reshaped the global economy.

In just a decade and a half, Jack Ma, a man from modest beginnings who started out as an English teacher, founded Alibaba and built it into one of the world's largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend. Alibaba's $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the largest global IPO ever. A Rockefeller of his age who is courted by CEOs and presidents around the world, Jack is an icon for China's booming private sector and the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of middle-class consumers.

Duncan Clark first met Jack in 1999 in the small apartment where Jack founded Alibaba. Granted unprecedented access to a wealth of new material including exclusive interviews, Clark draws on his own experience as an early advisor to Alibaba and two decades in China chronicling the Internet's impact on the country to create an authoritative, compelling narrative account of Alibaba's rise.

How did Jack overcome his humble origins and early failures to achieve massive success with Alibaba? How did he outsmart rival entrepreneurs from China and Silicon Valley? Can Alibaba maintain its 80 percent market share? As it forges ahead into finance and entertainment, are there limits to Alibaba's ambitions? How does the Chinese government view its rise? Will Alibaba expand further overseas, including in the US?

Clark tells Alibaba's tale in the context of China's momentous economic and social changes, illuminating an unlikely corporate titan as never before.

©2016 Duncan Clark (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Inspiring but narrated by wrong person

The story is inspiring and insightful, unfortunately the narrator doesn't pronounce the names correctly. Chinese are tonal language if he say it with different tones it will have different meaning or no meaning at all.
The wrongly pronounce take some of the joy out of listening to this book

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good story but cringeworthy Chinese pronunciation

Great story. Enjoyed it. But for something with so many Chinese names in it, you would think the narrator would have a reasonable ability in Chinese pronunciation. Needs help

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great performance and story

If you are lookong for inspiration, don't buy it. if you inspired but looking for a push to put in the work, don't buy it. Only buy this if you want an appreciation for how difficult the road to success is.

Jack Ma's story is woven between the realities of doing business in China and the US. More so this narrative tells of the rise of the internet in a country that tries to control as much as it can. It is a wonder that Jack and his peers have survived and thrived in that country, a testament to the agile and manouverability of entrepreneurs when they need to find their space.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Good book, wrong narrator!

I'm a Chinese raised and educated in New Zealand. I found it very difficult to understand who and what the narrator was referring to because he obviously hasn't learnt any pin yin. Huge let down for what would otherwise be a great read!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good, solid business biography

Having listened to a lot of business biographies, this one moves at a decent pace and gets into the right details. A balance of personal and business narrative as they both go through different challenges. I found this really helpful and leads me to want to know more about China's tech landscape.

What was annoying was how the narrator mispronounces many of the Chinese names and words, it would have been good if the narrator nailed them before recording the book. It throws you out of what is otherwise a well narrated book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Poor pronunciation

Great story only marred by poor pronunciation of Chinese names and phrases. A beginners lesson in phonetics should have been advised. If you’re going to narrate a story with foreign words then assign someone capable of using the correct phonetics or train them first.

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Annoying narrator can't pronounce Mandarin words.

I found it hard to listen to the narrator fumble his way through every word it Mandarin, it was difficult to listen to. Why wouldn't you just Google how to pronounce the word!!

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Excellent

This was very well written, great insights into Alibaba and Jack Ma. Would have preferred to hear a bit more detail of Jack's life, and also a bit more into how he started it. it seemed to say Jack tried 3 different start-ups, then started Alibaba and had 16 staff. Great motivation for starting a company and looking at customers first, employees second, and shareholders last!

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Inspiring & worth reading

the narrator has done a good job despite some Chinese names haven't been pronunced accurately.

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Respect to Jack Ma

Great book and story, but the Chinese pronounciation from the narrator is just so wrong, can’t really tell who is who.

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  • Tristan
  • 02-09-2016

Strange: Best part of story happens "off-screen"

"Alibaba" is a good book despite a near-fatal flaw. The author is an investor and he cares about what investors care about: deal-making, IPO's, threats to valuations, etc. Sometimes he lets that interest overshadow the actual storytelling.

One example is so flagrant it is hilarious. Most of the launch of Alibaba—surely the critical turning point of Jack Ma's life—happens "off-screen." We learn about some deal-making that went into convincing the first employees to join the project. A page or two later we learn about a deal with some early investors, and as a note in that deal Clark mentions Alibaba had by then gained over 250,000 customers. Nothing worth mentioning went into getting their first quarter million customers?

Such moments of early launch play a central role in Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" and Vance's "Elon Musk." In this book, it was left out. The omission leaves a big question open. Clark notes that Ma runs a technology company despite knowing nothing about coding or the internet's machinery . How did he do that? I would like to know. The book skipped over that part.

Clark makes other strange choices. He describes the life story and character of multiple Chinese entrepreneurs and then never returns to them.

And yet, despite all this, it's a good book and it's worth reading. The perspective of an investor on one of the world's highest valued companies is interesting. He appears to do a great job conveying what it's like to do business in China and the history of entrepreneurship in the country. Jack Ma's life makes for a compelling story—despite some of the odd choices in focus.

Should you read Alibaba? Yes. Chinese technology firms are starting to overtake silicon valley ones in a number of arenas. It's a good idea to understand what they are all about, and it's a fun book to do it with. Just join me at rolling your eyes at Clark's investor-myopia.

34 of 35 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • James Qiu
  • 27-07-2016

Mispronunciation kills me

While the story is amazing, the obvious lack of effort in correct Chinese pronunciation hurts my ears and takes away so much from the book.

This performance is so vastly different from the likes of "Chaos Monkeys" in which the reader eloquently pronounced various Italian and French phrases.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-2017

Not a Biography book about Jack Ma

If you are looking for a book about Jack Ma, about his life, ideas, thinking and what/how/why he becomes successful, this is NOT the book for you.
More like a Business report about Alibaba and summary his words from published interview.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • cassiuswortmann
  • 26-10-2016

Interesting story, bad narration

While it did contain some critical info on the development of the China's dotcom industry as well as some bitesized nuggets of Jack Ma wisdom, I found myself continually wincing at the narrator's pronunciation of the names of Chinese individuals and places. However, this is just one of many audiobooks on China blighted by this headache-inducing problem.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Nathan
  • 30-04-2016

Terrible narration if you know Chinese mars good book

The book itself is both interesting and insightful. As somebody engaged in the China Internet space for work, and consequently very familiar with the content I found learned quite a bit about personalities and backstory delivered in engaging prose. True the book is very pro Jack and BABA but this is not a surprise, and does not obscure facts.

But if you know any Chinese, preparing to spend the entire book alternating between cringing and puzzling over the generally incomprehensible narration of every single Chinese word other than Alibaba, Ma, and Tsai. The inability to select a Chinese speaker to conduct narration on a book about China is inexplicable and disappointing.

47 of 54 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David Yulo
  • 11-04-2018

Narrator ruined it for me

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Get a narrator who can actually correctly pronounce the Chinese words.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The further I listened to the audiobook, the more frustrated I got because the narrator kept reading the Chinese words in the "American way". You'd think with Amazon's resources, they could at least get someone who can pronounce Chinese words correctly. With a book centered around the development and rise of a Chinese technopreneur and a Chinese company with more than a dozen Chinese names and terms, all the mispronounced words made a profoundly negative impact on my listening experience. I myself am not a native Chinese speaker, but the "Americanized" pronunciations made it difficult to correctly search for the names of the various people and companies mentioned in the book - something I often do when I am interested to know more about certain topics.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • sb
  • 02-05-2017

Not a very informative or insightful on Jack

I was missing to hear more about Jack management style, growth and personal advice. You won't get it here.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ray
  • 20-05-2016

AMAZON AND E-BAY COMBINED

A good overview of the Alibaba story. Until I listened to this book, I wasn't aware of the nature of the company, thought that it was just another Amazon, but found that it was more akin to E-Bay.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-03-2019

BUTCHERING THE CHINESE LANGUAGE

If you speak any Chinese at all, do yourself a favour and buy the *hard copy*..

The reader completely butchers the Chinese language, to the point where I do not know what city he is talking about.

Not only does he not know how to pronounce any Chinese (which is an integral part of the book), but he often pronounces things differently throughout the book. Example 1 (of many): He first pronounces the city of YiWu correctly, but later begins to pronounce it YiWa... Not sure why.

I can't listen to it anymore unfortunately, in the audiobook it is quite difficult to understand what people, cities, or companies the author is referring to.

Extra minus points to the pronunciation of ZheJiang: "Jzayjeeang" :(

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Fernando padilla
  • 07-08-2016

Historia interesante

No solo es una historis de Jack Ma, me gusta como relata la historia del emprendimiento en China.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amir Anzur
  • 29-07-2016

great insight to one of the world's smartest men

good read and great insight to a man that has helped so many entrepreneurs. highly recommended!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • iLard
  • 23-09-2016

Rather dull

An interesting story told in a very boring way, like a dry, unchallenging newspaper article. What a shame. Had to listen at x2 speed to get through in double quick, toe-curling time.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Project Manager
  • 16-11-2016

Very average book

The Chinese pronunciation is really terrible as other listeners have mentioned. The story isn't great either. You never really get to know Jack Ma and there isn't much backing to statements like 'Jack Magic'. It's almost like a Wikipedia article mixed with some hearsay and a few newspaper articles. I'd give Steve Jobs book 5 out of 5. In contrast this book struggles to get 2 out of 5.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • pargi1988
  • 15-07-2017

Great read

Great read with a good understanding of how it all started. very insightful and well worth it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • demanda
  • 02-02-2017

Commentary with little insight

Little objectivity.

Didn't get passed chapter 2 before losing the will to listen any further.

Learned little that's not already published in interviews and profiles.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • E
  • 21-06-2019

Highly recommended

Super insightful on the back story of Jack Ma and Alibaba! Would definitely recommend to anyone with either an interest in the company, the man or even the birth of the internet from a Chinese man's point of view

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Thomas Brown
  • 10-06-2019

I expected some inights of chinese ecommerce

This audiobook is quite average. Its a great testament to Jack Ma's rise to the top of Chinese business and it is impressive the way he went about doing that. But I kinda hoped that this book would give greater insights into the differences between Chinese eCommerce and Western eCommerce. It is highlighted briefly when it goes into the likes of design differences and such. But it is very brief. If they had added an extra chapter going into these highlights I would have rated this higher.

Regardless of that, Jack Ma is an inspirational and humble businessman. I feel his methodology and mentality should be more widely regarded in the west. Like Jeff Bezos, he values the customer more than anything, but the greatest difference between the two eCommerce giants that I can see is that Jack is generally a much nicer person (I make this judgement after listening to both this audiobook and the 'Amazon - The Everything Store'. Or is at least portrayed as a much nicer person. Empathy is a value that shouldn't be overlooked.

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  • Alex
  • 14-04-2019

Very interesting but a little too long

Really interesting audio book on Jack Ma. I was aware of him but knew very little of his history and the history of Alibaba. I found the back story very interesting but perhaps a little too long.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr David Igoe
  • 23-01-2019

Really good insight into Alibaba and Jack.

However, would have really benefited from editing to exclude irrelevant details e.g. person X was born y, DOB, etc.

Good overview of the birth and competitive challenges of Alibaba operating in the unique Chinese environment.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-12-2018

Interesting listen

Downloaded this to understand more about the big Chinese player and how Jack Ma made it! Found the whole book very interesting and learned some new information about American giants trying to play in the Chinese market