Monday, February 5, 2018

Alibaba's World by Porter Erisman

This was one of the books that I got at the Popular fair last year. I was interested in this because I don’t know much about the Chinese Internet despite black zemi being all about the internet.

Alibaba’s World was written by Porter Erisman, who worked at Alibaba from 2000 to 2008, when it was growing from startup to the juggernaut that it is today. The book focuses mainly on the competition with eBay China and the acquisition of Yahoo! China. At the end, there’s a brief overview of the company and 40 lessons for the reader.

The book is mainly about Alibaba’s history, which was focused mainly on China (they even pulled out their Silicon Valley Office pretty early on), so I think the tagline “how a remarkable Chinese company is changing the face of global business” isn’t very accurate. You won’t really learn the how, although you’ll definitely be able to trace the growth of the company.

What I thought was interesting about my reaction to the book is that I didn’t get the “this company is AMAZING” response that I got when I read biographies of Google (incidentally, Jack Ma met the founders of Google. The meeting did not go well and if you believe this account, it’s Google’s fault). This is despite the fact that the book is highly complimentary towards Jack Ma. While I think that Alibaba’s achievements are amazing, I wasn’t convinced that they’re doing good.

I think part of the reason is because the book doesn’t go much into business ethics (and their stance to counterfeit goods was... standard) and part of the reason is that they don’t seem interested in challenging China’s censorship laws, which I have a pre-existing bias against. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all in the “all speech should be allowed camp”, but I think that China is way too excessive.

Perhaps this is from the Google meeting, where Jack Ma appeared to be uninterested in getting better search results, unlike the Google People’s (even if they were portrayed as unfriendly).

But I digress.

If you’re interested in learning more about Alibaba, I think this is a good read. It’s not a comprehensive look at the company, but it’s a good, easy to read introduction. And seeing Alibaba’s growing dominance, it may be a good idea to learn more about it.


  1. I see "Alibaba" when I do searches online all the time, but I never really knew what it was. Now I do! This sounds like an interesting book.

    1. It's a good way to get a feel of the company! I've been hearing about it a lot in the news, so I'm glad I got this too!


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