Jack Ma shares insights with entrepreneurs at Nailab

By Gabriel Dinda

“Every time I see young Entrepreneurs, it reminds me of my history, because not long ago, Alibaba was right where you are,’ Jack Ma, started his speech at Nailab to the delight of enthusiastic Young Entrepreneurs who had anticipated his arrival for hours.

Jack Ma, Chairman and Founder of Alibaba, the largest e-commerce company in Asia, was today a guest to young Entrepreneurs at Nailab. In his maiden trip to Africa, Jack Ma, chose to spend time to share with a select group of entrepreneurs who had lengthy discussions with him regarding his journey in business and the lessons learnt from it.

Mr. Ma recounted his days when Alibaba was a small company with just few people who held the vision. He remembered how for the first three months of operation, they were forced to buy their own products just to prove to the world that there was a chance to do business online. It was at this point that some people referred to them as ‘mad men’ as they could not see how an e-commerce platform could work in China. Even with this, together with the team who believed in this idea, Jack held on and that hope would soon pay off. This insistent belief in an idea, he says, is the ultimate beauty of having a dream and watching it unfold.

“As an Entrepreneur, sometimes you can remain lonely in your idea. Even at such times, you need to hold on and keep pushing,” the special advisor for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

“Entrepreneurs do not start with the know how, you start with a dream, a belief”

Mr. Ma believes that an entrepreneur must be able to provide clear leadership through vision, upon which others will follow. In the one on one conversation with the entrepreneurs, he applauded them for building platforms. Platforms, he said, enable other people to succeed, while companies are mostly for the benefit of an individual entrepreneur.

The Secretary General of UNCTAD, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi who facilitated his visit, shares this belief. Dr Kituyi, stated that “No country has developed by focusing more on consumption than production. That only leads to a negative balance of trade, which does not result to any Economic gain. We should now position ourselves for more strategic partnerships for the benefit of all the parties involved.”

Dr. Kituyi hinted at a possible partnership between UNCTAD and Alibaba Group which will enable about five hundred young entrepreneurs to travel to Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China for knowledge sharing and skills transfer .


In closing, the Nailab CEO, Mr. Sam Gichuru recognized Jack Ma’s contribution towards inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs through his selfless will to share. The one-hour session was characterized by highly thought provoking ideas some of which go against the well-established corporate beliefs. Mr. Ma, is a big believer in employee satisfaction as he says that will result to automatic satisfaction of all the other stakeholders.

Some memorable tips shared with the entrepreneurs by Jack Ma:
1. You don’t have to know everything in your business, but you have to build a well-motivated team.
2. Always remember to convince people by results.
3. The best way to beat your competitors is to focus on your customer
4. Dream globally but WIN locally.
5. You (young entrepreneurs), are the hope of Africa. You have to actualize the hope through always dreaming and working towards your dreams.
6. Opportunities are where people are complaining. Find sustainable ways to solve them and there you have a business.
7. Seek to build a platform for others to thrive, and then you will thrive more. Do not seek to build a company that will be for your own benefit.
8. All a leader needs is a strong vision. That way you will find direction and loyal people to help you accomplish your dreams.

Nailab was Jack’s second stop in his first ever trip to Africa after meeting the head of State, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta in the morning.