China’s “Stanford” entrepreneur classes? Jack Ma kicks off lectures

Jack Ma didn’t just found Alibaba, he’s also the president of Hupan College in Hangzhou. It is a college for entrepreneurs, founded in 2015 by leading businesspeople and scholars in China. The college now offers an online course, and aspiring entrepreneurs can listen to the audio sessions via Chinese podcast sharing service Ximalaya.

The course instructors include Jack Ma, Alibaba senior executives Zeng Ming and Peng Lei, as well as entrepreneurs who were previously Alibaba staff. The course came online last Saturday, with 52 classes a year, one class per week, and 15-20 minutes per class. The whole year course is as cheap as RMB 99 (USD 14.8).

In a session on Saturday, Ma talked about mission, vision, and values for entrepreneurship. The session has been played nearly 310,000 times already.


As an entrepreneur, you must answer three questions: What do you have? What do you want? What can you let go?

Ma said that answers to the three questions will define your mission, something that can get you through hardship and temptation.

But how exactly should we define a “mission”?

The two stories that Ma tells to all his employees are of the General Electric Company, whose mission is to make the world brighter, and the Walt Disney Company, whose mission is to make the world happier.

“For Alibaba, our mission is to make running a business easier,” said Ma. “It’s exhausting to work for another person, but it feels great working with a sense of mission.” He believes that mission is intertwined with passion, and even obsession. In his words, “it is not something written on the paper; instead, it is carved in your heart”.


If talking about one’s mission is merely paying lip service, then vision, according to Ma, calls for more detailed plans.

What about achieving a YoY growth of 20% in net profit next year? That’s a target, and a target is not a vision. As an entrepreneur, one must know what the company is set to achieve in at least one or two decades.

Employees who only care about their income but not the company’s vision are the ones who shouldn’t have been employed in the first place, Ma believes. He said that introducing the vision to employees is not about brainwashing them, but about awakening that “something” deep inside their heart so that they know that what they’re doing is worthwhile, contributing to better results.

Founded in 1999, Alibaba had two visions at the beginning: to last for 80 years, and to become one of the world’s top 10 websites. While the latter was achieved after 10 years’ hard work, they have changed the former into “lasting for 102 years” – so that Alibaba can stretch over three centuries, lasting to after the year 2100.


At Alibaba, high importance is attached to a system of values and principles. Be it when deciding promotions or calculating year-end bonuses, everything must be up standard, both performance and values.

Alibaba’s six major values are: putting customers first; valuing teamwork, embracing changes, upholding integrity, passion, and devotion to one’s work.

The values held by employees can be seen as the corporate culture, which can be solidified by rules and regulations. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs must keep in mind that rules and regulations are not the basis of values, vision, or mission – the inverse is true.

At the first opening ceremony of Hupan College in 2015, Ma said, “Entrepreneurs must discover their talents. They then must enhance and polish their talents. What Hupan College does is to discover and cultivate entrepreneurs.” The online course aims to help more entrepreneurs, by introducing the knowledge and experience gained by Alibaba over the past 17 years.

(Top photo from Baidu images.)

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