Ma visited Kenya on Thursday where he spoke to a group of 500 up and coming business leaders at the University of Nairobi (see video below). Before the address, Ma sat down with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi to talk about supporting small businesses in the country.
To be sure, those in attendance had good reason to come away inspired by Ma.
Alibaba President Michael Evans spoke to TheStreet in June about what it's like working with such a determined leader like Ma. People like Ma don't come around often, Evans admitted. "I think Jack is a very, very unusual leader," he said. "Truly, he's a visionary."
What sets Ma apart from everyone else is his ability to have a long term vision for his company, while also maintaining a short-term, action-oriented philosophy that allows him to adapt to regulatory and market changes. "If you fall in love with the long term vision and you don't continuously adapt to be competitive. . . then you can easily get out of step," Evans explained.
Prior to his position at Alibaba, Evans earned an Olympic gold medal in rowing, worked as a Wall Street executive and then went on to run Goldman Sachs' (GS) - Get Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Report Asia operations, which is how he first met Ma in the late 1990s. "China was a huge focus for Goldman Sachs and for me personally, so we were one of the first investors in Alibaba," he said.
Evans admits that going from banking to ecommerce isn't an obvious or natural transition, but said the job at Alibaba came to him for three reasons: his passion for China, his connection to Jack Ma and his knowledge of Alibaba. "Those were all important and when Ma called after I left Goldman, that was a pretty interesting conversation," he said.
Alibaba shares fell 0.1% to $151.89 by Friday's close.
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