By Lan Anh Le
While Stanford has often offered students an inside look at Silicon Valley entrepreneurship culture, the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Stanford (ACSSS) brought China’s Internet giant, Alibaba Group, on campus through a technological forum this weekend.
The forum attracted more than 250 attendees, including Stanford students and affiliates as well as Silicon Valley and Bay Area-based engineers who have interests in e-commerce and technology in China.
Chief Technology Officer Wang Jian and Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai of the Alibaba Group shared an inside look into the inner workings of the company as well as insights on the overall growth of the global e-commerce market in China.
“Stanford is the center of innovation and technological development, and that is what Alibaba [has been] doing for a lot of time,” said James Jian Li, Ph.D. ’17, vice-president of ACSSS’s department of career development.
Founded by Jack Ma, a former English teacher from Hangzhou, China, Alibaba Group consists of a family of Internet-based businesses that strives to streamline online business and make it easier to buy and sell products online worldwide.
Ma’s mission was not only to make the Internet trustworthy and accessible for everyone but also to help small companies who typically face many challenges in doing business.
“[Ma] wanted to create an Internet platform, as to make information more transparent and help the ‘small guy,’” Tsai said at the forum. “He was involved in the import-export trade business before starting Alibaba, and he saw that small companies didn’t have lots of resources and could not easily compete with the big guys.”
Since its foundation, Alibaba has developed leading technologies and businesses in consumer-based e-commerce, business-to-business markets, online payment and cloud computing. Reaching Internet users from more than 240 countries and regions, Alibaba still adheres to its initial mission statement, which is to make doing business easier and help out small businesses.
Tsai explained that while Amazon is single-mindedly focused on consumers and making consumer experience great, Alibaba also makes sure that merchants are happy to sell on their platform while constantly striving to improve consumer experience.
“In e-commerce, you are not merely selling products but creating something like an ecosystem that involves not just consumers but also merchants and service providers,” says Tsai. “While building that infrastructure, we want all parties to be happy.”
According to Li, ACSSS hoped that the technological forum could be used as a platform for students to network with Stanford peers and beyond.
“We want to use this platform to bring together people who want to understand the Chinese market through Chinese companies, to facilitate discussion between people on campus and in [Silicon] Valley,” Li said.
Wesley Koo ’13, Ph.D. ’17, who led a group of Stanford students on a visit to the Alibaba Group headquarters in China over the summer, was impressed by the company after attending the event.
“It’s really about how Alibaba transformed the business in China and how they innovate,” Koo said.
Helin Gao contributed to this report.
Contact Lan Anh Le at lananhle ‘at’ stanford.edu