What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur? Jack Ma Shared 5 Top Tips for Startup Founder

Prepare yourself to make sacrifices, build a high-functioning team, and strike early are among essential advices that Alibaba founder Jack Ma shared with aspired CEOs would-be.

Speaking at the grand final of the Jumpstarter 2017 start-up competition in Hong Kong, Ma had plenty advices startup founders, drawing from his 18-year journey and experience in turning Alibaba into one of the biggest e-commerce and technology companies in the world. During a candid chat with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Ma shared his thoughts on what makes a flourishing entrepreneur.

Do you have what it takes to be one? Taken from the South China Morning Post, check out the following tips from Jack Ma below:

  1. A great entrepreneur is always optimistic

It is crucial for entrepreneur to keep thinking positively towards everything. That being said, Ma suggested startup founder to get those negative thoughts out of their head because an entrepreneur should always be optimistic.

“You should be optimistic. Always optimistic. A great entrepreneur is optimistic for the future. And you have to ask what problem you can solve, and how you solve it is different from the others,” he said.

One way to boost your optimism is by asking yourself why you can do better than everyone else in doing the same thing, added Ma.

  1. The people you surround yourself with can change everything

Success is a teamwork rather than personal achievement. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people to chase your dream could be the first step towards achieving your goal.

Ma elaborated, “You have to find a group of people working together with you. Those people believe the same vision. Those people come in to join you not because it’s a job. It’s because they believe the dream, they believe the mission, and they believe the vision.”

However, this does not mean that you should hunt high and low for top talent.

“You don’t have to find the best people in the world; the best people are always working with you in your team,” he explained. “Train the team, work with the team, the team also will train you.”

  1. Know that you will have to make sacrifices

Ma reminds entrepreneurs that the path to success will not come as a piece of cake.

“Do not think ‘what I will get’. You have to ask ‘what I will give’. Will I win in three years or 10 years? If you have a great idea, prepare for 10 years. You’re lucky if you win in one year – but most people will not have this opportunity.”

There’s no such thing as a quick win, Ma stressed. “Don’t say I want to win next month, I want to succeed next year. Impossible. Forget about it. If you think I will win this in three years, prepare for five years. Only when you know what will you give up, then you will get something.”

He also shared his experience with Alibaba, “My first round [of] money, I gathered from 18 founders — US$50,000. We thought this US$50,000 could last for 10 months. We even counted every cent we spent, but it lasted less than four months and we were almost bankrupt.”

  1. Don’t focus on things that are hot

Startup founders, especially the young ones, tend to be easily distracted with current trends. The truth is, entrepreneur should focus and believe in his initial plans instead of just following what is hot nowadays. One reason why Alibaba succeeded was that the internet was not yet ubiquitous, Ma said.

“E-commerce was so cold. Nobody believed in it, but we believed in it. We didn’t care what other people said. We thought it had a future, we thought it would help people, so we started.”

“When everybody says yes, there’s no chance for you – so be unique. Use your mind, think why you can do better, why you can do different, why you can last for 10 years while the other people can only last for one year,” Ma said.

  1. Don’t wait for everything to be ready for you

Ma suggested entrepreneurs to get ready to hit the ground running. Instead of waiting things to be ready, you should move fast and early.

“Don’t wait for the environment to be ready. Don’t wait for the policy to be ready. When everything’s ready, there’s no opportunity for you,” he explained.

What should you do, then, if authorities have laid the groundwork for your big plans? Look elsewhere, Ma said.

“If the government says ‘everything’s ready’, you should move to the other area, because there’s no chance for you,” he said.

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