Nearly two decades later, Alibaba is an internet juggernaut and Ma is among the world's richest men, with a net worth of more than $40 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Yet Ma had remained active as the face of the e-commerce firm, as well as an architect of its long-term strategy. He was CEO until 2013.
Ma's success was evident after Alibaba's Taobao bested eBay in China, forcing the USA auction site to largely withdraw from the country in 2006.
China's richest man is going step down as executive chairman of the $420-billion Alibaba Group on Monday when he turns 54, he said in an interview with the NYT. Adding that he loves education, Jack Ma said that after stepping down his focus will be on education. A year ago it pledged 300 milion yuan ($45 million) to fund teacher training programs over the next decade, with a goal to end poverty in rural areas. Ma even believes that he can "do much better" at teaching than he did as CEO of Alibaba.
While Ma's retirement from a formal role is a milestone, analysts and industry professionals say it is unlikely Ma's involvement will change significantly.
As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China's super-rich.
Cristiano Ronaldo needs time to break Juventus duck - Massimiliano Allegri
Last season's result in Rome hurt especially, but we have a spectacular squad and we can fight for it [this season]". We have been knocked out in the quarterfinals in the last three seasons.
Gates and his wife, who run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation dedicated to healthcare and poverty, were named the most generous philanthropists in the USA last month. He cited the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as an example. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", Ma said during an interview last week with Bloomberg Television.
Often compared to Amazon.com, Alibaba's parent company has e-commerce, online payment, banking, entertainment and cloud computing businesses.
Earlier this year regulators shot down a $1.2-billion bid for money transfer service Moneygram International Inc by Ant Financial on national security grounds, which the company said was related to "geopolitical" changes. Ma's net worth is $39.9 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. A year ago he danced on stage in a Michael Jackson costume at a company party and starred in his own kung fu movie, where he defeated eight celebrity martial artists with the power of tai chi.
Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of Alibaba's main competitor JD.com, was briefly arrested in the USA over a rape allegation last week.