Hupan Garden. Jack’s apartment in Hangzhou. Where it all started for Alibaba Group. This is where the Alibaba founder gathered 17 of his former colleagues and students to launch what would become the largest retail commerce business in the world.
At Alibaba, it’s considered sacred space. When new projects are launching, teams relocate to Hupan to soak up some of the spirit that drove those first Aliren. Taobao, DingTalk and marketing platform Alimama got their starts there.
Now, on the eve of the company’s 20th birthday, we took Ma back to Hupan to reflect on those early days and what it took to build the company into what it is today. Also, we’ve posted a letter to Hangzhou from Alibaba’s employees, thanking the city for being a hub of innovation and its support along the way.
Ode to Hangzhou
(Translated from Chinese)
In the frigid spring of 1999
I returned from the North empty-handed and badly scarred.
Mumbling peculiar words.
Dreaming of nonsensical dreams
Fantastical tales of the Arabian Night lingered in my mind.
The glistening water of the canal,
The reflection of the moon upon the West Lake,
The ageless wisdom of the open sea.
You smiled, you listened and gazed
At this unremorseful failure,
But you never once judged or doubted me.
We uttered prayers of confidence and tenacity,
Such was the good’ old days at the Hupan Garden!
Red-blooded youth with ambition to take on the world.
Armed with only bare fists and an iron will.
You never mocked us for having nothing
Quietly, you archived our every boastful claims.
The first customer came,
The first investor said yes,
Soon, more like-minded friends joined.
You sparked the kindling of a multitude of entrepreneurs
And they, in return, ignited the flames in us.
We dashed and crashed in the age of youthful rebellion.
We aspired to be warriors, fighting for us, the future and the world.
Saddled up with swords in hands, we galloped against the wind with you by our side.
No one is ever born perfect, but we were perfected in the raging storms.
Your steadfastness is second to none,
As you cleared the whole sky so the dreamers can freely fly.
We gathered brilliant minds at the West Lake
We hosted fashion shows along the White Causeway.
Imagination still runs wild,
Bizarre ideas continue to ensue.
Those seemingly absurd views
Those flickering lights of youth.
You ushered the dream chasers to the center stage,
And inspired the entrepreneurs to follow the light in their hearts.
What victory? Just sheer grit and perseverance.
What success? Simply refused to relinquish my dreams.
Thank you, Hangzhou.
For understanding my dreams from the start
We share the same genes, same determination, same accountability, same future
Your lakes and mountains, your misty rain,
Your poetic love, your signature unwavering conviction
Our Taobao, our Ant Financial, our Cainiao, our PTG
To the farthest point and beyond.
–All Alibaba Employees