Porter Erisman, the author of “Alibaba’s World” and filmmaker of “Crocodile in the Yangtze”, joined us to offer an insider’s perspective to the early days of Alibaba, now the largest ecommerce company in the world. We discussed the interesting period of his tenure in Alibaba from the company taking the funding from Yahoo! to the challenge of Ebay in China. He also gave us the up close and personal view of Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba and offered some interesting lessons which he shared with aspiring entrepreneurs out there in the world. We also catch a glimpse in Porter’s next project and also whether he is still in touch with his former colleagues in Alibaba, particularly with Jack Ma. Lastly, Porter gives us a preview of his next project after “Alibaba’s world”.

Here are the interesting notes and links to the discussion:

  • The Story of Porter Erisman (@portererisman)
    • Why did Porter choose to go to China and start your career in media?
    • How did Porter decide to move from Ogilvy to Alibaba? Porter explained his decision to join Alibaba.
  • Alibaba World” and “Crocodile in the Yangtze” (Vimeo, Facebook)
    • What are the motivations behind “Alibaba World” and “Crocodile in the Yangtze”? Did the book originate after Porter produced the documentary?
    • Note: Crocodile in the Yangtze is a winner of several film festivals including Silicon Valley film festival.
    • How long did Porter spend in making the documentary and what is the process in making the film?
    • From a documentary to a book, how did Porter manage to convince Jack Ma to let you publish some of the internal videos and also anecdotes?
    • What is the culture of Alibaba like in the startup days before it become the Goliath today?
    • What are the most interesting anecdotes during your tenure in Alibaba which you want to share about in your interactions with Jack and his founding team?
      • The story of Jack Ma and Porter in Berlin in 2000 with only 3 people in a web conference, Berlin, Germany and 15 years later when Jack presented to Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, China’s Vice Premier and thousands of audience.
      • Describe how Porter watch Alibaba from overcoming a crisis to how it become a successful company, particularly the human story where they laid off the team in Silicon Valley. How has that changed your experience? How did that experience changed Jack Ma?
      • From taking on the financing from Yahoo! and challenging Ebay in the Chinese market, what are the lessons learnt from the company overall?
      • The battle with eBay in Alibaba’s perspective: What prompted Jack to start Taobao? How did Taobao successfully take off in eating away eBay’s market share in China? What are the tactics in leveraging Ebay’s strength to become its weakness for the battle in China?
    • What are the “Alibaba and the Forty Lessons”? Which are the three lessons that you will recommend to the audience out here?
      • My favourite ones: Dream big – Really big, Build a company to last 102 years (at least), Today is tough but the day after tomorrow is beautiful, Learn from competitors but never copy them, In the spring – prepare for winter.
      • Porter discussed: Never under-estimate yourself, and do not over-estimate your enemy.
    • In your observations, how has Alibaba transformed after you have left? Has Jack Ma changed over the years or still remain the same person?
    • Do Porter still keep in touch with everyone there? A surprising answer by Porter on Jack Ma and his colleagues.
    • What are your thoughts about the Alibaba of today? Alibaba became the inspiration to the ecommerce companies in the emerging markets.
  • What are Porter’s next project after “Alibaba World”? His next book that chronicled the new E-Commerce giants in the world.

Podcast Information:

The show is hosted by Bernard Leong (@bleongcw) and are sponsored by Ideal Workspace (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) and Linkcious (and check out their other product, Chiibi).

Producer’s disclosure: Bernard is currently working in a company which is invested by Alibaba. Any thoughts and opinions are of his own and does not represent the organization which he works for.

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