Jack Ma In Israel: A Look At The Alibaba Founder’s Impact On The Startup Nation
Over a decade ago, just before Israel was widely known as an innovation superpower, and well before the publication of the book “Start-up Nation” which then became Israel’s moniker, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and business magnate and investor Warren Buffett each paid high-profile visits to Israel.
Gates, one of the wealthiest people in the world and a prolific philanthropist, made the trip in 2005 when Microsoft already had a growing presence in Israel. Headlines at the time were filled with his praises for Israel as an integral part of Silicon Valley and a place with many technological talents. Buffett’s visit in 2006 came months after he acquired Israeli manufacturing company Iscar for a reported $4 billion.
Both of these visits were very closely covered, much like celebrity visits are, with every complimentary utterance by the American giants of industry making the news. The trips marked a stamp-of-approval for Israel’s hi-tech ecosystem and heralded a new era of recognition for the country’s tech abilities. Both Gates and Buffett have since grown their interests in the country with various investments.
Now, Israel is being paid a visit from another influential business and tech billionaire – Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, with revenues of close to $160 billion in 2017. This is Ma’s first trip to Israel, where he will meet with Israeli political and business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs. The exact itinerary of the visit is still under wraps but Ma arrived on Monday with an entourage of 35 senior Alibaba executives and has meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Minister of Economy Eli Cohen.
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Jack Ma speaking at UNCTAD eCommerce Week Conference, 25 April 2017 . Photo: ITU/ M. Jacobson – Gonzalez via Flickr, CC BY 2.0