TAIPEI - Alibaba founder Jack Ma yesterday in Taipei urged Taiwanese business leaders to repair a private-sector culture that is unfriendly toward youth.
The Chinese entrepreneur drew a crowd of press upon his arrival at the Cross-Strait CEO Summit in Taipei, which drew about 800 business figures from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
In his keynote speech, Ma said that since a sea of changes swept across China's sociopolitical landscape, many of its businesses have emerged as global leaders.
The people spurring these businesses were unknown 15 years ago, he said. "These are all young people, and their enterprises are young enterprises."
During the same 15 years, Taiwan's private sector hasn't produced many new companies, he said, attributing the fact to a business culture that has extended few opportunities to youth.
Ma said he first noticed this trend in June 2001 while attending an innovation forum in Taiwan. The majority of participants were "very elderly," he said.
"Innovation is a young person's game," he said, urging seasoned business leaders to pass the torch.
Ma, a former English teacher, launched Alibaba in his apartment in 1999. He topped the Forbes China Rich List this year after the company broke the global record for largest initial public offering.
'Very confused and anxious'
In the keynote, Ma also said that youth should seize opportunities when they arise.
"Youth today, many of them are very confused and anxious. They always seem to think there aren't many opportunities."
"I've been very confused and anxious before, too. On the internet there is a story about how I once applied to 30 jobs - that really is true. I applied to 30 jobs and did not get a single one. One was at a KFC. Twenty-five people applied, 24 got a job, I didn't. And the boss was Taiwanese!" he said.
It's normal for youth to feel anxious but the process should spark soul-searching and action, he said, calling on youth to pursue opportunities proactively.
"Grab them - opportunities only become your own through persistence and continuous effort toward improvement," he said.
Alibaba Wants You
Onstage, Ma encouraged youth entrepreneurs to contact Alibaba if they want to develop and sell goods and develop a presence in mainland China.
He announced a hope to establish a foundation for young Taiwanese interested in launching a business or pursuing education across the Strait.
Addressing participants at the summit, Ma said industry leaders should do the same.
Former VP Responds
Later at the forum, former Vice President Vincent Siew said that if Ma establishes his foundation, he would be doing a good deed for the next generation.