THE BLOG
09/08/2014 04:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Alibaba and the IPO Treasure

2014-09-08-20140908RambleImage.jpg

"OPEN SESAME..."

My bet is that you will recognize that phrase -- its magic and its origin.

And for those who forgot, "OPEN SESAME" are the words that magically opened the hidden cave of the legendary 40 thieves, the words that Ali Baba, a poor woodcutter, overheard -- and ultimately the words that made him richer than rich.

Alibaba is much on everyone's mind these days. That is, Alibaba the Chinese e-commerce giant powerhouse, about to IPO in the United States, and as I reread the story from One Thousand and One Nights, I wondered just how many of the pundits, experts and analysts who comment and question and predict and ponder the company's performance and future ever studied the full text of the tale.

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, is in fact the living incarnation of the original fictitious character. The fictional hard-working Ali Baba is out cutting wood when he stumbles upon the 40 thieves and their cave, and overhears the Open Sesame magic words, later sneaking back and trying it for himself.

Jack Ma came to North America and literally stumbled upon the modern version of Open Sesame, and each time he opened the proverbial cave, he took away another learning that he was able to build and improve on.

I will leave to you the question of how profitable Alibaba really is (clearly more than any of its US competitors); how big they are (huge); how steep their growth curve is (very); and all the other obvious issues that their fans, touters and detractors: cheer, tout and defame...

And I will leave to you the question of Jack Ma's business practices and custom.

I will point out, however, that applying Western metrics and standards to Alibaba is a surefire way to completely miss the point and, frankly, miss its true power and potential.

And I for one will keep in mind the ending of the story and the demise of the 40 thieves. Competitors and detractors and digibabblists take note -- listen:

"Intelligent people need a fool to lead them. When the team's all a bunch of scientists, it is best to have a peasant lead the way. His way of thinking is different. It's easier to win if you have people seeing things from different perspectives." - Jack Ma

OPEN SESAME...

What do you think?