Richard Liu Qiangdong Challenges Alibaba

Richard Liu Qiangdong comes from one of the most humble backgrounds of any billionaire in human history. Many billionaire entrepreneurs work for their success, but none as driven as Richard Liu Qiangdong. When Richard Liu was younger, he didn’t want a career in business; he wanted to work in politics. He even earned a degree in sociology from the Renmin University of China in 1996.

Sadly, around that time, his grandmother fell ill and needed to get a higher-paying job to help pay for her treatment. He sharpened his computer programming skills and worked as a freelance code writer to support his family. After his grandmother received her treatment, he continued working as a freelancer, attracted to the money and freedom of working for whenever he wanted.

It didn’t take long for him to shift his focus to more business-oriented goals, and he enrolled in the China Europe International Business School. While working toward an EMBA, he continued working as a freelance coder.

Soon, he had enough money to try to open his own company. Unsure of what to do, he purchased a small restaurant thinking it would make for good practice. He quickly discovered that running a restaurant of any size is complicated and requires his full attention. Unfortunately, between school and freelancing, he could only devote two hours to the restaurant a week.

After that first failure, he buckled down and focused on his school work and took a job at a Japanese health company after graduating. He didn’t try to open his own business again until 1998. By combining part of his name and part of his then-girlfriend’s name, he came up with a unique name for his first store: Jingdong. Jingdong was a little four-square-meter shop that only sold magneto-optical products.

Despite its size, Jingdong was hugely successful, allowing Richard Liu to open 11 more stores by 2003. When the SARS outbreak struck later that year, Richard Liu moved Jingdong to an e-commerce platform and rebranded the company

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