In September 2014 Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba raised $25 billion in the world's biggest-ever initial public offering. Since then millions of investors and managers worldwide have pondered a fundamental question: What's really going on with the new wave of China's disruptors?
Alibaba wasn't an outlier - it's one of a rising tide of thriving Chinese companies, mostly but not exclusively in the technology sector. Overnight its founder, Jack Ma, appeared on the same magazine covers as American entrepreneurial icons like Mark Zuckerberg. Ma was quickly followed by the founders of other previously little-known companies, such as Baidu, Tencent, and Xiaomi.
Over the past two decades, an unprecedented burst of entrepreneurialism has transformed China's economy from a closed, impoverished, state-run system into a major power in global business. As products in China become more and more sophisticated, and as its companies embrace domestically developed technology, we will increasingly see Chinese goods setting global standards. Meanwhile companies in the rest of the world wonder how they can access the fast-rising incomes of China's 1.3 billion consumers.