He helped build it into a $420 billion company with more than 500 million Chinese customers who use the site to purchase everything from clothes to cement.
Alibaba transformed how the Chinese people shop and make purchases, and made Ma the richest man in the world's most populous country. His birthday also coincides with a the Chinese holiday of Teacher's Day, which celebrates educators.
Ma recognized an opportunity in 1999 to play matchmaker for small and medium-size Chinese manufacturers, which lacked access to other businesses around the globe that were looking for products as varied as bamboo toothpicks, bath towels and machine tools.
In an exclusive New York Times interview, the Chinese billionaire said on Friday that his retirement was not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era". He said he will be spending more of his time and fortune to pursue philanthropy in education.
"I've prepared a Jack Ma Foundation". "All these things that I've been preparing for 10 years".
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Ma, 53, is also China's wealthiest individual.
One of China's biggest tech titans is stepping down.
After being knocked back by U.S. venture capitalists in 1999, a cash-strapped Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start Alibaba, which operated out of an apartment in Hangzhou.
Alibaba has been referred to as the Amazon of China. Ma's Weibo social media handle is "spokesman for village teachers - Jack Ma".
Alibaba has one of the strongest management teams in corporate China and even if he steps down, Ma is likely still to have a role in setting top-level strategy, says Brock Silvers, MD of Kaiyuan Capital.
Speaking at an event in Australia in 2017, Ma explained his view on philanthropy. He cited Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as an example. However, in contrast to the American magnate, he wants to "retire earlier".