Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is pulling out all the stops at its first-ever public event in the U.S., Gateway ’17, today and tomorrow (6/21-22, 17). The Detroit conference is described by Alibaba as a means to help small businesses tap into China’s growing middle-class. “The Chinese market presents tremendous opportunities for U.S. small businesses and farmers to grow their businesses, and in turn, create more U.S. jobs,” Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma wrote in an open letter announcing the event.
In past years, Alibaba’s focus in the U.S. has been on large brands like Costco and Gerber. While small businesses have played a key role in Alibaba’s success in China, the event in Detroit and other initiatives by Alibaba, mark a new U.S. target for the company: businesses with products that don’t have world-renowned brand names but do have niche loyal followings.
“At Alibaba, we want to help (American small businesses) take advantage of the appetite (Chinese customers have) for consumption through our e-commerce marketplaces,” Ma said in the Gateway 17 announcement. Ma previously said that he hopes that the percentage of Alibaba’s business outside of China will increase from 2 percent to roughly 40 percent.
The Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA), which fosters trade relations between Chinese and American businesses, has been helping to promote and market the conference with its members and other companies looking to do business in China.
“Alibaba as a platform is perfect for job creation in the U.S.,” said Brian Gao, president of the DCBA. “Small businesses have no way of competing with big corporations overseas because the cost of entry can be so high, but Alibaba essentially breaks down that barrier by providing a platform for those businesses and helping standardize those transactions,” he said.