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Here Comes Alibaba - Open Sesame

Painting by Maxfield Parrish (1909)

Ali Baba, according to Arabic and Greek legend, was a poor lumberjack who comes across a den of 40 thieves and a cave filled with their stolen treasures. The story is included in the anthology “One Thousand and One Nights.” Ali Baba overhears the secret words to access the cave, “Open Sesame.” After much bloodshed, including the dismemberment of Ali Baba’s brother and boiling 37 thieves in oil, Ali winds up the trove, all to himself.

Jack Ma, CEO of the Chinese company Alibaba has a more recent creation story. “One day I was in San Francisco in a coffee shop, and I was thinking Alibaba is a good name. I asked a waitress, "Do you know about Alibaba?" And she said yes, “as in the forty thieves”… Then I went onto the street and found 30 people and asked them, "Do you know Alibaba?" People from India, people from Germany, people from Tokyo and China … they all knew about Alibaba. Alibaba is a kind, smart business person, and it’s easy to spell. Alibaba opens sesame for small- to medium-sized companies. We also registered the name "Alimama", in case someone wants to marry us!"

Thieves, relatives and retailers beware. Here comes Ali Baba.

(C) David J. Katz, 2014

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