Ma noted that nearly half a billion people shop on Alibaba's marketplaces and that by using the platform, American small businesses have the chance to "grow globally — like the big guys."
Now, Alibaba is announcing that it will host its first small business event in the U.S. this summer to try to convince American entrepreneurs that the company is on their side — and can help them reach millions of Chinese consumers.
The inaugural conference, "Gateway '17" will be held in Detroit, Michigan in June and the company is expecting more than 1,000 businesses from across the nation.
While touting China's growing opportunities, Alibaba will also have to convince attendees that their original businesses and ideas are safe from counterfeiters.
Alibaba has an American PR problem: Last December, it landed back on the U.S. government's "notorious markets" list for fakes — a designation that hurts its image among American businesses. That's especially important for small businesses that sell original creations on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Etsy.
Alibaba has said it was disappointed by the decision and called for harsher penalties for counterfeiters. Ma even made a personal visit to Trump Tower shortly after the election and vowed to create a million new jobs in the U.S. in the next five years.