A new star in the tech world is forming right before our eyes.
Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, raised more money this week in its initial public offering than Facebook (Tech30) or , Visa ( did. It generated an eye-popping $21.8 billion in a )record-shattering IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.
Few Americans have heard of Alibaba. It's frequently described as a mix of Amazon.com (Tech30), , eBay (Tech30) and PayPal for China. It doesn't have much of a presence in the U.S., but it's starting to expand and now owns stakes in companies including Lyft and search engine app Quixey. ,
There are a lot of reasons Wall Street is abuzz about this company, but here's what you need to know:
1. Alibaba will soon be worth as much as Amazon
Alibaba's IPO values the Chinese company at a whopping $168 billion.
That's more than triple eBay's $67 billion market valuation and is even above Amazon.com's $150 billion market cap.
Alibaba's could quickly come within striking distance of Facebook (Tech30), which went public in 2012 and is currently valued at about $199 billion. ,
Still, Alibaba is setting the stage to raise more money than any previous IPO, and that means the company will have a lot of cash on hand to put into research, mergers and purchases of startups around the world.
2. Alibaba's IPO could be the biggest ever
Alibaba's offering would raise $25 billion, if you include money going to underwriter banks. That would easily top the previous record-holder among U.S.-listed IPOs: Visa's ($19.7 billion raised in 2008. )
That would also break the global record held by the Agricultural Bank of China (, which hauled in $22 billion in a 2010 IPO that was dually listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to Dealogic. )
3. Alibaba moves a stunning amount of merchandise
The Chinese company calls itself the "largest online and mobile commerce company in the world."
It bases that call on a common e-commerce metric: Gross merchandise volume. Basically, that's the value of all the merchandise changing hands on a platform over a given time.
Alibaba generated $248 billion of gross merchandise volume in 2013, towering over Amazon.com's $116 billion, according to estimates by IDC.
In fact, if you add up the value of goods being exchanged on Alibaba, it's greater than that of Amazon, eBay, JD.com ( and Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten -- combined. )
Alibaba's dominance may even grow as China's middle class continues to expand.