Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER


If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

Review

“Crisply written, rational and practical, Zero to One should be read not just by aspiring entrepreneurs but by anyone seeking a thoughtful alternative to the current pervasive gloom about the prospects for the world.”
The Economist

"An extended polemic against stagnation, convention, and uninspired thinking. What Thiel is after is the revitalization of imagination and invention writ large…"
– The New Republic

"Might be the best business book I''ve read...Barely 200 pages long and well lit by clear prose and pithy aphorisms, Thiel has written a perfectly tweetable treatise and a relentlessly thought-provoking handbook." 
– Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.” 
-  Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
 
“Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and  Zero to One shows how.” 
-  Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

"  Zero to One is the first book any working or aspiring entrepreneur must read—period."
- Marc Andreessen, co-creator of the world''s first web browser, co-founder of Netscape, and venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz

" Zero to One is an important handbook to relentless improvement for big companies and beginning entrepreneurs alike. Read it, accept Peter’s challenge, and build a business beyond expectations." 
- Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO, GE

“When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. Or, to be safe, three times. This is a classic.”
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan

“Thiel has drawn upon his wide-ranging and idiosyncratic readings in philosophy, history, economics, anthropology, and culture to become perhaps America’s leading public intellectual today”
-  Fortune

"Peter Thiel, in addition to being an accomplished entrepreneur and investor, is also one of the leading public intellectuals of our time. Read this book to get your first glimpse of how and why that is true."
- Tyler Cowen, New York Times best-selling author of Average is Over and Professor of Economics at George Mason University

"The first and last business book anyone needs to read; a one in a world of zeroes."
- Neal Stephenson, New York Times best-selling author of Snow Crash, the Baroque Cycle, and Cryptonomicon

"Forceful and pungent in its treatment of conventional orthodoxies—a solid starting point for readers thinking about building a business."  
- Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002, defining a new era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004 he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he serves as a director. The same year he launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. He has provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of successful technology startups, many run by former colleagues who have been dubbed the “PayPal Mafia.” He is a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has funded companies like SpaceX and Airbnb. He started the Thiel Fellowship, which ignited a national debate by encouraging young people to put learning before schooling, and he leads the Thiel Foundation, which works to advance technological progress and long- term thinking about the future.

Blake Masters was a student at Stanford Law School in 2012 when his detailed notes on Peter’s class “Computer Science 183: Startup” became an internet sensation. He is President of The Thiel Foundation and Chief Operating Officer of Thiel Capital. 


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Preface

Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social net-work. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

Of course, it’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.

Unless they invest in the difficult task of creating new things, American companies will fail in the future no matter how big their profits remain today. What happens when we’ve gained everything to be had from fine- tuning the old lines of business that we’ve inherited? Unlikely as it sounds, the answer threatens to be far worse than the crisis of 2008. Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.

In a world of gigantic administrative bureaucracies both public and private, searching for a new path might seem like hoping for a miracle. Actually, if American business is going to succeed, we are going to need hundreds, or even thou­sands, of miracles. This would be depressing but for one cru­cial fact: humans are distinguished from other species by our ability to work miracles. We call these miracles technology.

Technology is miraculous because it allows us to do more with less, ratcheting up our fundamental capabilities to a higher level. Other animals are instinctively driven to build things like dams or honeycombs, but we are the only ones that can invent new things and better ways of making them. Humans don’t decide what to build by making choices from some cosmic catalog of options given in advance; instead, by creating new technologies, we rewrite the plan of the world. These are the kind of elementary truths we teach to second graders, but they are easy to forget in a world where so much of what we do is repeat what has been done before.
 
Zero to One is about how to build companies that cre­ate new things. It draws on everything I’ve learned directly as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX. But while I have noticed many patterns, and I relate them here, this book offers no formula for success. The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innova­tive. Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.
 
This book stems from a course about startups that I taught at Stanford in 2012. College students can become extremely skilled at a few specialties, but many never learn what to do with those skills in the wider world. My primary goal in teaching the class was to help my students see beyond the tracks laid down by academic specialties to the broader future that is theirs to create. One of those students, Blake Masters, took detailed class notes, which circulated far be­yond the campus, and in Zero to One I have worked with him to revise the notes for a wider audience. There’s no reason why the future should happen only at Stanford, or in college, or in Silicon Valley.


Chapter 1

The Challenge of the Future

Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"

This question sounds easy because it''s straightforward. Actually, it''s very hard to answer. It''s intellectually difficult because the knowledge that everyone is taught in school is by definition agreed upon. And it''s psychologically difficult because anyone trying to answer must say something she knows to be unpopular. Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.

Most commonly, I hear answers like the following:

"Our educational system is broken and urgently needs to be fixed."

"America is exceptional."

"There is no God."

Those are bad answers. The first and the second statements might be true, but many people already agree with them. The third statement simply takes one side in a familiar debate. A good answer takes the following form: "Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x." I''ll give my own answer later in this chapter.

What does this contrarian question have to do with the future? In the most minimal sense, the future is simply the set of all moments yet to come. But what makes the future distinctive and important isn''t that it hasn''t happened yet, but rather that it will be a time when the world looks different from today. In this sense, if nothing about our society changes for the next 100 years, then the future is over 100 years away. If things change radically in the next decade, then the future is nearly at hand. No one can predict the future exactly, but we know two things: it''s going to be different, and it must be rooted in today''s world. Most answers to the contrarian question are different ways of seeing the present; good answers are as close as we can come to looking into the future.

Zero to One: The Future of Progress

When we think about the future, we hope for a future of progress. That progress can take one of two forms. Horizontal or extensive progress means copying things that work--going from 1 to n. Horizontal progress is easy to imagine because we already know what it looks like. Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things--going from 0 to 1. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress. If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress.

At the macro level, the single word for horizontal progress is globalization--taking things that work somewhere and making them work everywhere. China is the paradigmatic example of globalization; its 20-year plan is to become like the United States is today. The Chinese have been straightforwardly copying everything that has worked in the developed world: 19th-century railroads, 20th-century air conditioning, and even entire cities. They might skip a few steps along the way--going straight to wireless without installing landlines, for instance--but they''re copying all the same.

The single word for vertical, 0 to 1 progress is technology. The rapid progress of information technology in recent decades has made Silicon Valley the capital of "technology" in general. But there is no reason why technology should be limited to computers. Properly understood, any new and better way of doing things is technology.

Because globalization and technology are different modes of progress, it''s possible to have both, either, or neither at the same time. For example, 1815 to 1914 was a period of both rapid technological development and rapid globalization. Between the First World War and Kissinger''s trip to reopen relations with China in 1971, there was rapid technological development but not much globalization. Since 1971, we have seen rapid globalization along with limited technological development, mostly confined to IT.

This age of globalization has made it easy to imagine that the decades ahead will bring more convergence and more sameness. Even our everyday language suggests we believe in a kind of technological end of history: the division of the world into the so-called developed and developing nations implies that the "developed" world has already achieved the achievable, and that poorer nations just need to catch up.

But I don''t think that''s true. My own answer to the contrarian question is that most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more. Without technological change, if China doubles its energy production over the next two decades, it will also double its air pollution. If every one of India''s hundreds of millions of households were to live the way Americans already do--using only today''s tools--the result would be environmentally catastrophic. Spreading old ways to create wealth around the world will result in devastation, not riches. In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable.

New technology has never been an automatic feature of history. Our ancestors lived in static, zero-sum societies where success meant seizing things from others. They created new sources of wealth only rarely, and in the long run they could never create enough to save the average person from an extremely hard life. Then, after 10,000 years of fitful advance from primitive agriculture to medieval windmills and 16th-century astrolabes, the modern world suddenly experienced relentless technological progress from the advent of the steam engine in the 1760s all the way up to about 1970. As a result, we have inherited a richer society than any previous generation would have been able to imagine.

Any generation excepting our parents'' and grandparents'', that is: in the late 1960s, they expected this progress to continue. They looked forward to a four-day workweek, energy too cheap to meter, and vacations on the moon. But it didn''t happen. The smartphones that distract us from our surroundings also distract us from the fact that our surroundings are strangely old: only computers and communications have improved dramatically since midcentury. That doesn''t mean our parents were wrong to imagine a better future--they were only wrong to expect it as something automatic. Today our challenge is to both imagine and create the new technologies that can make the 21st century more peaceful and prosperous than the 20th.

Startup Thinking

New technology tends to come from new ventures--startups. From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild Semiconductor''s "traitorous eight" in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it''s hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it''s even harder to do it by yourself. Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk. In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now). At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but he could never invent an entire industry. Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.

Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company''s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think. This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking. Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.

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Top reviews from the United States

Marty Neumeier
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Is Peter Thiel the next robber baron?
Reviewed in the United States on June 27, 2017
In this chest-thumping book, author Peter Thiel comes off as a brilliant young man with a tendency toward exaggeration. Indeed, everything about him seems exaggerated: his businesses successes (founder of PayPal and Palantir), his net worth ($1.5 billion and counting), his... See more
In this chest-thumping book, author Peter Thiel comes off as a brilliant young man with a tendency toward exaggeration. Indeed, everything about him seems exaggerated: his businesses successes (founder of PayPal and Palantir), his net worth ($1.5 billion and counting), his educational credits (Stanford BA in philosophy, JD in law), his political views (avowedly libertarian), his energy level (off the charts), his self-confidence (not a doubt in sight), his vision for technology (human longevity, “seasteading” communities, eventual takeover by intelligent machines).

And now this book.

Let me assure you that Zero to One is worth reading, even if you’re not engaged in the world of startups and venture capital. It’s worth reading in the same way a triple espresso is worth drinking: it makes you feel superhuman, at least for the moment. You can almost hear the caffeine coursing through your veins as you absorb the ideas.

You might want to read the book on two levels: both as a business book and as a political manifesto. And because the book is a hybrid, you may need to work a little to separate the baby from the bath water.

Thiel’s first point is that creating a game-changing company means going from zero to one—from nothing to something, instead of going from something to a slightly better something. What a zero-to-one company does is lay claim to an uninhabited stretch of market space in order to create a monopoly. A monopoly, in Thiel’s vocabulary, is not the bad kind we associate with bullies. It’s the good kind that opens up valuable market territory by doing something new.

Is he simply using the word monopoly to provoke us? Maybe, but it’s an effective way to get our attention so he can deliver the book’s main point, which is simply this: Businesses succeed better when they differentiate rather than compete. Direct competition drains value as companies beat each other up. Differentiation creates value as companies charge more for desirable products and services that customers can’t get anywhere else. It’s the same principle that forms the basis of brand strategy. We’ve already seen many books on the subject, including Positioning in 1981, by Jack Trout and Al Ries, and even classical writings on strategy by Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz.

Why play dress-up with old ideas? So Thiel can lash on his peg leg and black eye patch and make room for further piratical assertions.

Consider the following:

“Creative monopolists” give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance. The history of progress is the history of new monopolies replacing incumbents. “Every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot.” Monopoly, therefore, is not a pathology but a condition of success.

While “every monopoly is unique,” he adds, they share these four attributes: “proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding.” Without these four, any business will be the equivalent of a family restaurant, where the kids have to wash dishes to keep the place running in the black.

He advises us to “err on the side of starting too small.” The perfect place to start is where there’s a small concentration of people served by few or no competitors. From there you can scale it up, as long as you have the advantages of proprietary technology (your secret sauce) and network effects (the tendency of a service to become more valuable as more people use it).

Whatever you do, don’t “disrupt” a market, he warns. Disruption has been devalued to “a self-congratulatory buzzword for anything posing as something trendy and new.” Disruptive companies in Silicon Valley often pick fights they can’t win.

Also in Silicon Valley, “would-be entrepreneurs are told that nothing can be known in advance; we’re supposed to listen to what customers say they want make nothing more than a ‘minimum viable product,’ and iterate our way to success.” He says that Apple succeeded by doing the exact opposite.

He encourages would-be entrepreneurs to ask this question: “What valuable company is nobody building?” Any good answer to this question must necessarily harbor a secret. It can be a secret of nature or secret of human nature, but in both places there are always hidden truths to be discovered—if we only look in a certain way. When you share your secret, you turn others into co-conspirators.

With contrarian flair he asserts that the less money a startup pays its CEO, the better it will do. “In no case should a CEO of an early-stage, venture-backed startup receive more than $150,000 per year in salary.” High pay incentivizes him to defend the status quo instead of working aggressively to find and fix problems.

“The most important task in business—the creation of new value—cannot be reduced to a formula and applied by professionals.” He observes that most founders are contradictions, bigger-than-life characters who can “make authoritative decisions, inspire strong personal loyalty, and plan ahead for decades.” He cites Richard Branson, Howard Hughes, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, and tosses in pop icons such as Elvis, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, and Britney Spears.

Finally, he examines a range of scenarios for the future of humanity, borrowed from philosopher Nick Bostrom. The most common four are: 1) recurrent collapse, a never-ending oscillation between prosperity and ruin; 2) a plateau, the belief that the rest of the world will catch up to the richest countries, and then we’ll stay at that level; 3) extinction, in which our technology will bring humanity to a cataclysmic end; and 4) takeoff, the idea espoused by transhumanists, in which humans increasingly blend with machines to create a world of complexity and abundance that we can’t even imagine today. Clearly, Thiel is in this camp, although he’s careful not to say it.

This is a fascinating collection of thoughts, including some surprising truths and more than a few exaggerations. So which part of the book is the baby, and which is the bath water?

Let’s start with monopolies. Do they really serve society better than price-busting competitors? Sure, as long as they unleash creativity and generate broad-based wealth. When they mature into self-perpetuating bullies (such as Microsoft, and increasingly Google, Apple, and Amazon) they tend to block other innovators using any means at their disposal.

Next, does every business really succeed exactly to the extent that it does something different? Not quite. First of all, it’s possible to launch a product that’s different but not compelling. Think of Pets.com, Apple Newton, or Clairol Touch-of-Yogurt Shampoo. Second, monopoly status doesn’t always encourage broad success. Monopoly becomes pathology when we create rules that favor a handful of “haves” and in the process hollow out the middle class, as we’re doing now.

He notes that every monopoly is unique, sharing only “proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding.” This is one of Thiel’s truest observations. Strong companies are those that start with a unique market position; weak companies are those that fail to differentiate, believing the world only wants more instead of different.

Erring on the side of starting too small is good advice, too, but what about “Don’t disrupt”? He laments that the concept of disruption has degenerated into anything posing as trendy and new. Granted. But wouldn’t it be better to simply reject the popular definition? He could then reaffirm Clay Christensen’s original epiphany in The Innovator’s Solution—the observation that established products can be upended by cheaper or inferior solutions that don’t at first appear to be threats, then later grow into established products themselves. Christensen was the one who first mapped the road to Monopolyville. Couldn’t Thiel give him the credit?

In a sweeping generalization, he claims that Silicon Valley engineers are expected to “listen to what customers say they want” and give it to them. Really? I’ve worked there 35 years and have rarely heard this, except from a few old-school marketers. Even the designers at Apple start with a “minimum viable product” and iterate their way to success. They just do it before they go to market instead of after, so their products seem to spring fully formed from the brow of Tim Cook or Jony Ives.

Thiel has said that one of the book’s most valuable contributions is the notion that a monopoly is based on a secret. This is actually a great way to think about it. An interesting fact about these types of secrets is that they tend to stay secrets long after you tell everyone. If an idea is good enough, goes the saying, you’ll have to ram it down people’s throats. Think about the Aeron chair, the Prius, and even PayPal. None of these businesses launched themselves.

Another of Thiel’s rules is that the CEO of a startup should never receive more than $150,000 in salary. Nice and concrete. It’s too bad more CEOs of incumbent monopolies couldn’t set a similar example, as Jobs did with his annual salary of $1. What message does a seven- or eight-figure salary send to the employee whose innovative ideas are consistently labeled “too risky?”

Finally, are successful monopolists always contradictory characters? Not from where I sit. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos don’t strike me as particularly contradictory, although I’m sure they’re more driven than they might appear. It could be that Peter Thiel himself is a walking contradiction, and therefore wants to create some positive context for it. He delights in courting controversy, starting at Stanford when he attacked various sacred cows such as political correctness and hate-speech laws in his newspaper The Stanford Review, and now by writing a book that appears to defend monopolists.

Despite its exaggerations, pirated ideas, and libertarian swagger—or maybe because of them—Zero to One makes for a lively read. It contains a number of refreshing insights and personal truths that you won’t get from other books on inventing the next big thing. Just keep the baby and throw out the bath water.
375 people found this helpful
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Konstantinos Papakonstantinou
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The 4 minutes that will help you decide if this book is for you
Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2015
The first time I read the book, I didn''t find it extremely insightful or cohesive. But the second time around it made a whole lot more sense. It''s like all these connections started firing up. It''s truly a great book with... See more
The first time I read the book, I didn''t find it extremely insightful or cohesive. But the second time around it made a whole lot more sense. It''s like all these connections started firing up. It''s truly a great book with contrarian thinking and insights that make you pause. This video highlights some of these key concepts and hopefully will help you make the connections the first time around. It''s part of a larger effort to create a completely-free library of compelling books in a handcrafted video format - check it out at bookvideoclub.com and enjoy!
526 people found this helpful
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Todd Holscher
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Simple-minded. Is it satire? Poorly-reasoned? Historically-ignorant? Afraid of competition? IDK
Reviewed in the United States on February 13, 2020
This book a fun read but it''s also a sad, weak and misguided philosophy. It is about one "secret" idea: "Monopolies are SECRETLY good!" That''s not really a secret. If YOU OWN THE MONOPOLY you can charge economic rents and increase your income with... See more
This book a fun read but it''s also a sad, weak and misguided philosophy.

It is about one "secret" idea: "Monopolies are SECRETLY good!"

That''s not really a secret. If YOU OWN THE MONOPOLY you can charge economic rents and increase your income with less risk. Does anyone NOT understand that? Obviously companies like to have monopolies. But that doesn''t mean they are a good thing and author''s defense of monopolies reads like a satire.

• Is Peter just too young to remember how The Big 3 car company''s near-monopoly lead to horrible US cars in the 1970s? Competition with Japan saved the US household thousands of dollars.

• Is he too young to remember how expensive phones were under The Bell Operating Company in the 1970s? Forced competition by breaking into the baby bells opened up billions of savings and new technologies.

• Is he ignorant of the obesity caused by the US Food Pyramid (a government monopoly on dietary guidelines)? Competition from other dietary guidance -- Atkins for one --- is starting to save us billions in obesity-related issues caused by eating too many carbs

• Has he never thought that the competition caused by Walmart''s relentless focus on distribution efficiency saves the average US houshold several thousand dollars each year... and that is what enables households to buy the next innovation?

• Hey, and how about the monopolistic expensive cable companies... were that a good thing, Peter? Rember how going wireless saved us billions AND improved connectivity?

Competition in OLD, STAGNANT categories lowers prices... and that saves money to spend on NEW categories and NEW technology.

My advice? Skip the book and read lines 13 & 14 of page 194. I''m paraphrasing;

"if we engage in globalism we will find the pool of competitors is too large. For a breakthrough, new companies, can only succeed if they start with monopoly share of a small market at first. Too much competition is a bad thing."

As a business book, it''s mildly entertaining. The idea that you should have the GOAL of building a company that is SO GOOD that it becomes a monopoly... that is a sort of fun way to think about business. But it''s a thin treatise for an entire book.

But at the country-level, no monopolies are NOT GOOD. It''s as if he thinks the answer is for the US to build a wall to keep everyone from Japan, Germany, Britain, South Korea, China, Sweden and all the other brilliant people from disrupting the monopoly he built. It''s sad, it''s weak and it reaks of fear.

3-stars for trying.
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MicroCapClub
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A great book for microcap investors
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2016
Have you ever read an article or book that defined something that you’ve abstractly believed for years? When you read it you let out an affirmative mental “aha!”. I had one of these moments recently when I read Zero to One by Peter Thiel. This book helped shape and better... See more
Have you ever read an article or book that defined something that you’ve abstractly believed for years? When you read it you let out an affirmative mental “aha!”. I had one of these moments recently when I read Zero to One by Peter Thiel. This book helped shape and better define my investment strategy.

Far too often I see a microcap company’s investor presentation start off with some enormous addressable market ($20 billion, $100 billion, etc) and what follows is “If we just capture 2%….”. This has always annoyed me because in many ways the worst thing an undercapitalized public microcap can do is try to attack a huge highly competitive market.

In Zero to One, Peter Thiel talks about how small emerging companies/and investors need to take the opposite approach. In simple terms, aim for monopoly, competition is for losers. Monopolies have far greater profits, pricing power, and ability to think long-term. For small companies like microcaps to be a monopoly they need to focus on dominating a small market that is expanding, and then further grow into other complimentary markets. “Capitalism is premised on the accumulation of capital, but under perfect competition all profits get competed away.” When a company dominates a market (large or small) it is much more profitable and valuable then one owning 1% of a large competitive market.

When I look back at some of the best microcap performers they too had this characteristic of dominating a small market that is expanding rapidly. These companies normally have high organic growth rates, profitability, and pricing power. These powerhouse businesses can fund high rates of growth from internal cash flows. Their market leadership and profitability allows them to make longer-term strategic decisions that provide an even wider moat.
49 people found this helpful
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Rob Galbraith
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A life-changing read
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2020
This book has been on my Kindle for years and I had heard great things about it, but never took the time to read it until finishing Alexandra Wolfe''s book Valley Of The Gods about the Thiel Fellowship (which is worth a read). I was a bit skeptical owing to Peter Thiel, who... See more
This book has been on my Kindle for years and I had heard great things about it, but never took the time to read it until finishing Alexandra Wolfe''s book Valley Of The Gods about the Thiel Fellowship (which is worth a read). I was a bit skeptical owing to Peter Thiel, who is tremendously successful but also a famed contrarian with different political leanings from mine. However, after reading this book, I can say it is one of the top 3 most impactful books I have ever read. As an economics major who has worked in corporate America in the financial services sector for 20+ years, Thiel''s description of our economy and society is compelling. His insights into how to create something of true value where nothing previously existed - 0 to 1 - are tremendously valuable, particularly in comparison with most of us who work towards improving what already exists - going from 1 to n. Standard economic theory has been solely tested over the past 25 years with the tech book and Great Financial Crisis as well as globalization and our turbulent times and politics today. Although written in 2014 based on lectures by Thiel at Stanford University in #012, the book remains highly relevant in 2020 and really foreshadows much of what has happened over the last 5 years. Simple, quick and easily accessible, my copy is marked up with tons highlights and notes. You won''t regret making the investment in time reading this book, but be prepared to be challenged and bring an open mind to refining your own views, regardless of whether you wholeheartedly agree or disagree with Thiel.
8 people found this helpful
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D. House
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Will become a classic on how to build a remarkable (not ordinary) new enterprise.
Reviewed in the United States on March 7, 2017
This is an excellent book. Not many people can be entrepreneurs, but I believe this book could inspire many and it can certainly guide one to a more open-minded approach. Peter Thiel shows us that unconventional thinking (i.e. zero to one), is absolutely required to... See more
This is an excellent book. Not many people can be entrepreneurs, but I believe this book could inspire many and it can certainly guide one to a more open-minded approach. Peter Thiel shows us that unconventional thinking (i.e. zero to one), is absolutely required to succeed with a new business. Conventional thinking (for instance that competition is unavoidable (if you have something proprietary a la apple, it IS AVOIDABLE) , that competition is wonderful and necessary {but actually it is NOT}), is the linear approach (go from 1 to 1.1). Conventional means copy others and when you do that you have to compete mainly by cutting prices. The leading businesses truly innovate (and everyone else follows or stay behind). I started reading a library copy but realized I want to own it because I have to read it slowly many times like a good wine. The copy that I received is in great condition; good deal, thanks!
24 people found this helpful
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Matthew Morine
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Needed Book for All Organizations
Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2016
As a minister, I am always looking for interesting business books that can translate into the world of ministry and congregation. Sometimes great books appear, but sometimes these books do not translate well. This book caused me to think deeply about the role of church,... See more
As a minister, I am always looking for interesting business books that can translate into the world of ministry and congregation. Sometimes great books appear, but sometimes these books do not translate well. This book caused me to think deeply about the role of church, and how can we create a future through the church. There are books about running a congregation, and this book causes you to think through the future of your congregation. Let me say it quickly, this is a great book to read. The book is full of wisdom in leading an organization to the future. One must remember that we are leading congregations that will be alive and growing in the next century if it exists. Here is some wisdom from the book. "Instead ask yourself: how much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reactions to past mistakes? The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself." "Each company was obsessed with defeating its rivals, precisely because there were no substantive differences to focus on. Amid all the tactical questions— Who could price chewy dog toys most aggressively? Who could create the best Super Bowl ads?— these companies totally lost sight of the wider question of whether the online pet supply market was the right space to be in. Winning is better than losing, but everybody loses when the war isn’t one worth fighting." When I think through this question, and think through what is happening in the churches of Christ, I wonder about the wisdom of following after the community church movement to create vitality within our congregations. On a practical measure, this strategy seems like falling into the trap that Thiel is warning us about. Instead of this approach, perhaps, simple, discipleship, and going back to the bible is something that people will love more than another Christian concert on Sunday morning. Here is another quote. "As you craft a plan to expand to adjacent markets, don’t disrupt: avoid competition as much as possible." Think about this approach in your evangelism. Think back about Saddleback Sam, this is something that was taking place, but than apply this to your context. Instead of an approach of a shotgun, where is the rifle opportunity to reach people in your congregation with the gospel? Here is another. "Actually, a huge board will exercise no effective oversight at all; it merely provides cover for whatever microdictator actually runs the organization. If you want that kind of free rein from your board, blow it up to giant size. If you want an effective board, keep it small." Now apply this to your situation within an eldership. Think through this one too. "However, anyone who doesn’t own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned. At the margin, they’ll be biased to claim value in the near term, not help you create more in the future." When we let the right people have too much influence in a congregation, without skin in the game ideals, we are stopping the progress of a congregation. There is much more I could share, but this book really got me thinking about the future of church. It might help you too.
17 people found this helpful
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Michael J. Kerrigan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Creating Value by Questioning Conventional Thinking
Reviewed in the United States on October 25, 2017
There are many excellent reasons to purchase and enjoy Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, Notes on Startups. For starters, going from zero to one or intensive (vertical) progress means doing new things. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing... See more
There are many excellent reasons to purchase and enjoy Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, Notes on Startups.

For starters, going from zero to one or intensive (vertical) progress means doing new things. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something no one else has done. In short, doing new things is wiser than copying things that work. Thiel is best in questioning conventional thinking for he advises a start up must question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.

Two conventional beliefs Thiel asks us to question are monopolies and competition. “Creative monopoly means new products that benefit everybody and sustainable profits for the creator. Competition mean no profits for anybody, no meaningful differentiation, and a struggle for survival…. The more we compete, the less we gain."

The book offers entrepreneurs many lessons learned but the best suggestion I offer is if you have little time but make sure you read chapter seven, Follow the Money. In my opinion, this chapters offers the key to successful venture capitalists by understanding the Pareto Principle, which Thiel explains as the "power law of venture capital," so named because exponential equations describe severely unequal distributions i.e. the 80 /20 rule.

What a refreshing read teaching us how to create value.
8 people found this helpful
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Peter - The Reading Desk
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Step Change Innovation for Startups
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 7, 2018
In business, we don’t get the panacea methodology to deliver a market-dominating business or monopoly, and the methodology for the next big thing likely hasn’t been defined yet. We need to look at each business from multiple perspectives and I do believe Peter Thiel...See more
In business, we don’t get the panacea methodology to deliver a market-dominating business or monopoly, and the methodology for the next big thing likely hasn’t been defined yet. We need to look at each business from multiple perspectives and I do believe Peter Thiel provides another unique perspective – not a replacement perspective but an additional one. The research shows that disruptive innovation typically comes from new start companies and they tend to dominate a new market niche until they grow dramatically or are acquired. Iterative innovation in specific markets tends to be dominated by the incumbents, which are usually large multinational companies if the market is lucrative. So I agree with Peter Thiel, that new start businesses need to consider an order of magnitude value step change over existing solutions, to succeed, which is the zero to one transformation. "Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as in the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange." Zero to One suggests a very different method from the lean-agile approach proposed by Steve Blank and Eric Ries in The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Lean Startup respectively. They suggest that Customer Discovery, Validation, Creation and Building are the cornerstones of the startup approach. I believe we need to start with a vision of what a successful business would look like, and we need to see that it will be significantly different (10x) from existing competitive solutions. How do we get there? By understanding and executing a market entry path that is iteratively to build, test & learn. I would also question Thiel’s suggestion that only technology enables that step change. In the cited case of Facebook, there were multiple solutions offering social media platforms and it appears the leadership and marketing of Facebook, were more the decisive factors. We could even argue that Facebook is an example of the Eric Ries approach. The example of Paypal and Thiel’s insights into the economy and the investment community around the DotCom boom and bust were very interesting. The investor expectations are a constant challenge as I’ve heard from one investor that he wouldn’t get out of bed if a company wasn’t turning over €40million in 3 years and another saying if you showed me figures like that I’d think I was working with idiots with their heads in the clouds. After the main point of vertical innovation is made, the book rambles and while the discussion points are interesting you often wonder what this has that to do with the main premise of the book. The book does feel a little unstructured and elements seem to be included as they were part of a lecture series rather than an integral part of a framework for achieving that 0 to 1 impact. I would recommend reading this book as it may encourage and inspire you to consider where you want to go with the company and its core solutions. It does, however, need to be tempered with the knowledge that other approaches exist and Peter Thiel may be wrong, at least in parts.
37 people found this helpful
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RichYPE
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
meh
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2018
this book is ok, but like many others I was disappointed that it didn''t live up to all the hype. The author writes quite arrogantly at times, you get the impression he thinks he is an expert in many fields other than business (e.g. philosophy). The book is written mostly...See more
this book is ok, but like many others I was disappointed that it didn''t live up to all the hype. The author writes quite arrogantly at times, you get the impression he thinks he is an expert in many fields other than business (e.g. philosophy). The book is written mostly for a US audience, and as such, it may be less helpful for those of us who don''t live in the USA. That said, there are some interesting concepts and overall it is worth a read.
31 people found this helpful
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Gnana Shekhar Reddy
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Including success stories of Mark and Musk...
Reviewed in India on May 15, 2018
Delivery: On promised day which is 2 days from ordered date. Packaging was good. Book came with air tight seal. Bookmark came with the book. Book: Feels original, not a digital copy. But paper quality makes it doubtful. Content: Author express the huge requirement of new...See more
Delivery: On promised day which is 2 days from ordered date. Packaging was good. Book came with air tight seal. Bookmark came with the book. Book: Feels original, not a digital copy. But paper quality makes it doubtful. Content: Author express the huge requirement of new ideas and uniqueness. Including success stories of Mark and Musk makes it interesting and inspirational to read.
73 people found this helpful
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Chola Impressions
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A new perspective on starting a business & measuring monopoly. A decent read for entrepreneurs
Reviewed in India on November 24, 2016
The book gives a completely new perspective on how businesses should be run or rather on what basis one should even start a company. Discusses mostly about monopoly - and a definition for it. I have come across this measure of monopoly for the first time. The author...See more
The book gives a completely new perspective on how businesses should be run or rather on what basis one should even start a company. Discusses mostly about monopoly - and a definition for it. I have come across this measure of monopoly for the first time. The author emphasizes the importance of salesmen. Says the real selling is when customers are not even aware that the selling is happening. And goes on to sell his product, his current investment to the readers - not sure how many realised this. At the end, there was too much focus on trivial and uninteresting things like how founders are eccentric - may be he wants to show the audience that how cool he is. No credit was given to Sean Parker who introduced Zuckerberg to Thiel - the first major outside investment in Facebook. Instead Parker was portrayed as a villain who didn''t know what he was doing. It ends with a philosophy called Singularity where there is infinite hope for the future. And according to the author, technology is the only thing that is capable of achieving it - with so many helping move the current scenario from 0 to 1. Other factors like psychology, spirituality, and other unknown realms are completely discounted by the author
111 people found this helpful
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Sam
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Was teetering on between 4 and 5 stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2018
In the beginning the author did sound too sure of himself which put me off...but upon giving the book a second try, I realised that he is actually very well credentialed to write the book mainly due to his real life practical experience founding/being part of world changing...See more
In the beginning the author did sound too sure of himself which put me off...but upon giving the book a second try, I realised that he is actually very well credentialed to write the book mainly due to his real life practical experience founding/being part of world changing companies. Very glad that I stuck with the book, learned some amazing things about economics, and most importantly the author gave me PERSPECTIVE on the industry of business and economics as a whole which I am very thankful for. Would recommend at the least underlining and recapping between readings. Very versatile book to as it caters to not only those who are starting out trying to think of a business idea, but also to those who have a business and are trying to build teams as well as anyone in business who wants to grow. I have a degree, though with this book I learnt some amazing solid principles about economics and how the world works. What prompted me to give with 5 stars in stead of 4 is that for the majority, the author gave substantial evidence (often real life) to back up his theories and thus I really can''t dismiss the book.
14 people found this helpful
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Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale

Zero to One: Notes on wholesale Startups, or wholesale How to Build the Future sale