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Zero to One by Peter Thiel is a must read for startup entrepreneurs everywhere. Author Peter Thiel was the co-founder of PayPal, the first outside investor in Facebook and is now the co-founder and chairman of Palantir Technologies.
The book looks at how companies can engineer radical changes and in doing so, move the human race forward. As far as investors and entrepreneurs go, Thiel is pretty inspirational.
Thiel wrote Zero to One with the help of Blake Masters, also a budding entrepreneur, Blake co-founded a legal research technology startup after graduating from Stanford and Stanford Law School. Zero to One is about how to build companies that create new things. Thiel begins by examining what the future holds and what the business scene used to look like, before the millennium.
Then Thiel looks at how all companies that are happy, are different before discussing the health of competition.
Download Zero to One : Peter Thiel, Blake Masters Pdf
Thiel discusses the role money plays in any venture before discussing industry secrets and how to build foundations. Finally, he examines company culture and how to build one before identifying the 7 key questions you need to ask before starting a business. Peter Thiel describes progress in future as happening in one of two ways. Either Horizontal progress — this is easier for us to perceive as essentially it means copying things that currently work — going from 1 to n.
Thiel compares horizontal progress to the concept of globalisation, taking a product, service or process that works, perhaps on a small scale, and making it work globally. But Vertical progress is more progressive, and not as easy for us to imagine. A vertical process, Thiel explains means doing original things, things that have never been done before.
It's this kind of progress that we hope for. Vertical progress means going from 0 to 1, Thiel explains that the way to do this is with technology. Thiel explains that the most common source of new technology are start-ups.
The reason that the start-ups are creating the new tech and not bigger, well-established organisations, Thiel explains, is because these organisations are bureaucratic, they move slowly, are afraid of risks and overall, it takes a long time to get anything done.
So if you want to be part of the future, get out of these organisations and get involved in a start-up. A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think. According to Thiel, a start-up has to continuously question received ideas and re-think business from scratch.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel | Book Summary by Paul Minors
And this is where the future is made. Thiel was running PayPal in He puts this fear down to the way that businesses were being started and ceasing to exist so regularly in Silicone Valley, he was afraid he would be headed down the same path. However, PayPal had a difference, their goal was to have PayPal replace the US dollar by becoming an internet currency.
This was big picture, change the future kind of stuff. Were people believed in going from 0 to 1.
Everyone aimed for it, but not many start-ups actually made it. Thiel believes that we need some of the naivety that the start-ups pre-crash had. In order to create new technology, we have to forget about the 4 post-crash rules and learn from the past. Both mistakes and successes.
Thiel compares monopolists and entrepreneurs. He says that the monopolists lie as a cover, they protect themselves from audits and scrutiny by keeping their monopoly under wraps, and as a result, often, giving more credit to their competition — who is likely non-existent. The entrepreneurs are the exact opposite. They preach that they are alone in their industry, they ignore their competition.
But this, Thiel points out, is a mistake. Thiel explains that monopolies have a powerful incentive to innovate, its the profits that they have built up over time that acts as a powerful driver. They can continue to innovate with research and projects that start-ups can only dream of. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition. However, Thiel points out that competition, more often than not. Whereas, if there is a monopoly, continuing to innovate, it means new technology and products brought to market benefiting the consumer and the creator.
More than anything else, competition is an ideology—the ideology—that pervades our society and distorts our thinking.
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We preach competition, internalize its necessity, and enact its commandments; and as a result, we trap ourselves within it—even though the more we compete, the less we gain. Thiel examines Microsoft and Google as an example of competition. Microsoft focused on building an OS while Google created a search engine. However, the reality is that as both gained momentum and size they started to notice each other and work to beat the other. However, by focusing purely on each other, Apple was able to swoop in and overcome both of them.
Competition did not do well for Google or Microsoft. Competition is not always healthy. However, this was a vast underestimate. For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure, but many entrepreneurs focus only on short-term growth. Thiel explains that by focusing primarily on near-term growth is not enough. You fail to consider what the business will be in a decade from now.
You need to think big picture. Thiel describes companies that bring in large cash flows in their future as sharing the following characteristics:.
The goal should be generating cash flow. The key is to find a niche market and scale up. Optimists welcome the future; pessimists fear it.
Peter Thiel Returns to Stanford to Share Business Tips from "Zero to One"
Thiel uses one of his organisations, Founders Fund, to illustrate this concept. Facebook, was their all-time best investment, with results better than all of their other investments combined. And Palantir, again, is expected to have similar results although second still, to Facebook. The concept that a single successful investment can outdo the combination of all other investments, Thiel explains, is venture capital. Thiel explains that technically, everyone is an investor, and therefore, the power law is relevant to everyone.
Any time spent working on a startup is technically an investment. Anybody who considers themselves an entrepreneur, someone investing their time, needs to consider if and when the startup will provide returns.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters PDF
Again, anyone who chooses a career is investing in the assumption, that the work performed will, in return, be valuable in the future. It might even be secret. But in a power law world, you can't afford not to think hard about where your actions will fall on the curve. According to Thiel, there are two different kinds of secrets in our world.
The first kind of secret is one of nature, and in order to uncover them, you must study the natural world and discover something new. The second kind of secret is about people. These are either things that are consciously hidden by people themselves, or something that even they do not know about themselves.
If you can uncover these secrets, you can find answers. Thiel considers the following things as absolutely essential when starting a business or a startup. As a founder, your first job is to get the first things right, because you cannot build a great company on a flawed foundation. Thiel talks about how everyone at PayPal in the early days was nerdy and shared a love for science fiction.
It became their culture.
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Regardless of age, race, gender, looks, as long as everyone loved science fiction, then they fit in just fine. Thiel encourages handling your staff as individuals and making them unique in their role and responsibilities. Therefore, if they are solely responsible for one task, then they can easily be assessed and evaluated.
This strategy worked for Thiel as a way of simplifying the management process. However, it can create unease as employees compete for the same responsibilities. Watch out for this particularly in startups, Thiel warns, as roles are a lot more fluid in the beginning.
Earlier in the book, Thiel discussed having one superior distribution plan. Regardless of how good your product is, it needs to be distributed effectively. In general, the higher the price of your product, the more you have to spend to make a sale—and the more it makes sense to spend it. Businesses of the future will use technology, not to remove the necessity for humans or eliminate jobs, but to empower people to be able to do more.
This is the business model of the future. As an example, Thiel discusses teachers. A good teacher knows that all students have individual needs, and often, they need their learning to be structured differently.
For a long time, teachers were only able to teach in one medium, but computers and technology are allowing them to adapt and cater to more needs. The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.
The Third Wave by Steve Case is an insightful look into the future of startups and entrepreneurs in our ever-evolving technological world. Good to Great by Jim Collins is another great read.
Collins examines what it takes to turn an average company into a great one. Freedoms is what we are all looking for and value is the way to achieve it.
The concept of having your own startup is the ultimate form of freedom according to Guillebeau.