Book Notes: ‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel

Thesis: “Today’s ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.”

Two ways of progress:

– 1 to n / vertical / technology

– 0 to 1 / horizontal / globalization

Startup : “The largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future.”

Entrpreneurial Lessons (Thiel doesn’t necessarily agree):

1. Make incremental advances

2. Stay lean and flexible

3. Improve on competition

4. Focus on product, not sales

Thiel’s Suggestions

1. It is better to risk boldness than triviality.

2. A bad plan is better than no plan.

3. Competitive markets destroy profits.

4. Sales matters just as much as product.

War (competition) is a costly business.

– rivalry, enemies, etc. vs. monopoly (creating something new)

Characteristics of a monopoly:

– Proprietary Technology – “Once you’re 10x better, you escape competition.”

– Network Effects – must start small, like Facebook & Harvard’s campus

– Economies of Scale – spread the cost of a new thing

– Branding – eg. Apple

Building a monopoly

– Start small and Monopolize

 

4 ways of seeing the future

– Indefinite Optimist (diversifies, but expects things to be better)

– Indefinite Pessimist

– Definite Optimist (makes big, specific plans to make the world better)

– Definite Pessimist

“You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world. It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of Chance. You are not a lottery ticket.”

“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready—for nothing in particular.”

“You can’t find secrets without looking for them.”

“The best place to look for secrets is where no one else is looking.”

Recruiting Conspirators:

– don’t fight the perk war

– do one thing

Everybody sells – this is the most important thing

The 7 Questions:

– Engineering – are you breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?

– Timing – is now the right time to start your particular business?

– Monopoly – are you starting with a big share of the market?

– People – do you have the right team?

– Distribution – do you have a way to deliver your product?

– Durability – will your position be defensible in 10, 20 years?

– Secret – have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

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