Zero to One Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future

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I love to read books written by independent thinkers who are not afraid to pen down their controversial thoughts. In this regard, Peter Thiel is definitely an outlier.  The book is about what advice he would have given to his younger self if he could travel back in time when he was graduating high school or college. This book offers more than just entrepreneurial insights. It has some general but useful advises, like, listen to the people who tell you what they wish they knew when they were your age. One can avoid a lot of mistakes. Thiel’s primary point in this book 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.

Zero to One is worth reading, even if you’re not engaged in the world of start-ups and venture capital. It’s full of unique, practical insights, and discusses success in terms of human nature and culture. If you want to understand the thinking that goes behind changing the world and learn the methods and dos and don'ts that make that change possible, then I would suggest reading this book several times.

This book did two useful things to me: showed a more abstract way to think about business - like learning Linear Algebra via traditional approaches vs. learning it as the math of linear operators AND made it easier to understand many business concepts/ insights. It embeds a lot of current business thinking in a historical and perhaps philosophical context, showing larger-scale trends and hidden incentive structures that explain what we see. My rating for this book is 5/5

Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

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 went on to co-found Judicata, a legal research technology startup.

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