Book Recommendation: Zero to One by Peter Thiel

I just finished Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

Peter Thiel is widely considered to be the don of the Paypal Mafia, a group of ex-PayPal founders and employees who have since founded their own multi-million and multi-billion technological companies.

Other popular members include:

  • Elon Musk (SpaceX and Tesla)
  • Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn)
  • David O. Sacks (Yammer)
  • Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim (Youtube)
  • Jeremy Stoppelman and Russell Simons (Yelp)

He talks about how modern technology and most businesses are stagnating as most people are taught and conditioned throughout their whole lives to just repeat conventional truths and do what other people already know. Using conventional wisdom to improve existing products incrementally is moving from 1 to n.

Innovation however is to create something completely new — the process of moving from 0 to 1. Startups need to realize that in order to survive in the market, they need to build a product that is significantly better than existing options (at least 10x better), and the easiest way to do that is to create something totally new.

Startups that can do this will be able to monopolize their market and escape from competition. He argues that monopolies drive innovation and allow businesses to last long while competition actually destroys profits.

How does one create something innovative? The key here is to look for secrets in life, secrets about the natural world or people that other people don’t realize. Finding a secret is hard, but once you find it, you can create something valuable that no one else is current doing.

The book is filled with great business advice, anecdotes from his PayPal days, philosophy, intellectual insights, his view on the world and his vision for the future of humanity.

I work in a startup and his insights really enlightened me. My only complaint is that it’s too short. Excellent book.

Rating: 9/10