Zero to One

Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future

Author: Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
Genre: nonfiction; business, startups, investing
Rating: 3/5

In one sentence: very useful if you’re somehow involved in a (tech) startup, not so much for anyone else.

As a founder of Paypal, first investor in Facebook and early venture backer of several multi-billion dollar businesses such as Palantir and LinkedIn, Peter Thiel knows a thing or two about (tech) startups. The good news? Thiel shares what he’s learned over the years in this book.

Thought-provoking questions, practical guidelines, simple rules of thumb and musings on the most valuable businesses of the coming decades; it’s all in here. Whether you’re a startup founder, employee or investor, this book will certainly sharpen your thinking and improve your plans for the future.

The bad news? It could have been better by sticking more to the matter at hand (how to build great companies) and less off the cuff remarks on hipsters, politics, society, religion and other such topics. Regardless of whether Thiel’s opinions matter on those topics, they detract from the core purpose of this book.

They would be better suited in a separate title, while this one could then have been sprinkled with more anecdotes from his own life and business experience, which undoubtedly is unique and colorful. Nevertheless, the challenging questions and unique insights Thiel poses make this book invaluable to any entrepreneur or startup employee.

“If you focus on near-term growth above all else, you miss the most important question you should be asking: will this business still be around a decade from now? Numbers alone won’t tell you the answer; instead you must think critically about the qualitative characteristics of your business.”

It’s not easy to pick one representative quote from this book, as there’s a great variety of thought-provoking passages in there. But, while perhaps obvious in hindsight, the most important take-away from this book for me in building our company, was a reminder to think and plan much further ahead. Not months, but years and even decades, and this book shows you the way.

> Zero to One

Goes well with Good Strategy / Bad Strategy. Thiel poses the questions that gets your thinking going, Richard Rumelt then provides a more detailed framework on how to think through and work out your strategy.

Sign up for the monthly Just Finished email (click here).
One simple email delivered to your inbox; each last weekend of the month, one great book and one amazing article recommendation.