“Our contrarian question—What important truth do very few people agree with you on?—is difficult to answer directly. It may be easier to start with a preliminary: what does everyone agree on? ‘Madness is rare in individuals—but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule,’ Nietzsche wrote (before he went mad). If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth.“
On the surface, Zero to One is a book of advice for people starting companies. It’s relevant to people outside of Silicon Valley because of Peter Thiel’s grasp on the societal trends that hold back innovation and what needs to change in order to facilitate new and better businesses in America.
Peter Thiel is a venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal in 1998 after graduating from Stanford Law and realizing that work at a big law firm wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. After selling PayPal to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion, Thiel co-founded the data analysis company Planatir and was the first investor in Facebook, among other reputable companies. His opinions are challenging precisely because they are ambitious and expect more from the world than to just humming along with the status quo.
The book contains many ideas that are way too perceptive for me to come up with on my own. Among them are that there are two kinds of progress: doing new things vs. copying things that work (think innovation vs. globalization); that the dot com bubble was a moment of unbridled excitement about the future and its implosion has made companies and investors more cautious ever since; competition is the opposite of capitalism (how are you going to make money if you’re so busy competing?); that being optimistic without a definite plan is lunacy—that a better future doesn’t come without great planning and exertion, and much more. The book is a quick read, the tone is lively and the chapters are full of interesting examples that illuminate fresh ideas.
Peter Thiel’s Vox interview with Ezra Klein: “I think “big data” is one of these buzzwords that when you hear it, you should almost always think “fraud,” because the problem is actually to find meaning within data. It’s to make big data small. That’s actually the core challenge. It’s not to collect more and more data.”
What the professionals had to say: New York Times Interview and Review of Zero To One.
Peter Thiel’s podcast interview with James Altucher.
Speech given at Stanford like the ones that inspired him to write the book in the first place.
Buy on Amazon: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future Continue reading