Lessons From Zero to One

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If experience is the best teacher, then Peter Thiel is one of its foremost students in IT innovation and inside startup gists.This is someone who has worked with the very best in the internet startup: founders of YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp and the futuristic serial entrepreneur Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors). Reading Zero to One is easily the cheapest way to draw from the fountain of knowledge of these extraordinary gentlemen. Largely impeccable and practical, the book’s content is enlivened by anecdotes of the author’s business journey, sprinkled with leading philosophic, economic and tech ideas. The book says it all about entrepreneurship, startups and globalization in ways several others cannot even begin to attempt. Let’s take a quick look at four of the most important lessons Thiel teaches his readers in this masterpiece.

1. What it means to move from Zero to One.
Speaking as much to students in his Computer 183 class at Stanford as to all his readers, Peter Thiel explain what he means by moving from 0 to 1in terms of technological development instead of mere globalization. What drives human process and defines the future isn’t globalization but technological growth. In case you’re murmuring, this is another tech romanticism, far from it. What is called technology here is originality of idea. The ability to create a thing that is precursor to nothing else. That is true technology. And that is what we need people to focus on building instead of duplicating existing companies and ideas.

2. The Myth About Competition.
In a normal capitalist society we do imagine that competitive advantage is a thing in the market. At least, that’s what our teachers taught us and that’s what our professors wrote in their textbooks. But here, Thiel is challenging this idea. His argument is that since capitalism is worked towards making more profit, and competition conversely cut profits, it is wrong to assume that competitive market is in agreement with the goal of an ideal capitalist. Giant corporations, he claims, prove this to be true, as they represent establishments that have risen above competition and moving towards monopoly which is the ultimate dream of all entrepreneurs.

3. On Secrets.
Keeping shhhhh!!! is not only the new cool according to Thiel’s book, it is also the way to wealth. He maintains that behind every successful business lies a corporate secret. And like conspirators, business founders are to keep mute about their holy gail for as long as possible. This also serves as a stern warning to potential startup entrepreneurs: IF YOU HAVEN’T DISCOVERED A SECRET TO BUILD YOUR BUSINESS AROUND DON’T BOTHER. This may sound counterintuitive but the writer was quick to inform his readers that there’s little to no market demand for a commodity or service that is already in mainstream knowledge. What sells is a solution to a problem people don’t even know they have, or the one they think can’t be solved. In this regard you may want to think Google. Or finding a cure to death!

4. On Association.

People are difficult. They can be such a pain in the hat. But to make your startup see the light of the day you need to learn to associate with the right set of people. You can’t afford to be an island. And that’s not going to be pretty, especially if you’re a me-alone person. The only coonsolation the author gives is in finding people that will be worth it. Those that share the same ideology and resonates on the same frequency with you. Call them your business spouses. Thiel’s PayPal colleagues are a notorious example of right association. Although individually eccentric and weird, to say the least, together they form a formidable team raking 1.5 billion dollar when eBay finally bought PayPal in 2002. They’ve all individually since established startups worth than more a billion dollar each! Isn’t that the perfect billionnaire club?

Have you read this book? Do you have a book to recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

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