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Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

Peter Thiel is one of the co-founders of PayPal and this book is being listed as an international bestseller for quite some and hence I was intrigued to pick this book. But I have a very mixed feeling towards this book. A lot of my subdued experience is due to the fact it is a business book and hence there are a lot of economic and business terms being used throughout which some of the times went our my head.

However, if you are someone who is well aware of economic and business terminologies or looking to create your own start-up, it might be a good book for you. I believe this book is not written from the perspective of beginners, the idea is that you will pick this book up only if you are looking to start a start-up and you are already aware of these jargons.

Also to notice that this book is focused more on technological start-ups, it’s not a guide for setting up any business and going big. The author somehow feels that going 0 to 1 in other creative business is difficult and somehow there isn’t that much scope.

Key takeaways from the book:

  • The progress can take two forms:
    • Horizontal: copying things that are already there. e.g: globalization
    • Vertical: doing new things
  • In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable
  • If you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business
  • One needs to solve a unique problem to become a monopoly
  • Monopoly is a sign of successful business
  • Recognize competition as a destructive force instead of a sign of value
  • A great business is identified by its ability to generate cash flow in future
  • Characteristic of a monopoly:
    • Proprietary product
    • Network
    • Economic of scale
    • Branding
  • How to build a monopoly
    • Start small and monopolize
    • Scale-up
    • Don’t disrupt
  • Don’t go for indefinite optimism, try to design the future of your company
  • The world is governed by power-law and hence one must think hard about our actions where one will fall on the curve.
  • Explore the uncharted frontiers, something hard but doable, something important but unknown. Believe in secrets
  • Build your foundation right:
    • Choose co-founder wisely
    • Keep board of members small
    • Involve people only full time
    • CEO should get only a modest salary
    • Give your employees shares for vested interest
  • Building team:
    • Hire people who are willing to work together
    • Hire people who join you for your mission rather than perks
    • Everyone should be uniquely evaluated and assigned responsibilities
  • Build a plan to not only create but deliver your product too. Invest in sales and marketing
  • Consider technology, not a substitution but a complementary force
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