Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel


Zero to One is an important handbook to relentless improvement for big companies and beginning entrepreneurs alike. Read it, accept Peter’s challenge, and build a business beyond expectations.” — Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric 

Success comes from innovation and ingenuity

If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets… The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how you can find singular ways to create those new things. Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique. Thiel’s message is that in order to create something truly innovative, it’s necessary to conceive an idea from nothing rather than copy something else. 

Peter Thiel: a tech tian

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded PayPal, led it as CEO, and took it public; he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he served as a director; and he co-founded Palantir Technologies, where he serves as chairman. He has provided early funding for Linkedln, Yelp, and dozens of startups, many run by former colleagues who have been dubbed the “PayPal Mafia.” He is a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has funded companies including SpaceX and Airbnb. He started the Thiel Fellowship, which funds young entrepreneurs, and he leads the Thiel Foundation, which works to advance technological progress and long-term thinking. Simply put, he’s a titan among titans in the tech and innovation industry and was a keynote panelist at the 2018 edition of the SEI Torino Forum. 

Top takeaways

  • Zero to One suggests a very different method from the lean-agile approach proposed by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup (one of our previous recommendations);
  • Benefit from Thiel’s gargantuan experience and knowledge in the tech and innovation industries; 
  • Be inspired as to where you want to go with a company and its core solutions.

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