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Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future Hardcover – September 16, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,438 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Crisply written, rational and practical, Zero to One should be read not just by aspiring entrepreneurs but by anyone seeking a thoughtful alternative to the current pervasive gloom about the prospects for the world.”
The Economist

"An extended polemic against stagnation, convention, and uninspired thinking. What Thiel is after is the revitalization of imagination and invention writ large…"
– The New Republic

"Might be the best business book I've read...Barely 200 pages long and well lit by clear prose and pithy aphorisms, Thiel has written a perfectly tweetable treatise and a relentlessly thought-provoking handbook." 
– Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.” 
-  Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
“Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.” 
-  Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

" Zero to One is the first book any working or aspiring entrepreneur must read—period."
- Marc Andreessen, co-creator of the world's first web browser, co-founder of Netscape, and venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz

"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, GE

“When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. Or, to be safe, three times. This is a classic.”
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan

“Thiel has drawn upon his wide-ranging and idiosyncratic readings in philosophy, history, economics, anthropology, and culture to become perhaps America’s leading public intellectual today”
-  Fortune

"Peter Thiel, in addition to being an accomplished entrepreneur and investor, is also one of the leading public intellectuals of our time. Read this book to get your first glimpse of how and why that is true."
- Tyler Cowen, New York Times best-selling author of Average is Over and Professor of Economics at George Mason University

"The first and last business book anyone needs to read; a one in a world of zeroes."
- Neal Stephenson, New York Times best-selling author of Snow Crash, the Baroque Cycle, and Cryptonomicon

"Forceful and pungent in its treatment of conventional orthodoxies—a solid starting point for readers thinking about building a business." 
- Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002, defining a new era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004 he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he serves as a director. The same year he launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. He has provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of successful technology 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 like SpaceX and Airbnb. He started the Thiel Fellowship, which ignited a national debate by encouraging young people to put learning before schooling, and he leads the Thiel Foundation, which works to advance technological progress and long- term thinking about the future.

Blake Masters was a student at Stanford Law School in 2012 when his detailed notes on Peter’s class “Computer Science 183: Startup” became an internet sensation. He went on to co-found Judicata, a legal research technology startup.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (September 16, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804139296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804139298
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,438 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Zero to One is a refreshing intellectual deep dive into the motives behind entrepreneurship.
It’s full of unique, practical insights, and discusses success in terms of human nature and culture. Along with business strategy, Thiel outlines how successful innovation shapes society and shares an intriguing vision.

Bottom line: This book was worth my time and refined several core beliefs. It made me ask hard questions which, as an entrepreneur, I believe are critical if you want to be honest and prepared.

I like the organized format which reads well linearly, but also allows you to read chapters in the order they interest you most, making key takeaways accessible to review and share.

It’s short enough to finish in a week, and deep enough to cover the entire lifecycle of a company.

Here are the seven questions Thiel writes “Every business must answer:"

1. Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?

2. Is now the right time to start your particular business?

3. Are you starting with a big share of a small market?

4. Do you have the right team?

5. Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?

6. Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?

7. Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

These are from the “seeing green” chapter on profitability, and form a basis for much of the content.

Rather than offer scripts or formulas, Thiel discusses the logic of starting a company that will make a truly meaningful and unique impact on the world.
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Format: Hardcover
A better title for this book would have been "Six ideas Peter Thiel wants to put out there" but that admittedly sounds less catchy than "Zero to One"

Two of the ideas are HUGE and the rest are filler. The first infuriated me and the second inspired me. The remaining four ideas were not exactly news to me because I once founded and ran a startup. There's also a couple rants, one against biotechnology and one against green tech, which to my ears sounded tribal.

After the ideas and the rants comes some rather embarrassing stuff that probably should not have made it into print. For example "we never invest in entrepreneurs who turn up for the interview in a suit" or "four of the founders of PayPal had built bombs as children." Memo to Peter Thiel: you are successful despite your prejudice against people who don't share your sartorial taste, and your partners made it to adulthood despite having been poorly supervised as children.

Idea number one is that "Monopolies are Good"

Not just for the monopolist (that would hardly have been a contribution) but also for everybody else. The general idea is that competition hurts profits and the lack of profits leads firms to an existential battle which does not allow them the scope to innovate. Monopolies are good because they have the power and scope to bring innovation to everybody. So Bill Gates brought the computer to every home. He was not beaten by a better provider of software, he was superseded by a shift in technology toward powerful mobile devices, tablets and the cloud, all of which, in turn, were motivated by other entrepreneurs' desire to obtain monopoly profits.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had high hopes, but this book was just ok. I don’t understand the overwhelming number of 5 star reviews, other than people being swayed by the fact Thiel has crushed it on a few of his investments and is a well known name. I was really hoping for some brilliant insights here.

Instead, the book is basically a series of rambling, disjointed essays that spell out Thiel’s philosophies on the world, none of which are particularly earth shattering. One chapter he’s talking about the characteristics of a good startup founder, the next it’s visions for the future of humanity. Nothing is really backed up with any data-driven evidence, though he does bring in real-world examples to support many of his theories, which is nice. The rambling/meandering nature of the book’s sections in and of itself is forgivable - he’s an entrepreneur/investor, not a writer, after all - what bothered me more was that the majority of his points seemed to be conventional wisdom and not provide anything really new to the world.

That said, there were a few nuggets I got out of this book that were interesting, and some of the PayPal anecdotes were entertaining. But for the most part it’s a bunch of non sequiturs that flows like Thiel’s stream of consciousness.

Overall there seemed to be a few main points that can be summed up quickly:

-Common belief that monopolies are bad is wrong. Monopolies are actually good, because they create innovation. Competitive markets are bad because they destroy profits.

-Betting on a big and growing market isn’t enough (cleantech), you need to have some ‘secret sauce’ of some kind in order to be a great company (tesla).

-Entrepreneurs should think big, not incrementally.

-Not everything worth doing has already been done.
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