Tag Archives: Stanford

Going from Zero to One

Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combinator, offered an awesome class in the Fall at Stanford on “How to Start a Startup.” The book “Zero to One” was recommended during one of the early lectures. For class #5, Peter Thiel, the author of “Zero to One,” was a guest lecturer. I had put the book on my list to read, and even though the homework for his lecture included the first three book chapters, I opted to wait until I could read the entire book. Since I made the choice to wait, I wasn’t sure I would actually like reading the book, based on the video. I was wrong.

The first point to know is that although it makes sense, if you do watch the video, the presentation has been condensed compared to the information in the book.

The second point to know is that Thiel offers many opposing views compared to what we are used to in the mainstream. He presents all of it well (book and video). In fact, even if you disagree with what he says, how he explains his points are clear and include evidence that is more than just his opinion. For these reasons, I highly recommend reading “Zero to One.”

Zero to One

Some other points:

  • Horizontal progress=globalization – taking things that work somewhere and making them work everywhere (p7)
  • Vertical (0 to 1) progress=technology – any new and better way of doing things (p7)
  • A Startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. (p10)
  • Why monopolies are important – see video above
  • You can expect the future to take a definite form or you can treat it as hazily uncertain. (p61) Shape vs randomness.

This one is longer (and more important) than a bullet point (p90): “The power law is not just important to investors; rather, it’s important to everybody because everybody is an investor. An entrepreneur makes a major investment just by spending her time working on a startup.” Also: “But Life is not a portfolio: not for a startup founder, and not for any individual. An entrepreneur cannot “diversify” herself.”

I took over three pages of notes, which is quite a bit and the content is barely included here. The last part I am going to write about before encouraging you to read the entire book are the 7 questions Thiel states that every business must answer (p153-154):

  1. The engineering question: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  2. The timing question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
  3. The monopoly question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. The people question: Do you have the right team?
  5. The distribution question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  6. The durability question: Will your market position be defensible 10 & 20 years into the future?
  7. The secret question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Thiel states the bottom line as being able to see the world new and fresh as if for the first time and creating the change which will make the future different and better.

Thanks for reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)


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