Peter Thiel has a new book coming in September called “Zero to One.” The subtitle for the book is “Notes On Startups, or How To Build The Future.”
Thiel is a billionaire who made his fortune on PayPal. He then invested in Facebook, co-founded Palantir, which is now valued at $US9 billion, leads a hedge fund, and is a managing partner at Venture Capital firm Founders Fund. He also gave 20 teenagers $100,000 to drop out of college to work on startups. If you’ve watched HBO’s Silicon Valley, he is a partial inspiration for the VC character on the show.
In a web page promoting his new book, he explains the title by saying, “Every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.”
He tells people not to copy other ideas. “The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”
The book’s website also advocates finding monopolies, “If you do what has never been done and you can do it better than anybody else, you have a monopoly — and every business is successful exactly insofar as it is monopolistic. But the more you compete, the more you become similar to everyone else. From the tournament of formal schooling to the corporate obsession with outdoing rivals, competition destroys profits for individuals, companies, and society as a whole.”
Sounds like an interesting read.
One thing we would note…
Bill Gates copied Apple’s operating system, but made it more accessible for more people. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. It was the best social network. And Google wasn’t the first search engine, it was a better search engine. Similarly, Android came out after the iPhone showed how to do a smartphone.
The idea of pursuing a monopoly on an original insight is laudable, but not necessarily right. There is money to be made by refining an existing idea. First mover advantages exist, but they’re not insurmountable, especially on the web.
But, we haven’t read the book. And Thiel is the billionaire, not us, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
The blurb at the end of the page says, “Zero to One is about how to build companies that create new things. It draws on everything Peter Thiel learned directly as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX. The single most powerful pattern he has noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.”
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