My notes from Zero to One, by Peter Thiel


  • First principal thinking
  • some things that most people beleive but is wrong. e.g.: most people beleive x, but the opposite of x - y - is true.
  • a new company's most valuable and important strength is new thinking
  • if you can identify a popular delusional beleif, you can identify the contrarian truth behind it.
  • don't describe your market too narrowly so you own / dominate it by definition
  • rivalry causes us to over emphisise old opportunities and slavishly copy what used to work in the past.
  • spot trends early and ride the wave.
  • generally avoid competition, but if you have to compete / fight, you should fight and win decisively
  • Question: will the business still be around 10 years from now? 20 years?
  • high future cash flow businesses are very valuable
  • 4 keys: 1. propriety technology, 2. exponential growth from a network effect, 3. economies of scale, 4. branding and marketing
  • your tech must be at least 10x better than the existing market
  • start small in a small niche and monopolise it, then expand out
  • look for opportunities by digging deeper than anyone else has into a specific subject or field
  • look for subsidies and legaslative penalties that create market conditions and opportunities.
  • attack a really narrow niche in a massive market
  • if you think your initial market might be big, it almost certainly is.
  • the perfect starting target is a market that is a small group of particular people concentrated together in one place and served by few to no competitors.
  • disruption is over rated. when you craft a plan to expand, don't disrupt. avoid attention of big companies and competition generally, as much as possible.
  • Emerson quote: shallow men beleive in luck, in circumstance. Strong men beleive in cause and effect.
  • re-read final paragraph of page 69 and 81.
  • iteration without a bold plan won't take you from zero to one.
  • you should focus on something you're good at, but before doing so, think long and hard: will it be valuable in the future?
  • think long and hard before starting your own venture, most of them fail after all. Instead, consider opportunities of equity stakes in small and growing start-ups.
  • if you do start your own company, remember the "power law" and operate it well.
  • you must beleive in secrets in order to be able to find them
  • every great company is built on a secret that's hidden on the outside.
  • a startup that's messed up at it's foundation is cannot be fixed.
  • founders should share a pre-history together otherwise they are just rolling the dice.
  • small boards of directors are more effective at making decisions
  • keep peoples interests aligned. for example, equity stakes. - but this goes much deeper that just equity.
  • if you can't count durable relationships among the fruits of your work, you haven't invested your time well.
  • why would somebody join your company as the 20th enginineer, when they could join google for more money and prestige
  • you'll attract employees you need if you can explain why your mission is compelling (not important in general)
  • you should be able to explain why your company is a match them, personally.
  • startups should make thier early staff as personally similar as possible
  • on the inside, every individual should be sharply distinguished by her work / role.
  • if you've invented something new but haven't invented a way to sell it, you've got a bad business.
  • if you can get just one sales channel to work, you have a viable business. if you try multiple, they will all flop.
  • the most successful businesses of the coming decade will be those that seek to empower people, not replace them.
  • The 7 questions every business must answer:

    1. can you create a 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 not just to create, but also to 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?

  • plan to be the last mover: ask yourself what will the world look like in 10 to 20 years? and how will your business fit into it?
  • the best projects are likely to be overlooked by the crowd, not trumpetted. the best problems to solve are often those nobody else is working on.
  • consider CLV and CAC when deciding on a sales strategy.