Books about startups are inherently books about innovation, and creating something totally new is the ethos of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. The title is the first clue, with an emphasis on going from nothing to something. That’s the kind of innovation he’s talking about, not the incremental improvements of going from n to n+1. Creating a new and better way of doing things — creating a new technology — is the way forward that Thiel is trying to inspire.
Unlike other startup books, he takes a very macro view of things, offering the book as an exploration of the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things. As Thiel explains, the book is “not a manual or record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking.” As such, it’s a great read for anyone who likes to think about innovation, even if you’re not planning to startup a new company.
The book is indeed an exercise in thinking. Many counter-intuitive ideas are presented and explored – explaining why monopolies are good (and the only way to make forward progress at the level he is talking about), challenging the ideology of competition, and discounting fears of too much technology with a clear view of complimentary paths of evolution for humans and computers. The result is a sort of framework for examining the world and thinking about how to change it. The framework is useful, whether or not you agree with it.
Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal, an enormously successful company of the early Internet whose team members went on to arguably unprecedented success in launching yet more wildly successful companies like Yelp, YouTube, Yammer, SpaceX, and Tesla. As such, it’s fascinating that he includes his perspective on the business climate of the 90s and the elements that he thinks are crucial for building a great and long-lasting company.
From a variety of angles, this is a great read. It’s a book that will make you think and ponder. What more can you ask for? I recommend you read it now.