Zero To One

17 Feb 2015

Category: book

Tags: book, good, nonfiction, business

Everyone in Silicon Valley has been talking about Peter Thiel's book Zero To One, so I had to add it to my list. I just finished it and I think it was quite good. It was overhyped in my opinion, maybe that is just a product of who I have been talking to, or maybe it just isn't the holy grail. Nonetheless, I recommend reading it to anyone, especially if you are interested in starting a company or interested in how technology companies rise and fall.

I have a lot of thoughts about the book, most of them are hard to put precisely into words because I did not take notes while reading. One aspect that bothered me was the presumption that economic theory consists of two models for firms in the market: perfect competion and monopoly. As someone who spent four years getting a PhD where I studied exactly the area between these two, I may be biased, but the common misunderstanding about what goes on between these extremes and why is more pervasive than I thought. I just assumed that people who spend time thinking about this stuff would realize the very important world in this middle region, but alas that does not seem to be true.

There is also an implicit assumption that colors the narrative. This assumption is that building a billion dollar company is what you should want to do. Additionally, there is this underlying current of loathing for those who don't have that as their life's ambition. I felt like part of the book was overly preachy to the segment of society that sees themselves as the solution to all the world's problems. Maybe that is why there is so much buzz in the valley over this book, because it really strokes the ego of most of the people here.

However, the majority of the book is focused a bit more tactically on how to build a company, and what questions one needs to ask themselves to decide if their idea/company will be successful or not. This was very well articulated and definitely contained some ideas that I had never thought of explicitly before. I don't really want to get into the blow by blow account of what I thought was interesting or not, so I will just leave it at that.

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