My Favorite Quotes from Peter Thiel's Zero To One


I had already read Blake Masters' notes for Peter Thiel's now famous CS183 class when I pre-ordered Zero to One. In fact, these were the very reason why I wanted to read the book.

I would highly recommend that anyone interested in business, tech and startups, to read both Masters' notes (available for free online) and this gem of a book. Both reads contain powerful business principles and interesting stories.

In the spirit of Masters' note-taking efforts and Thiel's openness to such notes, I have compiled a few notes of my own from Zero to One: Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"The act of creation is singular."

"Today's 'best pratices' lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried."

"Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius."

"In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable."

"If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth."

"So we (PayPal) decided to pay people to sign up."

"Under perfect competition, in the long run no company makes an economic profit." 

"Monopolists lie to protect themselves."

"Monopoly is the condition of every successful business."

"Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past."

"If you're less sensitive to social cues, you're less likely to do the same things as everyone else around you."

"For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure, but many entrepreneurs focus only on short-term growth."

"This is why successful network businesses rarely get started by MBA-types: the initial markets are so small they often don't even appear to be business opportunities at all."

"Beginning with brand rather than substance is dangerous."

"...disruption has recently transmogrified into a self-congratulatory buzzword for anything trendy and new."

"As you craft a plan to expand to adjacent markets, don't disrupt: Avoid competition as much as possible."

"Moving first is a tactic, not a goal."

"It's much better to be a last mover."

"Dominate a small niche and scale up from there, toward your ambitious long-term vision."

"Statistics doesn't work when the sample size is one."

"Instead of pursuing many-sided mediocrity and calling it 'well-roundedness,' a definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it."

"Every other country is afraid that China is going to take over the world; China is the only country afraid that it won't."

"The strange history of the Baby Boom produced a generation of indefinite optimists so used to effortless progress that they feel entitled to it."

"Arguing over process has become a way to endlessly defer making concrete plans for a better future."

"Darwinism may be a fine theory in other contexts, but in startups, intelligent design works best."

"You are not a lottery ticket."

"The biggest secret in venture capital is that the best investment in a successful fund equals or outperforms the entire rest of the fund combined."

"Venture-backed companies create 11% of all private sector jobs."

"An entrepreneur cannot 'diversify' herself."

"You should focus relentlessly on something you're good at doing but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future."

"If anything, too many people are starting their own companies today."

"Contrarian thinking doesn't make any sense unless the world has secrets left to give up."

"If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well become a barista and feign an allergy to achievement."

"All fundamentalists think this way, not just terrorists and hipsters."

"Parents don't expect their kids to become explorers any more than they expect them to become pirates or sultans."

"The best place to look for secrets is straightforward: where no one else is looking."

"A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator."

"Now, when I consider investing in a startup, I study the founding team."

"It's very hard to go from 0 to 1 without a team."

"A board of three is ideal."

"A company does better the less it pays the CEO."

"Anyone who prefers owning part of your company to being paid in cash reveals a preference for the long term and a commitment to increasing your company's value in the future."

"No company has a culture; every company is a culture."

"Recruiting is a core competency for any company. It should never be outsourced."

"We needed every new hire to be equally obsessed."

"But advertising matters because it works."

"Good enterprise sales strategy starts small."

"Selling your company to the media is a necessary part of selling it to everyone else."

"Look around. If you don't see any salespeople, you're the salesperson."

"Strong AI is like a cosmic lottery ticket: if we win, we get utopia; if we lose, Skynet substitutes us out of existence."

"Never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit."

"Instead of a healthier planet, we got a massive cleantech bubble."

"Doing something different is what's truly good for society... The best projects are likely to be overlooked, not trumpeted by a crowd."

"Almost all successful entrepreneurs are simultaneously insiders and outsiders."

"But no matter how many trends can be traced, the future won't happen on its own."

"The essential first step is to think for yourself."

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