Zero to One: Spectroscope for the World of Business

In the last few days, I read the book Zero to One, which has been hot esp. in IT field since late 2014. The insightful ideas make it a spectroscope for the world of business, you can have a better vision of a company’s future with analytic patterns used by the author – Peter Thiel, at least on the very superficial level.

I regret to have read this book so late, if you are an IT practitioner, Z2O is strongly recommended.

Below are some of the digests I made, in the very beginning part nothing’s highlighted due to the unfamiliarity to my newly obtained Kindle PW3 🙂


Page 43

Many have tried to learn from Apple’s success: paid advertising, branded stores, luxurious materials, playful keynote speeches, high prices, and even minimalist design are all susceptible to imitation. But these techniques for polishing the surface don’t work without a strong underlying substance. Apple has a complex suite of proprietary technologies, both in hardware (like superior touchscreen materials) and software (like touchscreen interfaces purpose-designed for specific materials). It manufactures products at a scale large enough to dominate pricing for the materials it buys. And it enjoys strong network effects from its content ecosystem: thousands of developers write software for Apple devices because that’s where hundreds of millions of users are, and those users stay on the platform because it’s where the apps are. These other monopolistic advantages are less obvious than Apple’s sparkling brand, but they are the fundamentals that let the branding effectively reinforce Apple’s monopoly.
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Page 43

No technology company can be built on branding alone.
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Page 62

A business with a good definite plan will always be underrated in a world where people see the future as random.
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Page 70

And since nobody wants to give up on an investment, VCs usually spend even more time on the most problematic companies than they do on the most obviously successful.
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Page 85

Companies are like countries in this way. Bad decisions made early on—if you choose the wrong partners or hire the wrong people, for example—are very hard to correct after they are made. It may take a crisis on the order of bankruptcy before anybody will even try to correct them. As a founder, your first job is to get the first things right, because you cannot build a great company on a flawed foundation.
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Page 87

if men were angels, no government would be necessary.
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Page 90

Any kind of cash is more about the present than the future.
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Page 91

Sending out a company-wide email that lists everyone’s ownership stake would be like dropping a nuclear bomb on your office.
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Page 96

But there are two general kinds of good answers: answers about your mission and answers about your team. You’ll attract the employees you need if you can explain why your mission is compelling: not why it’s important in general, but why you’re doing something important that no one else is going to get done.
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Page 104

Our deal sizes range from $1 million to $100 million. At that price point, buyers want to talk to the CEO, not the VP of Sales.
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Page 111

VC Andy Kessler sounds almost gleeful when he explains that the best way to create productivity is “to get rid of people.”
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Page 117

Strong AI is like a cosmic lottery ticket: if we win, we get utopia; if we lose, Skynet substitutes us out of existence.
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Page 124

They would rhetorically shrink their market in order to seem differentiated, only to turn around and ask to be valued based on huge, supposedly lucrative markets.
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Page 125

The best sales is hidden. There’s nothing wrong with a CEO who can sell, but if he actually looks like a salesman, he’s probably bad at sales and worse at tech.
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Page 131

While generic cleantech companies struggled to differentiate themselves, Tesla built a unique brand around the secret that cleantech was even more of a social phenomenon than an environmental imperative.
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Page 146

Jobs’s return to Apple 12 years later shows how the most important task in business— the creation of new value—cannot be reduced to a formula and applied by professionals.
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Page 151

Whether we achieve the Singularity on a cosmic scale is perhaps less important than whether we seize the unique opportunities we have to do new things in our own working lives.
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Page 151

Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.