Zero to One by Peter Thiel (Book Review)

Zero to One by Peter Thiel (Book Review)

Content :


The book as the title itself suggests is a complete guide mapping out the steps from the setting up of a start-up to buiding the start-up to a point where even the general public will take interest into assuming its success in the coming 5-10 years of time. It is easier to apprehend the success of an already settled institution but an institution which is yet to be build on the cemented pulpit and has to start from nothing in hand or zero success then the only thing that fuels that dream project is a sliver of hope and consistency  pouring through the deep blue sky of white and blank clouds, just waiting there to be painted upon with the various colors of success in between with darker shades of innovation and hardwork.

The book offers ideas and suggestions for readers looking forward to seafaring on the cruise of entrepreneurship which has to be coupled with the reader’s own essence of wisdom so as to fully be able to embrace the values’ input by the author himself. As one reads through the book he must understand where one is willing to take risk especially if the risk stands in case of an entrepreneur then the scales of profit or loss may stand at a 50-50 proportion but with every risk there comes a return.

The book is a well written overall analysis of the merits and demerits of the risks of entrepreneurship. It provokes the thought process of the readers with all the possible approaches that the reader might intake. To get the best of results the reader must remain open-minded and must be open to critical thinking when reading this book. 


The book consists of 13 chapters in total and if you are wondering if you should read this book or not then the first chapter of this book is a window to this entire book as it summarises all the 13 chapters. The first chapter deals with the drastic changes that take place in the roadmap of a successful start-up starting from present time to the future which is always unpredictable and difficult to determine. This chapter illustrates the two kinds of success paths i.e. a horizantal one and the other being a vertical one. The vertical progress is the one that is moves vertically on the scale of zero to one and the horizontal progress is the one that moves horizontally on the scale of one to n. The former progress sprouts from technology and is hard to predict but at the same time determines the future of a start-up.

The second chapter emphasizes on how conventional wisdom is persuasive as it tends to eliminate the delusional beliefs. It talks about the time when people used to leave their good earning jobs and threw money and invested a huge amout of capital into startups but later on ended up facing heavy losses as they continued to sustain those losses with the firm belief of overcoming such devastating faces and finally earning huge profits out of their start-ups.Earlier people focussed on improvising the products that already existed in a market instead of looking for innovation and creating new market for their new competitors. Earlier advertisement was seen only as a mode to increase sales and earning profits used to be the end goals of entrepreneurs only to the extent of being capable of sustaining their families and themselves.

Chapter three focuses on how company makes itself valuable by creating its goodwill and value proposition for itself. The level of competition varies from every company and industry. Some have monopolies and licenses to achieve uniqueness amongst their competitors and how they then leave their rivals in dust. When companies selling same product and there is same demand and supply then it is tough for sellers to make money as they have to keep economic rates to attract customers. Patents is one of the factor which allow monopolization and then allow people to make choices and give more incentives.

Chapter four focuses on the benefits of innovation in monopolies and how sellers can make profits out of such innovations and at the same time benefit the society as a whole. When there are conflicting ideas and goals, the proletariats tend to fight the bourgeoisie and workindifferentely from one another. Competition may limit the vision but increases the hostility and creates the potential among sellers to look upto grabbing any opportunities they can grab their hands at and make full utilisation of such lifetime opportunities. Sometimes it is better to opt for collaborations, mergers or partnerships rather than facing the challenges of entrepreneurship alone especially when a complete beginner. 

Chapter five gives an insight of thecompanies who have good values and ideas but don’t have enough money to invest to bring those ideas into the books of reality but it is these ideas only that fuel one’s drive to do something extraordinary. Startups have more potential to earn money out of monopolies as they are value-creating institutions. With moderate technology, they make marginal improvement but with better technology, they make monopolies. The companies that become big overtime and financially stronger are capable of creating internationally renowned brands.

Chapter six tells us that success is all about making fortune out of immense hardwok, determination and consistency.Success takes complimentary effort of both hard work and luck to work towards any substantive goal. Men may have big dreams and great projects in stock but such project ideas may also be driven by indefinite optimism where the men keep investing capital without buiding their business on long-term plans. Politics and government also play a major role in determining the present and future situation of the corporeal sector.

Chapter seven revolves around the tendency of businessmen that prevails in the market to dominate their rivals and increase productivity. There are high risk investments which can bring high rewards and eventually succeed splendidly. Additionally, it deals with diversification for successful companies and determines the potential of start-ups to pay off investments. There is an investment of emotions and resources to pursue career which would bringn in value in the future.

Chapter eight deals with questions that can be answered easily and at the same time create satisfaction in the mind of the readers. There are two kinds of secrets, one is the secret of nature and the other is the secret of the people. Former one deals with the secrest of the physical world whereas, the latter deals with the people who are harder to talk through and are very secretive just about anything.

Chapter nine focuses on the importance of a strong foundation as a base to start off something. Decisions should not be made impatiently and in a hussle as they may prove to be wrong decisions in the long-run and further cannot be reversed therefore evry decision should be made with utmost care and caution as the beginning provides a reflection of the end. Also it is important to have the right team members with whom you share a good rapo and with whom you can cooperate efficiently. As a team consisting of resourceful and value adding members enhances the creative value o strategies and has a better control over situations and challenges coming in way of start-ups. The concept of ownership, possession and control may all seem to very similar but are different things where if these fields are not dealt with properly can create chaos in terms of cooperation amongst the team members of the firm. However, a team where the members are quite understanding of one another can deal with such situations without causing the downfall of the team spirit. So an entrepreneur should be cautious when it comes to choosing the core members of the start-up. Entrepreneurs should avoid outsourcing of work services as a web of employees working under the same roof have better communication with one another and thereby can operate effectively as a team. The employees should be paid well with extra incentives and bonuses to keep them motivated towards their work and loyal towards their employer or company head and owner. The work environment should promote innovation and flexibility with regard to office hours for the workers.

The above mentioned concern with regard to the work environment leads us to chapter ten of this book which highlights upon the requirement of an ideal company workplace where the workers would be focussed and would not find their job spaces tedious and boring. The Silicon valley is well known for renowned firms that are trending in beautiful job spaces inside and out. The typical thing that is followed in an industry are not the small leverages you give to the employees in order to make them work efficiently for you but the huge handsome amount of packages which would lead them to work in an efficient manner and with a sense of satisfaction. Roles of every individualin a company should be well defined so that there is no confusion created thereafter and no conflicts sprout out of such mere confusions which can also be solved by facilitating a civilized talk. The internal conflicts amongst the employees of the same company can be very lethal for the growth of such a company or start-up as it won’t allow the employees to work in harmony with one another and would lead to the disintegration of a sense of fraternity in the entire firm.

Chapter eleven highlights the importance of the sales of any company or start-up as sales are the prime factor that decide the incoming profit shares of any start-up.Excellent sales coupled with distribution can create monopoly only if the goods and services of the said company are in good competition with the other companies that exist in the market.There are two ways of measuring distribution, one being Customer Lifetime Value(CLV) which is basically the average amount ofprofit which is earned directly from the customers and the other being the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) which implies that the recreation amount spent of the customersshould be lesser than the profit we earn in return from them. There is a market zone where expensive products and inexpensive products can be bought and sold without the need to advertise for them as it involves personal sales strategies. Marketing and advertising are low priced for start-ups as they don’t try to compete with big companies when it comes to making expenditure in advertisement campaigns. Viral marketing is a term that pops later in the book as the reader reads through it, the term refers to advertisement of the cheapest of the products. There should be at least a single distribution channel in operation otherwise lack of it leads to failure of the startup.

You need to sell your ideas not only the products to substantiate for your increased sales as this is the key towards the success and growth of a startup as you can’t just simply expect your customers and investors to just believe that your firm is doing a wonderful job but you must intake the proper PR (Public Relations) strategy and decide the most attractive storyline to attract customers and investors.

Chapter twelve tells us about Information Technology that is becoming currently very dominant in every sectorof the economy and how growth is dependent on the entire realm of IT as it holds power to increase sales in the most effective way possible. Many functions which were earlier performed by humans are now being gradually dealt with by the computers as they simplify the process much more simplier and tend to work faster as they provide accurate results. Eventually with  the passing time the computers and the AI would take up more and more manual functions that are available currently in the market with the advent of the new technologies and AI. But as a result of the technology taking over most of the manual work it would lead in the shortage of employment opportunities for the increasing population however there’s satisfaction in the fact that computers cannot replace human entirely as computers can only deal with big bulky datas but the most trivial of the issues at the end of the day have to be dealt with by the human beings.  People should not be afraid of technology as it will only simplify the data handling processes and not replace the humans entirely from the face off the earth.The abilities of the humans are meant to complement the limitations of the technologies. There are many banking or online payment softwares like PayPal and Palantir which have solved complex problems only with the efforts of the human beings. 

Chapter thirteen gives us the insight as to how huge amounts of money are invested in establishing “cleantech” firms and the fallacy of such firms that ended up providing no returns to the entrepreneurs. The book tells us that the prime reason for the fall of such firms just after their establishment was because of the ignorance of the most basic things that goes into building a startup and that such ignorance costed a hefty amount of deal to the entrepreneurs who returned to the status of zero. A startup needs proprietary technology which ensures success rather than competition. You need to create your brand name via proper value proposition and product differentiation to be able to successfully fight off the rivals and so that the startup captures the interest of all the available customers and investors in the market.

Chapter fourteen deals highlights the different positive and negative traits and the effective role that they play in the successful  making of a startup and how the founders should not take their existing power, gloryand pride too seriously and in return become egoistic about it because ego is what causes one’s facedown downfall. 


This book is definitely a worthy read for all the existing or budding entrepreneurs who are looking forward to an unbiased step-by-step guide that can guide them through each step of the startup setup providing them a complete insight into the years that follows the establishment of a startup and giving them a window view of the predictions of their own future.The world has  been revolving around both good and bad things but the real key is to be an optimist because the journey from zero to one is not a cakewalk, all conventional wisdom, norms and practicality of mind would be involved to convert all risk into huge returns.