Notes on startups

Peter Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal. Peter offered a course at Stanford University, sharing his insights on a startup business. This course's notes were put together in a book titled "Zero to One, notes on startup or how to build the future."

When it comes to books, no reading experience is more rewarding than a book written by a person who has been there, who has done it himself, sharing his experience right from the gut.

I enjoyed Peter's book thoroughly and wrote many comments I learned from the book in my notes. I summarize them below. In this book, you will notice there is no bibliography, so maybe the book's subtitle should have been "straight from the gut from a person who built startups."

After selling PayPal, Peter Thiel started up another business, building software – Palantir - that detects frauds, among other things, that attracted the attention of the FBI to benefit from this software.

Let me share with you some of what I noted from this insightful book:

1) If you think genius is in short supply, think again. Indeed, intellectual people are rare in the marketplace, and courageous people are even scarcer than intellectual ones.

2) For any startup to succeed, its founders should share prehistory, background, and set of values and vision. Otherwise, they will be rolling dice in their endeavor.

3) If any firm copies others in its management, products, strategy, and services, it moves from 1 to n, n being the unknow. But if it devices its strategy to develop something new, it moves from zero to 1 (hence the book's title).

4) It is tough to go from zero to one without a committed, coherent, and competent


5) For a startup, always err on the side of doing something small.

6) Executives focusing on branding more than substance are destined to a rough landing or even crash before they reach the autopilot stage.

7) "best practices" will lead firms to dead ends. Copying what peers are doing or catching up with one's shadows creates no values and does not constitute progress. Progress is taking new, untried paths.

8) For people to be fully committed to any enterprise, they should be adequately compensated. But excessive monthly cash is dangerous as it encourages short-term thinking. More cash bonus encourages long term focus.