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Book Review: "Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future", by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

“The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”

From “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” (Crown Business, 2014, Page 22), by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Peter Thiel postulates that winning at life is a contrarian’s game, and attempts to describe how in his book, “Zero to One”. A curated and edited collection of notes taken by Blake Masters for a class Thiel was teaching at Stanford, “Zero to One” provides a high-level overview of Thiel’s strategies and overview of the startup ecosystem from the dot-com boom to the present day. However, as with all contrarian viewpoints, take the book’s advice and think for yourself as to whether his points make sense.

Contrarians are by definition taken with a grain of salt, but Thiel’s arguments are convincing and backed by some hard evidence. For example, Thiel argues that the best companies are inherently monopolistic, and the goal of every monopolistic company is to lie about that fact. For comparison, he raises the profits of airlines versus the profits of Google, and shocks the reader in saying Google’s profits are greater than the profits of all airlines combined.

Ultimately, “Zero to One” is a convincing dive into Thiel’s thinking. One of my only wishes is that the viewpoint could be more balanced, as to let the readers decide for themselves which one is right, though perhaps that is not a contrarian’s responsibility. Definitely a great read.