Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Progress may be horizontal or vertical. Horizontal progress is the duplication of things that work - going from 1 to n. Vertical progress is the creation of new things - going from 0 to 1. Globalization is horizontal progress. Technology is vertical progress.

Technology is miraculous because it allows us to do more with less, ratcheting up our fundamental capabilities to a higher level…Humans don't decide what to build by making choices from some cosmic catalog of options given in advance; instead, by creating new technologies, we rewrite the plan of the world.

The contrarian question asks "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?" Good answers to this question are glimpses into the future. Thiel's answer to the contrarian question is that "most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more."

New technology tends to come from new ventures - startups…Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.

Conventional Beliefs

The contrarian question is difficult to answer directly. It may be easier to start with a preliminary: what does everybody agree on? …Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses, we call the old belief a bubble.

The dot-com boom of the late 90s was intense but short. The dot-com bust taught Silicon Valley four big lessons that still guide business thinking today:

  1. Make incremental advances
  2. Stay lean and flexible (code for "unplanned")
  3. Improve on competition
  4. Focus on product, not sales

Yet, the opposite principles are probably more correct.

  1. It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
  2. A bad plan is better than no plan.
  3. Competitive markets destroy profits.
  4. Sales matters just as much as product.

To build the next generation of companies, we must abandon the dogmas created after the crash. That doesn't mean the opposite ideas are automatically true: you can't escape the madness of crowds by dogmatically rejecting them. Instead ask yourself: how much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reactions to past mistakes? The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.