Takeaways from Zero to One (Best Seller) by Peter Thiel, Paypal Co-Founder

I just finished reading Zero to One, International Best Seller book by Peter Thiel, Paypal Co-Founder, and Blake Masters. Below are selective takeaways from the book. First I made personal notes, then decided to share, particularly to my students. Don't take notes as book summary, read book for more awesome stuff.

  1. All happy companies are different. Do not make search engine or a social network, if you have learned this from Google and Facebook, then you learned nothing. Real lesson is, they did something unique. So you must need to do something really unique. 
  2. Avoid being in competition as much you can, because competition decreases profit. There are only two ways; come up with really unique product that do not exist already or do at least 10x to 100x improvement in something existing. If you are doing less than that, you would not make in billions but normal bucks, if any.
  3. Do not take yourself as lottery ticket. Do not depend on luck. The real thing is, having concrete understanding of stuff around, having right product idea with vision, and having a DEFINITE PLAN to accomplish that vision. If you don't have a definite plan, you are already on the path to failure.
  4. Business do not succeed if you don't work on it conciously. Along with creating awesome product, its equally important (in fact more important) to make right strategies of hiring, marketing, sales, distribution and customer service. Steve Jobs was not only great in aesthetics but an awesome business designer as well, see his devised product distribution and other strategies.
  5. Some people believe, it do not matter what you do as long you do it well. Its completely wrong, it does matter what you do. You must ensure the stuff you are going to do is worth doing. Power Law aka 80/20 Rule also hold true in businesses, in fact more strongly. Some niches or products are exponentially better than others. It should not surpise you, some startups are acquired for a billion plus USD, those are the startups having potential of making multi billion USD in future.
  6. When you make your team, make sure every person is aligned. Having a wrong co-founder is like being with a wrong life partner and conflict means something as painful as divorce. Make sure you love working with your co-founder. Make sure you already have awesome relation with your co-founder. Meeting someone in a party and asking to join you as co-founder is definitely not a good idea. Hire people that are aligned. Avoid consultants, avoid part timers, etc. its difficult to make them aligned.
  7. Your product need a real distinction that others can't replicate. No one can give you right answer of defining that distinction for your specific product. Every business or company is unique, case studies or self-help stuff might guide but don't take them like recipie. Devise your own strategy for your particular company. Unique Technology and Network Effect are important for defining that distinction. Economies of Scale is also important. For some products, right and unique distribution model may be the only competitive advantage.
  8. Engineers think, as they have build something good with great effort, now others should use it. Sales do not work this way. You need to market, sale and distribute well. An awesome product can fail because of weak distribution and wrong sales strategy. The expensive the product, more time and resources it take to make a sale. Once you are done with product creation (or even before that aka lean strategy or MVP etc.), now go out and spend time with your current and potential customers to make sales. Great salesmen do not look salesmen, means they sell in such an awesome way.
  9. Easy things are easy to copy. Do difficult things. But make sure you are not after doing an impossible thing. Find secrets and do not share with others but someone you really need to. Ask yourself "What valueable company is nobody building?", all right answers are secrets.
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