Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future  |  Peter Thiel with Blake Masters  |  Nonfiction, Business  |  2014

In 2014 I was browsing the ‘New Releases’ section of a local Barnes & Noble in St. Louis, MO, when I picked up Zero to One based on its interesting title and pretty, periwinkle-blue cover (the latest version has an orange cover).  Standing in the aisle, I read the preface and first chapter before determining I liked it enough to buy and finish it.  However, at that very moment, I became distracted by the enticing aroma of Starbucks coffee, and instead made a mental note to come back for it later.

Unfortunately, I never did go back for Zero to One until about a couple months ago, when I saw it recommended on Amazon.  I ordered the book and once it arrived, began reading it on my daily commute to and from work.  Finally, two years after I had initially picked it up, I finished the book.

Quick summary

Zero to One is about how to create value for the world of tomorrow.  It does this by exploring basic economics concepts, common misconceptions of healthy markets and good business practice, characteristics of successful startups, a bit about investing, and the importance of moving beyond contrarian thinking and standard convention.


On a surface level, this book is easy to read with compact chapters that keep you engaged with the topics presented.  I loved all the examples that were given throughout the book, and thought there was a good balance of graphs, diagrams, and drawings that supplemented the content well.  It’s great for picking up and putting down, which I found worked well for me during my time on the Underground; I finished this book in less than a month.

On a deeper level, I found Zero to One quite thought provoking, and that it challenged ideas I had previously been taught in school and university.  For example, I remember being told that monopolies are bad and competition is good, end of story.  Thiel and Masters argue otherwise, explaining that competition distracts from real value creation, and take us from zero to n horizontally (extensive progress), rather than from zero to one vertically (intensive progress).

Because I work in Marketing, I found chapter 11, ‘If you build it, will they come?’, particularly interesting.  Many people are under the impression that a great product will magically sell itself because it’s so amazing and fantastic and wonderful.  However, marketing and its subset function of sales will always remain a stipulation for building and growing a new business.

Is it for you?

I really enjoyed Zero to One along with the inspiration and new thought it evoked.  It’s nice to be reminded to embrace our differences, as those are our strengths.  I’d recommend this book to business leaders, anyone interested in startups, those who still don’t know what career path they’d like to pursue, and anyone looking to be inspired.