Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Peter Thiel with Blake Masters. Crown Business, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8041-3929-8
In his first book, PayPal cofounder Thiel presents a series of musings—for example,“Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1”—rather than a cohesive narrative. He begins with promise, drawing a strict distinction between horizontal progress—making more of what already exists in the world—and vertical progress—creating something entirely new. To accomplish the latter, he proposes, more businesses need to think like startups. From there, the text sprawls wildly from one subject to the next, with periodic references to PayPal’s evolution as the main recurring motif. His provocative central premise is that successful businesses should strive to be monopolies—that readers should build something singular and exciting enough that it will be the only one of its kind. Though the book is presented as an instructional guide, it gives the reader little to take away. A brief meditation on the lessons of the dot-com bust (“make incremental advances,” “stay lean and flexible,” “improve on the competition,” “focus on product, not sales”) offers standard truisms rather than practical insights. Thiel touches on how to build a successful business, but the discussion is too abstract to offer much to the next Steve Jobs—or Peter Thiel. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/11/2014
Release date: 09/16/2014
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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