Sunday, November 16, 2014

Zero to One - Notes...

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the FutureZero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Insightful, but not really contrarian...

I have understood most of these concepts for several years, partially based on an insight provided in a beginning finance course. On the first day of class, the professor asked, "How do you make money?". The first answer was "word hard," the second answer was "provide services," but no one answered the best one, "control it." Now, one could control money, but over time I realized that it was control of a resource, essentially power, similar to monopoly, or simply an especially strong, market position.

Peter is a persuasive writer, but too often his expression of a belief is lopsided, and at least partially untrue. Yes, the companies he lauds are innovators, but later their innovation is often nothing more than market position, like buying up the entire supply chain before rivals. His example of people who believe in definite futures, as part of path to success, suffers from survivor bias; many entrepreneurs have definite concepts about the future and what they want to do, but most fail, we just don't hear about them.

I could go on, but I did enjoy the book, if for no other reason than it clarified my own thoughts about markets, and it is well-written.

As for the question, my answer would have been that inequality is the greatest threat to modern life. Although seemingly common now, since Occupy, I found the statistical negative correlations between inequality and quality of life measures back in 2003, and back then, it might have ruffled a few feathers. Also, it would be the toughest not because people do not believe it, but because the people I know and work with, as well as the people I have my closest relationships with, would see it as a personal attack. I work in finance, and some people I know and love are well-off.

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