22. April 2015 · Comments Off on Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters · Categories: Uncategorized

zero to one

In continuing my method of conducting a book review, I am letting the book speak for itself by showcasing some of my favorite quotes.

Thiel on Leadership Compensation:

“A company does better the less it pays the CEO- that’s one of the single clearest patterns I’ve noticed from investing in hundreds of startups. In no case should a CEO of an early-stage, venture-backed startup receive more than $150,000 per year in salary. If a CEO collects $300,000 per year he risks becoming more like a politician than a founder. High pay incentivizes him to defend the status quo along with his salary, not to work with everyone else to surface problems and fix them aggressively. A cash-poor executive, by contrast, will focus on increasing the value of the company as a whole. (Pages 113-114)

Thiel on Leaders Setting the Example:

Low CEO pay also sets the standard for everyone else. Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, was always careful to pay himself less than everyone else in the company-four years after he started Box, he was still living two blocks away from HQ in a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture except a mattress. Every employee noticed his obvious commitment to the company’s mission and emulated it. If a CEO doesn’t set an example by taking the lowest salary in the company, he can do the same by drawing the highest salary. So long as that figure is still modest, it sets an effective ceiling on cash compensation.” (Pages 113-114)

Thiel on Building Teams:

“When you start something, the first and most crucial decision you make is whom to start it with. Choosing a co-founder is like getting married, and founder conflict is just as ugly as divorce. Now when I consider investing in a startup, I study the founding teams. Technical abilities and complementary skill sets matter, but how well the founders know each other and how well they work together matter just as much. Founders should share a pre-history before they start a company together- otherwise they’re just rolling dice. It’s not just founders who need to get along. Everyone in your company needs to work well together. It’s very hard to go from 0 to 1 without a team.” (Pages 108-109)

Thiel on Founders and Teams:

“Founders are important not because they are the only ones whose work has value, but rather because a great founder can bring out the best work from everybody at his company.” (Page 189)

Thiel on Attracting Recruits to the Team:

“Recruiting is a core competency for any company. It should never be outsourced. You need people who are not just skilled on paper, but who will work together cohesively after they’re hired.” (Page 120)

Thiel on the Importance of Work Relationships:

“If you can’t count durable relationships among the fruits of your time at work, you haven’t invested your time well-even in purely financial terms.” (Page 120)

Thiel on Success:

“In January 2013, Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, tweeted to his followers: “Success is never accidental.”” (Page 60)

Thiel on Choosing Projects:

“The best projects are likely to be overlooked, not trumpeted by a crowd; the best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else even tries to solve.” (Page 166)

Thiel on Computers and People:

“Computers are tools, not rivals.” (Page 144)

“As computers become more and more powerful, they won’t be substitutes for humans: they’ll be compliments.” (Page 144)

“Better technology in law, medicine, and education won’t replace professionals; it will allow them to do even more.” (Page 148)

“Replacement by computers is a worry for the 22nd century.” (Page 150)

Thiel on the Why Competition is Disadvantageous:

“People lose sight of what matters and focus on their rivals instead.” (Page 38)

“War is costly business.” (Page 39)

“Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.” (Page 39)

“Competition can make people hallucinate opportunities where none exist.” (Page 40)

“Rivalry is just weird and distracting.” (Page 41)

“If you can recognize competition as a destructive force instead of a sign of value, you’re already more sane than most.” (Page 43)

Thiel’s Four Points of Startup Wisdom:


  1. “It is better to risk boldness than triviality.” (Page 21)
  2. “A bad plan is better than no plan.” (Page 21)
  3. “Competitive markets destroy profits.” (Page 21)
  4. “Sales matter just as much as product.” (Page 21)


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