“When we think about the future, we hope for a future of progress. That progress can take one of two forms. Horizontal or extensive progress means copying things that work—going from 1 to n. Horizontal progress is easy to imagine because we already know what it looks like. Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things—going from 0 to 1. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress. If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress.”
I’m an avid PayPal user, but that had nothing to do with why I read Zero To One. It’s a popular book whose title has been buzzing around since its release and I just finally got around to it. Thiel is a billionaire known for his successful startups, the entrepreneur tree which came from his PayPal team (Elon Musk and the founders of YouTube, to name a few), and most recently, Thiel’s secret funding of Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit vs Gawker Media.
Zero To One is a book by, about and for people who build startup businesses, the kind who may be eligible for venture capital funding and later sold for a huge exit. Though I’m not in that specific space, I’m close enough, plus I like reading about how things work in other spaces and taking those elements into what I do.
The big idea of the book is that dominance in an industry is achieved only by businesses who start something new — going from zero to one — rather than those who improve on something that already exists — going from one to two. The entirety of the book explains the whys and hows of it, using examples from the energy, music and social media sectors, among others. Thiel explains the importance of sales, branding, leadership, and even how to judge startup founders by the wardrobe of their people.
You Should Read Zero To One IF: You’re an entrepreneur. Or you plan on being one at any point in the future.