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【What Entrepreneurs Read?】Zero to One: Unveiling Venture Capital with the Power Law, Navigating Innovation through Competition Pitfalls for Startups

IP2 Scale Out Program, a collaboration between i2i and the American accelerator EntreCamp, offers comprehensive assistance to budding companies venturing into the Eastern U.S. market. It brings forth a recommended treasure trove of knowledge endorsed by experts for readers intrigued by entrepreneurship.

The recommended book for this edition is "Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future" by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters. In the book, the authors present unique insights into entrepreneurship and innovation, emphasizing the importance of creating something entirely new rather than simply duplicating existing models. They dissect the venture capital landscape and entrepreneurial development through the lens of the "power law" and delve into the significance of innovation in company operations. Offering a multidimensional exploration from philosophy, economics, and business perspectives, the book provides profound insights for participants in the startup ecosystem, making it an indispensable practical guide for all entrepreneurs.

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


Peter Thiel

American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager, founded PayPal in 1998, leading it to a successful IPO in 2002. He later co-founded Palantir Technologies and Founders Fund, investing in innovative ventures like SpaceX and Airbnb.

Blake Masters

a former student of Thiel, gained fame for his meticulous notes from Thiel's Stanford Law School course on startups, which led to the creation of the tech startup Judicata.

Content Overview:

  1. Innovation from Zero to One: The authors distinguish between "horizontal or extensive progress" and "vertical or intensive progress" in human civilization's advancement.

  • Horizontal Progress: Replicating successful methods, akin to how McDonald's established its dominance in the U.S. and replicated this success globally.

  • Vertical Progress: Creating something entirely new, such as McDonald's development of highly efficient fast-food production lines, exemplifying innovation from zero to one.

  • Innovation entails creating entirely new solutions rather than replicating existing models. Utilizing resources through forms like "copying old patterns," "reassignment," or "plundering exploitation" worsens the business ecosystem, while developing novel solutions creates new value.

2. The Best Competition is No Competition:

  • Cultivating Creative Monopolies: Emphasizing the importance of monopolies and the benefits of avoiding competition. For entrepreneurs, the advice is to create innovative monopolies and evade competition to maximize profits and control over pricing and production.

  • Pitfalls of Perfect Competition: Unlike monopolies, in perfect competition where supply perfectly meets demand, prices are determined solely by market forces, resulting in companies unable to attain economic profits in the long term.

  1. Success is Not a Lottery: The authors refute arguments overemphasizing luck and stress the importance of long-term planning and focus. They observe an anomaly in the startup ecosystem where companies with long-term plans are undervalued but assert that startups must wholeheartedly commit without indulging in probabilistic thinking.

  2. The World of Power Laws:

  • Introduction to Power Laws: Also known as the "80/20 Rule," it signifies an extremely uneven distribution, such as 80% of land owned by 20% of the population.

  • Consistency in Venture Capital: Successful investment funds exhibit this phenomenon, where a few successful cases' returns outweigh all failures combined. Hence, venture capitalists should focus on a few companies with "massive market success potential" rather than diversifying financially.

  • Entrepreneurial Entry Points: Entrepreneurs should adopt a similar mindset, treating their expertise as an investment and focusing on areas with promising future prospects. The long-term returns of a few promising ventures far surpass the cumulative effects of other ordinary endeavors.

  1. Foundations of Company Operations: Discussing the impact of CEO salaries, employee wages, and the importance of innovation on long-term company performance.

  • CEO Salaries: Companies perform better when CEOs are compensated less. CEOs earning over $300,000 annually tend to resemble politicians rather than entrepreneurs, leaning towards maintaining the status quo rather than solving problems, while lower-paid CEOs focus on enhancing overall company value.

  • Employee Wages: Cash wages prioritize short-term benefits over future development. Those preferring stock-based compensation prioritize long-term company growth and are willing to contribute to enhancing future company value.

  • Significance of Innovation: Continuous innovation keeps entrepreneurship alive; cessation of innovation marks its end. The focus should be on fostering innovation rather than solely relying on past achievements. Proper business strategies can even perpetuate entrepreneurship indefinitely.

  1. Questions Successful Companies Must Answer: The authors outline seven questions a startup must address to succeed and provide good answers.

  • Are you creating a breakthrough technology or merely making incremental improvements?

  • Is now the right time to start this venture?

  • Will you start with a big share of a small market?

  • Do you have the right team?

  • Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?

  • Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?

  • Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don't see?

What do entrepreneurs read? How does it help startups?

"Zero to One" offers a comprehensive entrepreneurial perspective and practical guidance from various angles such as philosophy, economics, and business. It explores the essence of entrepreneurship and operational keys for successful companies, emphasizing the importance of innovation. It advocates that while replicating others' models may seem easier, it fails to capture the essence of entrepreneurship. Thus, it holds immense value for those striving for success in entrepreneurship. The book dissects innovation, stresses the importance of establishing monopolies, and proposes methods to tackle key challenges in the entrepreneurial journey, inspiring readers to stand out in a competitive market and realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

Target Audience: Entrepreneurs, philosophers, sociologists, finance professionals, and the general public interested in the above fields.

i2i will continue to share more entrepreneurship-related books, activities, knowledge, and achievements.

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