He doesn't believe that the issue is at all that the low hanging fruit are gone.
"I would argue that there was never any low-hanging fruit; it was always of intermediate height and the question was, were people reaching for it or not" - Peter Thiel
Thiel is still very much worth reading though. FWIW, Tyler Cowen would say the same; "The Great Stagnation", his book before "Average is Over", is dedicated to Thiel.
Now I think I'll go back and get it and give it a read.
Also, while we're talking books, I'll throw in a plug for The Origin of Wealth by Eric D. Beinhocker. It's a fascinating read for anybody interested in economics, capitalism, etc. It's not targeted at entrepreneurs per-se, but the principles in there have some interesting implications (if true).
if even the sentences happen to be the same, i prefer to listen to someone who has real world experience building companies vs just economists whose being wrong has no direct impact on themselves. skin in the game and all that.
First-hand accounts always run the risk of generalising the particular but academic accounts run the risk of being too general. In both cases the problem comes from falling in love with your own model and not paying enough attention to inconvenient data.
At this point in my life, I'm not interested in that except out of curiosity, I'd rather read books by/for/about boostrapped startups.
Where does Thiel's book fall in that range? Reading the comments, it looks like it's way more of an idea book than anything practical, and targetted at people who want to do something new and radical. Fair enough, but it looks like an entertainment read rather than anything applicable.
The diagrams are MUCH better in Zero To One - the class notes had slightly unwieldy prose to convey the same concepts without using diagrams at times.
All that said, I preferred the class notes. Reading Zero To One I personally felt I didn't get much from it that wasn't in the original notes. I find it a little surprising that it took a whole 18 months to have a rehash of the notes released.
Yes and yes: http://jseliger.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/zero-to-one-peter-t...
It is mostly written in a bit better structure and targets more general audience than class notes.
Now futurology is clearly not without it's own issues, and we all know that it is damn hard to make predictions (well, accurate ones anyway) about the future. But I think if nothing else I've been reminded that it's a good idea to at least make some effort to keep up with what the "futurist" crowd are talking about, and also to pull my head up from time to time and look around in domains other than my particular current niche. Materials science? Yay! Energy? Yay! Artificial biology? Yay!
Of course it may be the case that nothing comes from any of this, but it strikes me that it's probably important for an entrepreneur (or would be entrepreneur) to make some effort to stay abreast of this stuff. So I finally finished The Singularity is Near and started looking for good futurist blogs to subscribe to. I feel like I should probably also start reading those "general purpose" science magazines (Sci Am, Discover, Popular Science, New Scientist, etc.) again as well.
What do you guys think? Do you make it a point to keep up with forward looking "stuff" outside of your own domain, or read any "futurist" writing?
In any event, I found it a very worthwhile read.
In particular, that encouraging specialization in our adolescents, at the expense of "well roundedness," can be a good thing for some of them.
I have been on the well-rounded side (and have learned some pros and cons of the same the hard way), so am additionally curious to hear. :-)
When he says "well rounded," he means kids who participate in a glut of extracurricular activities to pad college applications and create many possible career paths for themselves.
The argument being that with many potential paths, people tend not to commit to any particular future vision, which results in fewer people with the concentration or desire to build those futures. Elon Musk is presented as a counter-example.
I saw him talk a couple of days ago and he said the "competition is for losers" phrase was not what he wrote but the WSJ rewrote the title. His intent (I forget the exact wording) was to avoid competition by doing something sufficiently innovative that there is no close competition, and he cited Google search and the iPhone.
The original title was a variation of Tolstoy's "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" along the lines of companies that are alike are unhappy and happy companies do things their own way.
But, but, but, and you are not nearly alone, you are not Peter who did PayPal, now has the big bucks, dreams big
dreams, and gets famous, and maybe some revenue, by
writing books that mostly people at HN can find mostly
obvious and mostly improve on!
So, I ask you: Between smarts, hard work, and luck, you'd pick which one?
I don't know what they heck you are so upset about: What
I wrote is not facetious but genuinely complimentary to
baddox. The baddox post was good.
How good? The thinking in that post seems to me to be better than the thinking in the book under discussion.
And, moreover, much of the thinking of posts on this thread
at HN seems to me to be better than what is in the books, and I said that.
So, in comparison, the thinking in the book is not very good.
And I read a chapter of the book, have
read the corresponding VC Web site, and did
get a call from the VC firm and talked for
about an hour. Still, generally, the thinking
in this thread is better.
So, a question arises: How could the book and its
author have done so well for themselves? I offered
luck as one possible answer.
And you are torqued at some of that?
Also worth noting is that this idea isn't Thiel's, but is one that Michael Porter has been putting forward for years now. Of course, Porter is read by MBA students and Thiel is read by people who want to do a startup, so that may explain why this idea seems so new to people.
P.S. if you're interested in reading more about Porter's ideas I can recommend two books. The first is Understanding Michael Porter, which gives a good summary of the main ideas of his works. The second is Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, which doesn't address Porter specifically, but covers similar ground.
Well it's "almost impossible" as long as they believe so and don't learn how to do it. C.f.,
So, um, why did he do the 2nd one then?
Seems a little hypocritical...
It's not a terrible book; it's mediocre. It's a mix of the obvious (perfect competition destroys profit), the confusingly expressed (the bit on secrets sounds "deep" until you realize he's expressing something obvious using confusing language), and noise.
If somebody wants to read a good new business book, I'd recommend Creativity Inc, How Google Works, and The Hard Thing about Hard Things long before I'd recommend 0->1.
If he didn't have any college experience and made the argument that college is a waste of time, people would challenge that with "well, what do you know? you never went to college."
What better way to realize college is a waste, then to give two solid tries and still receive little value. It could be argued that that would be the only way one could be qualified to cast that judgement.
Edited to add: Just look at who Y Combinator accepts. It's not random people with good ideas and talent. It's people with strong pedigrees. Sure they're probably bright, but are they the only ones who are capable of succeeding? Of course not. It's rather unfortunate that the opportunities for the largest amount of success go to those who are already successful rather than those who never had the opportunity to succeed in the first place.
It allowed him to go work in a prestigious firm in finance and another in law which provided him with personal capital and also connected him with investors which allowed him to start an investment fund, move back to the Bay area and gave him the time to search for and evaluate investments. Presumably this is how he met Max Levchin and invested in his company.
It also allowed him to be confident and respected by others, both of which were extremely important to his success.
If Thiel recognized this, he might try to give people a way to get the signal/network without college, thereby saving lots of money and cutting out the middleman. If he wanted to be arrogant, he might name it the Thiel Fellowship.
Which books did they read ?
The thoughts conveyed in the book are clear and integrate well into a larger world view.
Even if you don't agree with Peter, at least you'll get a well articulated view of the world and one that'll make you question some of your beliefs.
He substantiates this view with what's in my opinion quite lucid reasoning gleaned from his experience both founding Paypal and his later exploits like Palantir. But it will be insufficient to convince many.
Yeah, it's that good.
Now, that said, I am an unabashed Peter Thiel fanboy, so you may think that this is just my bias showing through. But I don't think so. I think Thiel hits on some very profound and significant insights in this book. It's not a manual or anything close to a TFSTTE style "paint by numbers" guide, but the seven questions that he presents in the chapter on Cleantech make a very solid framework for evaluating your own ventures, IMO.
The only caveat I'll offer is this: I don't presume to disagree with Thiel about anything, and there's nothing in the book where I'd say I think he's wrong in any objective sense. But I do think there are places where he glosses over some nuance and opts for the more hyperbolic presentation of an idea, in a way that can make certain bits seem self-contradictory.
He also comes off a slightly dismissive of the "lean startup" approach, seemingly because he sees evolutionary processes as only capable of creating incremental advances, as opposed to significant new creations. This is as close as I get to disagreeing with him, as I don't think there's anything about being a "lean startup" or doing Customer Development that mandates only working in the realm of incremental improvements. Now, as Steve Blank says, if you're inventing a cure for cancer, you don't need Customer Development. But there's some middle ground between "minor improvement in sharing cat pictures" and "a cure for cancer". This is where I think his more hyperbolic presentation and disregard of a certain level of nuance hurt the book a bit.
Another point to pay attention to is that Thiel may use definitions in a way that doesn't fit your pre-existing mindset, or he may make certain assumptions. Probably the main place this stands out to me is in how he seems to equate "competition" with "perfect competition", again ignoring the middle-ground. There's a similar issue with the way he uses "monopoly" where he clearly doesn't (necessarily) mean "the absolute only supplier for X" but is rather referring to a company that has achieved a level of dominance that allows it to profit in a radically significant way (beyond other related players, for example).
Overall, read it as a catalog of a number of Really Good Ideas for creating great startups, and I think you'll find it valuable. Don't assume any one thing he says is The Absolute Truth, but think about the gray area in between the poles. Don't take the hyperbole at face value, but read with a certain air of skepticism, and infer the in-between stuff.
That was my take anyway. Maybe after I read it for a fourth time my opinion will change. :-)
I'll definitely be reading it again.
I wouldn't judge Peter Thiel because he (supposedly) finds it entertaining to keep tabs on the right-wing, and a big part of media culture (regardless of what his political subscriptions are).
I really respect and enjoy Peter's opinions on a lot of matters, but politics isn't really one of them. That being said-- at present there is not a single person in the entire sphere of politics saying anything interesting.
The left is irrelevant. The right is irrelevant. Libertarians are irrelevant. Nobody in politics has any good ideas about anything, and most political jaw-flappers sound like they're hailing from some kind of parallel universe where their obsolete world views make sense. For many years I've had this profound sense that all existing political philosophies have failed in that they are unable to suggest any viable solutions to today's problems.
Another friend graduated valedictorian, went to work at Goldman Sachs, and on the offtime he enjoys listening to hardcore rap and ludacris.