I found out about Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future through Goodreads’ Giveaways. I found a copy at my library and dove right in, super excited about the unique perspective that this book claimed to provide.
I’m not going to go into a detailed blurb (shocking, I know!) but I will quickly touch upon the topics the book covers: technical stagnation ongoing today, the potential of incredible innovation and “unchartered frontiers”, and the technique to overcome the former to tap into the latter. All by genius entrepreneur and investor, Peter Thiel!
Does the book actually go into all of that?
Not until the first 40% is over, at least. I may be in the minority with my lack of love for this book. But at about 40% in, after finally being unable to ignore many cringe factors, I gave up and marked it as DNF.
So what’s the rest of this review about? My unpleasant journey with Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future, and the reasons for this discontent as summarized into the points below:
- Peter Thiel loves himself, and does not tire of showing you how smart he is by putting down a lot of opinions. I accept that self-promotion is part of any non-fiction, business book. But he does it by outright dismissing tried and tested ideas, and I genuinely felt it was for nothing more than giving a shock factor. I’m not denying that he has his skills (at all), but the sensationalism in his writing ends up just putting you off.
- The arbitrarily selective focus was another huge turn off for me. In short, his entire approach is “US innovation is the best, everyone else mostly fails”. There is nothing wrong in focusing your book or your research to a specific geographical area. But if that is what you choose to do, you can’t pick and choose examples from other regions when it suits your narrative – positively or negatively – only to completely disregard other examples that don’t suit you. Targeting, in research and readership, needs more consistency, especially if you’re talking about better business strategy.
- And last but not least, Zero to One is terribly preachy. It’s true that most business books come with some amount of preachiness; but coupled with actionable tips, they tend to offer some key takeaways that you can apply to your own work/business. But I found Peter Thiel’s writing lacking the actionable part. The end result is just a long literature review, seen from Thiel’s sensationalizing point of view.
Before ending this review, I’m going to share a disclaimer: Thiel may be an incredible business-person and strategist, and I am not commenting on his capabilities. I am only commenting on the book and how I felt about it as a reader and as someone who’s always curious to learn (which, I don’t think, is too far from the intended audience for Zero to One).
What did you love (or not) in Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future? Tell us in the comments below! And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review.