My review of From Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.
We live in the age of the brogrammer--male liberal arts majors that take 12-week crash courses to learn to code so that they can become the next Winklevoss twins. These founders have the only prompt they need for their startup: "Uber for ____." But we ought not only despair about these founders; we should also despair that the world's most talented engineers have devoted themselves to "helping more people click on ads," as founder Jeff Hammerbacher wrote. But into this desert of mimesis (for which the only cure may be aspergers) lands this work by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, which lays out an orthogonal path for creating businesses that transform markets, countries, and even the human experience.
On first picking up the book it may feel like a light read--perhaps personal stories and rambles like Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing about Hard Things (which I read in forty minutes). I was mistaken. Each 20 page chapter covers sociology, business theory, global macro economics, history, and Peter's hallmark synthesis: historical pessimism meets prophetic optimism. Each chapter feels like its own book--delivered to the reader in a form so concentrated as to induce an intellectual oversaturation.
As a founder myself, I found the most provocative section to be about the purpose of startups. They write, "A startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think." In our age of mimesis--mere shallow mimicry--Peter calls us to build what I'd call a cult--a small group of believers who, together, can literally usher in a new future. That is an invitation I am excited to accept--and one I hope you will accept as well.