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Book Review: Zero To One

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

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

Peter Thiel

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

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Start-ups are hard! Anyone who has worked in a start up will tell you, they can be a lot of fun and very occasionally they can become profitable and all those concerned may at the end of all their hard-work walk away from them feeling content, satisfied and even able to buy themselves a drink or two to celebrate.

Unfortunately, more often than not most people walk away from them really battered, bruised, traumatised, over worked and extremely under appreciated. I know I have been through both cycles a few times. I've never managed to achieve the mythical big ticket exit, but have been able to keep myself in the manner I have made myself accustomed too.

As is typical in start-up environments I have worn many hats most of the time all at the same time. In one start-up, I had several titles and it entirely depended on which way the wind was blowing as to which one I needed to fulfil at any given time.

I thrive and relish in the chaos. However, I must say it does get tiresome when given you have done everything in your power to push and succeed there still comes that day when you have to turn out the lights for the last time, pick up your pride, smile and say "maybe next time"

In my experience anyway, start-ups never die due to the technical solution or even anything to do with technical nature, it always comes down to one thing -- Not enough sales.

Why I read this book?

I have recently dusted myself off and recovered from yet another misguided adventure in trying to put a ding in the universe. We developed a great product, that incidentally is being used, we managed to attract investment and the product has actually been taken over by one of its biggest clients. However, we were just unable to drive the needle in the sales department. Not even enough to make it worthwhile.

I have spent the past several months, just hunkering down and focusing back on the contract market. However, I have started to feel the itch to do something again. Start something, build something maybe even try put that ding into the universe. This time, I want to try do it my way. However, I also realise I don't really know what that way is.

In the past, there have always been the "other guys" that did those "other" jobs or wore the "other" hats. On most occasions it was somebody else's idea or opportunity we were pursuing. It never really was all mine. Inevitably I was brought in as the key who knew which keys to press on the keyboard to let the computer know what we wanted it to do. So I tended not get involved in Sales and Marketing and other Business related stuff.

Building products is one thing, building businesses is another. So while I have been beavering holding down a day job and beavering on my side hustle and developing products in the evening. I thought I would start reading a few more business related books .

A friend of mine, Recommended this book, by saying it helped him formulate his business idea and that although it didn't provide any direct guidance or even implementable strategies it had helped guide his thinking. That guy now has a fairly successful business now, that seems to be growing from strength to strength. I'd thought it might be worth a shot!

What I like about this book?

I think what I really like about this book, is probably the same thing that I like about both Remote : Office Not Required and Rework , the author is not trying to sell you something or even trying to convince you to try some revolutionary new system or business practice he's uncovered. In order for you to just buy the next thing he has to offer, like so many of the other business books I have read over the past few months.

The author, is genuinely telling you about his experiences, trials and tribulations and about some of the eureka moments he's experienced along the way. Providing examples of what he and others had done to overcome hurdles and obstacles.

He also shares, his experience of being an investor in multiple start-ups and the issues and successes he has experienced along that path.

I have thoroughly enjoyed it!

I can usually tell, if I have learned something from books because I usually leave them in a right state! With section highlighted and pencil scribbles in margin and various pages dog eared or those tape book mark things. I have to say, this book is very much in one of those states!

There is probably zero chance of anyone wanting to borrow this book from me. There is probably less than one chance I would let them!

This book has really helped me to frame my thinking and how I intend to approach my new venture. In many ways, I think it helps put into context some of the things Eric Ries discusses in his book The Lean Startup , even though I feel the author may have differences of opinion. Preferring to err on the side of planning rather than letting evolve and emerge. However, I am preferring to take a balanced approach based on both!

The Lean Start Up

How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

Why I recommend this book

As I previously mentioned, I really enjoyed this book. It was short enough to read in one weekend, but still has loads of great information and teaching that will take weeks maybe months to digest and appreciate.

I certainly have many sections of the book highlighted and bookmarked and have returned to re-read a few sections and passages over the fast few weeks. It has really helped me re-formulate my ideas and strategies.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is thinking of embarking on an entrepreneurial journey!

Gary Woodfine
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