Quotes Archive

You probably can’t be the Google of 2014 in terms of compensation or perks, but you can be like the Google of 1999 if you already have good answers about your mission and team.

- Peter Thiel

You should focus relentlessly on something you’re good at doing, but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future.

- Peter Thiel

You’ve invented something new but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business—no matter how good the product.

- Peter Thiel

You’ve probably heard about “first mover advantage”: if you’re the first entrant into a market, you can capture significant market share while competitors scramble to get started. But moving first is a tactic, not a goal. What really matters is generating cash flows in the future, so being the first mover doesn’t do you any good if someone else comes along and unseats you. It’s much better to be the last mover—that is, to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits. The way to do that is to dominate a small niche and scale up from there, toward your ambitious long-term vision. In this one particular at least, business is like chess. Grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca put it well: to succeed, “you must study the endgame before everything else.

- Peter Thiel

ZERO TO ONE EVERY MOMENT IN BUSINESS happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

- Peter Thiel

Zero to One is about how to build companies that create new things. It draws on everything I’ve learned directly as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX.

- Peter Thiel

When people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of various options.

- Peter Thiel

When unsavvy observers see a nonprofit organization with dozens of people on its board, they think: “Look how many great people are committed to this organization! It must be extremely well run.” Actually, a huge board will exercise no effective oversight at all; it merely provides cover for whatever microdictator actually runs the organization.

- Peter Thiel

While a definitely optimistic future would need engineers to design underwater cities and settlements in space, an indefinitely optimistic future calls for more bankers and lawyers.

- Peter Thiel

Whoever is first to dominate the most important segment of a market with viral potential will be the last mover in the whole market.

- Peter Thiel

Will this business still be around a decade from now? Numbers alone won’t tell you the answer, instead you must think critically about the qualitative characteristics of your business.

- Peter Thiel

Winning is better than losing, but everybody loses when the war isn’t one worth fighting.

- Peter Thiel

We gave new customers $10 for joining, and we gave them $10 more every time they referred a friend.

- Peter Thiel

You can achieve difficult things, but you can’t achieve the impossible.

- Peter Thiel

We have to find our way back to a definite future.

- Peter Thiel

You can also make a 10x improvement through superior integrated design.

- Peter Thiel

We know more about the physics of faraway stars than we know about human nutrition.

- Peter Thiel

You can expect the future to take a definite form or you can treat it as hazily uncertain. If you treat the future as something definite, it makes sense to understand it in advance and to work to shape it. But if you expect an indefinite future ruled by randomness, you’ll give up on trying to master it

- Peter Thiel

We teach every young person the same subjects in mostly the same ways, irrespective.

- Peter Thiel

You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world. It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of Chance.

- Peter Thiel

We’re better than the rest of the country but we shouldn’t believe it too much.

- Peter Thiel

What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” This question sounds easy because it’s straightforward. Actually, it’s very hard to answer. It’s intellectually difficult because the knowledge that everyone is taught in school is by definition agreed upon.

- Peter Thiel

What makes a startup employee instantly distinguishable to outsiders is the branded T-shirt or hoodie that makes him look the same as his co-workers. The startup uniform encapsulates a simple but essential principle: everyone at your company should be different in the same way—a tribe of like-minded people fiercely devoted to the company’s mission.

- Peter Thiel

What nerds miss is that it takes hard work to make sales look easy.

- Peter Thiel

Whatever your views on thermodynamics, it’s a powerful metaphor: in business, equilibrium means stasis, and stasis means death.

- Peter Thiel

When Baby Boomers grow up and write books to explain why one or another individual is successful, they point to the power of a particular individual’s context as determined by chance. But they miss the even bigger social context for their own preferred explanations: a whole generation learned from childhood to overrate the power of chance and underrate the importance of planning. Gladwell at first appears to be making a contrarian critique of the myth of the self-made businessman, but actually his own account encapsulates the conventional view of a generation.

- Peter Thiel

Venture-backed companies create 11% of all private sector jobs. They generate annual revenues equivalent to an astounding 21% of GDP.

- Peter Thiel

Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done.

- Peter Thiel

This is why so many small and medium-sized businesses don’t use tools that bigger firms take for granted. It’s not that small business proprietors are unusually backward or that good tools don’t exist: distribution is the hidden bottleneck.

- Peter Thiel

War metaphors invade our everyday business language: we use headhunters to build up a sales force that will enable us to take a captive market and make a killing. But really it’s competition, not business, that is like war:

- Peter Thiel

This is why successful network businesses rarely get started by MBA types: the initial markets are so small that they often don’t even appear to be business opportunities at all.

- Peter Thiel

We are more fascinated today by statistical predictions of what the country will be thinking in a few weeks’ time than by visionary predictions of what the country will look like 10 or 20 years from now.

- Peter Thiel

To say that there are no secrets left today would mean that we live in a society with no hidden injustices.

- Peter Thiel

We cannot take for granted that the future will be better, and that means we need to work to create it today.

- Peter Thiel

Today a grand plan coming from a schoolteacher would be dismissed as crankery, and a long-range vision coming from anyone more powerful would be derided as hubris.

- Peter Thiel

We don’t live in a normal world, we live under a power law.

- Peter Thiel

Today our challenge is to both imagine and create the new technologies that can make the 21st century more peaceful and prosperous than the 20th.

- Peter Thiel

Today, we exaggerate the differences between left-liberal egalitarianism and libertarian individualism because almost everyone shares their common indefinite attitude.

- Peter Thiel

Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends, the best paths are new and untried.

- Peter Thiel

Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina by observing: “All happy families are alike”, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Business is the opposite. All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.

- Peter Thiel

TV is a great big megaphone,” and when you can only afford to spend dozens of dollars acquiring a new customer, you need the biggest megaphone you can find.

- Peter Thiel

Two metrics set the limits for effective distribution. The total net profit that you earn on average over the course of your relationship with a customer (Customer Lifetime Value, or CLV) must exceed the amount you spend on average to acquire a new customer (Customer Acquisition Cost, or CAC). In general, the higher the price of your product, the more you have to spend to make a sale—and the more it makes sense to spend it.

- Peter Thiel

Uber is “way more” evil than Google, the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley.

- Peter Thiel

Unhappy Barnes & Noble filed a lawsuit three days before Amazon’s IPO, claiming that Amazon was unfairly calling itself a “bookstore” when really it was a “book broker”.

- Peter Thiel

Unless they invest in the difficult task of creating new things, American companies will fail in the future no matter how big their profits remain today.

- Peter Thiel

Unless you have perfectly conventional beliefs, it’s rarely a good idea to tell everybody everything that you know. So who do you tell? Whoever you need to, and no more. In practice, there’s always a golden mean between telling nobody and telling everybody—and that’s a company. The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside.

- Peter Thiel

The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative.

- Peter Thiel

This describes Americans today. In middle school, we’re encouraged to start hoarding “extracurricular activities.” In high school, ambitious students compete even harder to appear omnicompetent. By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready—for nothing in particular.

- Peter Thiel

The perfect target market for a startup is a small group of particular people concentrated together and served by few or no competitors. Any big market is a bad choice, and a big market already served by competing companies is even worse. This is why it’s always a red flag when entrepreneurs talk about getting 1% of a $100 billion market. In practice, a large market will either lack a good starting point or it will be open to competition, so it’s hard to ever reach that 1%. And even if you do succeed in gaining a small foothold, you’ll have to be satisfied with keeping the lights on: cutthroat competition means your profits will be zero.

- Peter Thiel

This implies two very strange rules for VCs. First, only invest in companies that have the potential to return the value of the entire fund. This is a scary rule, because it eliminates the vast majority of possible investments. (Even quite successful companies usually succeed on a more humble scale.) This leads to rule number two: because rule number one is so restrictive, there can’t be any other rules.

- Peter Thiel

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