Quotees Archive

The polar opposite business cliché warns that “the best product doesn’t always win.

- Peter Thiel

The rest of their generation was left behind, but the wealthy Boomers who shape public opinion today see little reason to question their naïve optimism.

- Peter Thiel

The road doesn’t have to be infinite after all. Take the hidden paths.

- Peter Thiel

The single greatest danger for a founder is to become so certain of his own myth that he loses his mind. But an equally insidious danger for every business is to lose all sense of myth and mistake disenchantment for wisdom.

- Peter Thiel

The single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places,

- Peter Thiel

The stark differences between man and machine mean that gains from working with computers are much higher than gains from trade with other people. We don’t trade with computers any more than we trade with livestock or lamps. And that’s the point: computers are tools, not rivals.

- Peter Thiel

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

The strange history of the Baby Boom produced a generation of indefinite optimists so used to effortless progress that they feel entitled to it. Whether you were born in 1945 or 1950 or 1955, things got better every year for the first 18 years of your life, and it had nothing to do with you.

- Peter Thiel

The trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.

- Peter Thiel

The U.S. Treasury prints “In God We Trust” on the dollar, the ECB might as well print “Kick the Can Down the Road” on the euro.

- Peter Thiel

There is no middle ground: either don’t throw any punches, or strike hard and end it quickly.

- Peter Thiel

There’s no reason why the future should happen only at Stanford, or in college, or in Silicon Valley.

- Peter Thiel

Therefore, every startup should start with a very small market. Always err on the side of starting too small. The reason is simple: it’s easier to dominate a small market than a large one. If you think your initial market might be too big, it almost certainly is.

- Peter Thiel

Think about how Google talks about its business. It certainly doesn’t claim to be a monopoly.

- 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

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

The Field of Dreams conceit is especially popular in Silicon Valley, where engineers are biased toward building cool stuff rather than selling it. But customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen, and it’s harder than it looks.

- Peter Thiel

The first step to thinking clearly is to question what we think we know about the past.

- Peter Thiel

The government used to be able to coordinate complex solutions to problems like atomic weaponry and lunar exploration. But today, after 40 years of indefinite creep, the government mainly just provides insurance; our solutions to big problems are Medicare, Social Security, and a dizzying array of other transfer payment programs. It’s no surprise that entitlement spending has eclipsed discretionary spending every year since 1975. To increase discretionary spending we’d need definite plans to solve specific problems. But according to the indefinite logic of entitlement spending, we can make things better just by sending out more checks.

- Peter Thiel

The greatest thing Jobs designed was his business. Apple imagined and executed definite multi-year plans to create new products and distribute them effectively. Forget “minimum viable products”—ever since he started Apple in 1976, Jobs saw that you can change the world through careful planning, not by listening to focus group feedback or copying others’ successes.

- Peter Thiel

The hazards of imitative competition may partially explain why individuals with an Asperger’s-like social ineptitude seem to be at an advantage in Silicon Valley today.

- Peter Thiel

The indefiniteness of finance can be bizarre. Think about what happens when successful entrepreneurs sell their company. What do they do with the money? In a financialized world, it unfolds like this: • The founders don’t know what to do with it, so they give it to a large bank. • The bankers don’t know what to do with it.

- Peter Thiel

The internet had yet to take off, partly because its commercial use was restricted until late 1992 and partly due to the lack of user-friendly web browsers.

- Peter Thiel

The lawyers I worked with ran a valuable business, and they were impressive individuals one by one. But the relationships between them were oddly thin. They spent all day together, but few of them seemed to have much to say to each other outside the office. Why work with a group of people who don’t even like each other? Many seem to think it’s a sacrifice necessary for making money. But taking a merely professional view of the workplace, in which free agents check in and out on a transactional basis, is worse than cold: it’s not even rational. Since time is your most valuable asset, it’s odd to spend it working with people who don’t envision any long-term future together.

- Peter Thiel

The lesson for business is that we need founders. If anything, we should be more tolerant of founders who seem strange or extreme; we need unusual individuals to lead companies beyond mere incrementalism.

- Peter Thiel

The Monopoly Question Are you starting with a big share of a small market?

- Peter Thiel

The most “successful” companies seemed to embrace a sort of anti-business model where they lost money as they grew.

- Peter Thiel

THE MOST CONTENTIOUS question in business is whether success comes from luck or skill.

- Peter Thiel

The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.

- Peter Thiel

The most fundamental reason that even businesspeople underestimate the importance of sales is the systematic effort to hide it at every level of every field in a world secretly driven by it.

- Peter Thiel

The most obvious clue was sartorial: cleantech executives were running around wearing suits and ties. This was a huge red flag, because real technologists wear T-shirts and jeans. So we instituted a blanket rule: pass on any company whose founders dressed up for pitch meetings.

- Peter Thiel

The most obvious market segment in email-based payments was the millions of emigrants still using Western Union to wire money to their families back home. Our product made that effortless, but the transactions were too infrequent.

- Peter Thiel

The most successful companies make the core progression—to first dominate a specific niche and then scale to adjacent markets—a part of their founding narrative.

- Peter Thiel

The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.

- Peter Thiel

The most valuable companies in the future won’t ask what problems can be solved with computers alone. Instead, they’ll ask: how can computers help humans solve hard problems?

- Peter Thiel

The most valuable kind of company maintains an openness to invention that is most characteristic of beginnings.

- Peter Thiel

Still round the corner there may wait A new road or a secret gate, And though we pass them by today, Tomorrow we may come this way And take the hidden paths that run Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

- Peter Thiel

Success is never accidental.

- Peter Thiel

Successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.

- Peter Thiel

Superior sales and distribution by itself can create a monopoly, even with no product differentiation.

- Peter Thiel

Take unorthodox ideas seriously today, and the mainstream sees that as a sign of progress. We can be glad that there are fewer crazy cults now, yet that gain has come at great cost: we have given up our sense of wonder at secrets left to be discovered.

- Peter Thiel

Technological advance seemed to accelerate automatically, so the Boomers grew up with great expectations but few specific plans for how to fulfill them.

- Peter Thiel

That doesn’t mean the opposite ideas are automatically true: you can’t escape the madness of crowds by dogmatically rejecting them. Instead ask yourself: how much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reactions to past mistakes? The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.

- Peter Thiel

That’s why hiring consultants doesn’t work. Part-time employees don’t work. Even working remotely should be avoided, because misalignment can creep in whenever colleagues aren’t together full-time, in the same place, every day. If you’re deciding whether to bring someone on board, the decision is binary. Ken Kesey was right: you’re either on the bus or off the bus.

- Peter Thiel

The 1990s have a good image. We tend to remember them as a prosperous, optimistic decade that happened to end with the internet boom and bust. But many of those years were not as cheerful as our nostalgia holds. We’ve long since forgotten the global context for the 18 months of dot-com mania at decade’s end.

- Peter Thiel

The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.

- Peter Thiel

The Apple Stores’ sleek minimalist design and close control over the consumer experience, the omnipresent advertising campaigns, the price positioning as a maker of premium goods, and the lingering nimbus of Steve Jobs’s personal charisma all contribute to a perception that Apple offers products so good as to constitute a category of their own.

- Peter Thiel

The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.

- Peter Thiel

The best thing I did as a manager at PayPal was to make every person in the company responsible for doing just one thing. Every employee’s one thing was unique, and everyone knew I would evaluate him only on that one thing. I had started doing this just to simplify the task of managing people. But then I noticed a deeper result: defining roles reduced conflict. Most fights inside a company happen when colleagues compete for the same responsibilities.

- Peter Thiel

The biggest difference is that cults tend to be fanatically wrong about something important. People at a successful startup are fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.

- Peter Thiel

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