It's hard to think of Silicon Valley without thinking of Peter Thiel. You may not agree with everything Thiel does or stands for, but objectively speaking, he's a genius. As PayPal and Palantir co-founder turned VC and one of the first investors in Facebook, he knows startups and technology inside and out. His NYT bestselling book (co-written by Blake Masters), Zero To One, is a must read for anyone that wants to gain a greater understanding of how technology has and hasn't lived up to its full potential.
In Zero To One, Thiel tackles his biggest frustration: most startups today take us from 1 to n instead of 0 to 1.
What does that mean?
1 to n is what he refers to as horizontal progress. Horizontal progress incrementally improves products/services that already exist. This is also known as globalization: taking things that work somewhere and making them work everywhere.
On the contrary, going from 0 to 1 is vertical progress. Vertical progress creates new products/services, which in turn create entirely new markets. He refers to his process as technology: any new and better way of doing things.
For Thiel, vertical progress trumps horizontal progress. He argues that it's not only what our economy needs, but it's what our society needs.
How do companies get there?
If a company becomes a monopoly – one that's so good at what it does that no other firm can compete or offer a close substitute – it's a good indication that it went from 0 to 1.
Thiel points to 7 key questions every business must answer if they're to get to that level:
Question #1: The Engineering Question
- Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
Question #2: The Timing Question
- Is now the right time to start your particular business?
Question #3: The Monopoly Question
- Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
Question #4: The People Question
- Do you have the right team?
Question #5: The Distribution Question
- Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
Question #6: The Durability Question
- Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
Question #7: The Secret Question
- Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don't see?
As market researchers we're uniquely positioned to help companies answer some of these big questions and address some of the other areas that Thiel focuses on in the book, such as sales and viral marketing. I highly recommend picking up this book and giving it a read to help your clients go from 0 to 1.