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Zero to One Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

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.

It's easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.

Progress comes from monopoly, not competition.

If you do what has never been done and you can do it better than anybody else, you have a monopoly - and every business is successful exactly insofar as it is a monopoly. But the more you compete, the more you become similar to everyone else. From the tournament of formal schooling to the corporate obsession with outdoing rivals, competition destroys profits for individuals, companies, and society as a whole.

Zero to One is about how to build companies that create new things. It draws on everything Peter Thiel has learned directly as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX. The single most powerful pattern Thiel has noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas. Ask not, what would Mark do? Ask: What valuable company is nobody building?

©2014 Peter Thiel (P)2014 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world." (Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook)

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  •  
    Mark Brandon 10-31-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Seems Insightful Until You Think A Little Deeper"
    What made the experience of listening to Zero to One the most enjoyable?

    I am a fan of Peter Thiel, and have read the notes from the Stanford course upon which this book is based. The course notes are better because they expound better on the broad concepts. In the end, the audiobook is certainly worth the price of purchase, but I fail to give it 5 stars because I know from these notes that Thiel can do better.

    To summarize two broad concepts, businesses should pursue monopoly because that is where the lion's share of profit is made. Think about Google's monopoly in search (see my comment below about this), or Microsoft's former monopoly in operating systems. Thiel artfully demonstrates how profits flow in a Power Law to these types of firms. Good enough. I agree wholeheartedly with this concept, and Thiel does a better job of explaining it than a dry Econ 101 textbook, but at its heart, it's not new thinking.

    The second broad concept is that a series of Power Laws dictate a range of commercialization activities, from the aforementioned profit flow to fundraising success to income to hollywood hits to you name it. This bears repeating because so many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that markets they are entering are more linear.

    Both of the concepts are intertwined, and this is where Thiel could do better (he does do better in the course notes).

    First of all, monopolies don't become such until one is made, and until that point, it is utterly non-obvious to the vast majority of others. Google's search monopoly, which isn't really a search monopoly but an advertising monopoly, was so unapparent that at the time of Google's founding, most of the smart money had decided that portals were the wave of the future. Only Google decided that building a better search engine was the way to go, and even they did not conceive of their advertising monopoly until many years later. Today, it appears obvious, but it discounts the incredible risks, the incredible execution, and yes, an incredible dose of luck to make it happen.

    Second, the book glosses over (again, the course notes don't) another startling fact, which is that there are more powers laws at work to execute the creation of a monopoly. Some of these are:

    1) Raising money. I know from experience that raising money requires years of nurturing contacts, and just appearing on an investors' doorstep to say, "I have a vision for a monopoly I want to create" will get you thrown out more often than not. Only a small number of people who are starting out have the ability to cross the chasm between getting funded and not. I would contend that having money to build out your monopoly is one of the prime factors to creating a monopoly. It's a chicken and egg problem.

    2) Talent. The best talent wants to work with the best team, but how do you become the best team without having the money (see #1) or the yet-unborn monopoly? Thiel mostly discounts the role of luck, and I found that disingenous. Just take Thiel's own experience. How lucky was it that the two most formidable competitors in payments in 1999, headed by transformational leaders (Thiel and Elon Musk) were located within a few blocks of each other, making them capable of merging and becoming Paypal? How many payments companies might have rivaled Paypal if they were located next door to Elon Musk (not to mention Reid Hoffman and the rest of the mafia)?

    3) Geography. Expanding on the concept of #2, there is a Power Law at work for people who are able to get into and afford Stanford Law? Without this, would Thiel be where he is today? Not to mention the founders of Yahoo, Google, Cisco, et al?

    4) Buzz. Another chicken and egg problem is that of building buzz. Journalists only want to cover hot companies, but how do you become hot without building buzz? Only a small number of companies are able to cross this chasm.

    In the course notes (but not the book), Thiel talks about 11 facets of building a company. You can miss on two or three of them. Otherwise, you are toast. It's threading about 8 needles at a time. These are the concepts that should have been expanded upon. To be fair, this would probably require a multi-volume set.

    Thiel discounts the Gladwellian notion that any outlier success can be traced to some fortuitous events. Though I agree that these events are only obvious in hindsight, I'm not convinced.

    To me, instruction about crossing these multiple chasms would be more helpful to those of us outside of the valley bubble. Not even "Crossing the Chasm" does a good job of that.








    What about Blake Masters’s performance did you like?

    He did an admirable job for not being a trained voice actor


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    My review tells the story. I was unsatisfied.


    77 of 89 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 09-24-14
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    "Awesome Content. Hard to listen to."
    What did you love best about Zero to One?

    The content is awesome! The lessons broken down into subjects and themes like a college course really makes this book easy to follow and easy to get the overall message.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The narration was dull and soft spoken. Blake Masters is a super smart dude, just not the greatest audiobook narrator.


    Any additional comments?

    I highly suggest finding Blake Masters notes on Peter Thiel's class and reading those along with this book.

    33 of 39 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessie 11-11-14
    Jessie 11-11-14
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    "Gives you ideas on how to make a start-up"
    What made the experience of listening to Zero to One the most enjoyable?

    I enjoyed listening to this book because of all the insight it had on what are start-ups and how can you keep them going. Very interesting.


    What did you like best about this story?

    What I loved best about this story was how it described a lot of the main companies, for example google, and provided details how they interact in today society.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    What moved me the most from this book was that the person who made this book was a co-founder of Paypal which gave this book a lot more credibility.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James 09-23-14
    James 09-23-14
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    "In my top 3 favorite Startup books"
    Where does Zero to One rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Of roughly 100 business, startup, marketing, tech books I'm listened to, this is a top 5 for sure. Between inspiration and wisdom, philosophy and experience, examples and challenges, this book is great for the first time or the many timed entrepreneur. Peter is a clear authority in the space, and this book is a summary of much of what he's learned.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Zero to One?

    Explaining some of the beginnings of Paypal, and opportunities he sees available to future businesses.


    Have you listened to any of Blake Masters’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I don't recall listening to Blake Masters before, however I would gladly listen to books narrated by him in the future. Calm voice, perfect for the wisdom based material in the book.


    What did you learn from Zero to One that you would use in your daily life?

    It has helped alter the way I will hire in the future. It's validated some theories and challenged other theories. It has me already looking for Zero-One type concepts vs horizontal product improvements in the fields I work in.


    Any additional comments?

    Just a thank you to Peter Thiel for writing this. Peter doesn't need the income from book sales, nor is he trying to force his way into becoming an authoritative figure in startups because he's already there. This is a gift. This is basically like getting a evening of the best cocktail conversation advice and stories from one of the hall of fame start up allstars.

    23 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ezinma 11-08-14
    Ezinma 11-08-14
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    "One to reread"
    Where does Zero to One rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best business books I've read. It gives a lot of insight as one of those books that changes ones perspective on life.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John C. Derrick USA 10-28-14
    John C. Derrick USA 10-28-14

    JCDerrick

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    "Full of insightful information and concepts"
    What did you love best about Zero to One?

    I especially loved the various business and startup concepts/examples presented. Many of them are really paradigm shifting ideas that struck a cord with me - definitely was eye opening.


    What did you learn from Zero to One that you would use in your daily life?

    How to apply various business techniques to our own startup(s) that will give us a better path to success. I could relate to many of the examples and stories he shared having learned the hard way on many of them with my own startups -- but so many other concepts, which he put very bluntly and candidly, really opened my eyes to what had not been so obvious before. A really great book with great information for budding entrepreneurs.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony Campbellville, ON, Canada 10-09-14
    Anthony Campbellville, ON, Canada 10-09-14 Member Since 2016
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    "Stop everything, and 'READ' This Book!"
    What did you love best about Zero to One?

    No fluff, raw knowledge dump from someone who has been there done that


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Peter Thiel


    What insight do you think you’ll apply from Zero to One?

    You are not a lottery ticket.

    Look for market unification not intersection


    Any additional comments?

    One of the best books I've read on business.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gaganpreet S. Shah Bloomington, IN USA 09-19-14
    Gaganpreet S. Shah Bloomington, IN USA 09-19-14 Member Since 2012

    UrbanTurbanGuy

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Though provoking & inspiring"

    If you see yourself as someone with intentions to create something valuable for the world in your lifetime, this book is for you. It will give you a perspective on what being a contrarian and a founder actually means. It helps differentiate the popular myth attached to the words competition, capitalism, lean, disruption & puts them in the right context.

    tl;dr In the valley? Need inspiring new ways of looking at the world? Listen to this book.

    20 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rob Phillips 09-17-14 Member Since 2016
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    "The importance of contrarian thinking"

    This book is itself contrarian in comparison to all other startup books out there. It does an amazing job of forcing you to destroy the foundations upon which you've built so many of your assumptions in the startup world, thereby revealing the truth of how to build something valuable in a world of copy & paste entrepreneurship.

    All the real, non-bullshit, subconscious lessons that many successful entrepreneurs have either intuitively known or learned the hard way are concisely stated in this book.

    I think I'll likely listen to it a few more times in order to untrain all the other thinking that's been ingrained in my head.

    37 of 50 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Atlanta , GA, USA 10-21-14
    Dave Atlanta , GA, USA 10-21-14 Member Since 2016

    I enjoy mostly classics, sci-fi, and sci-fi classics

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    "Mostly worthless drivel"

    This is your typical pop business book, slapping together the same tired examples to make some loosely related points, each either trivial yammering or overblown, unsubstantiated hype. The first hour is dedicated to zealous defense of monopolies, based on an extended false dichotomy with perfect competition.

    If you're reading it to gather talking points for golf course or water cooler schmoozing, you'll get your money's worth. If you're interested in an exploration of the mechanisms of innovation in business, as the book promises, you'll be sorely disappointed.

    58 of 79 people found this review helpful

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