Zero to One (revisited)

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

What important truth do very few people agree with you on? That’s the gist of Zero to One. Right?

That’s what I thought but I may have missed the point. After the 2016 election cycle – where Thiel was in the news – I understand the book differently.  Thiel entered what Bill Simmons calls “The Tyson Zone.” A place where someone’s reputation is so bizarre any story is believable.

I would believe any news story about Theil – and that’s the deepest truth of Zero to One. If your idea isn’t in the Tyson Zone it’s too conventional. That’s how weird you have to be and being weird is hard.  Alton Brown said about doing the work for his show:

“It’s almost like it’s going to hurt too much. If I let it out. If I do all this work and it doesn’t happen, then I suck even worse than I suck already…It’s building the Frankenstein monster and he won’t come to life.”

In Grab Bag #1 both Jack Vogel and Rishi Ganti said this. Being different makes this easier. Being really different makes things really easier. Scott Norton asked, “When everyone else is zigging, how can you benefit by zagging?”

How different? Thiel suggests 10X. That’s big but not impossible. Andy Weir‘s book was 10X. Jim Koch‘s beer was 10X. Aziz Ansari‘s comedy was 10X. Each of them filled an unfilled need. They looked in the negative spaces. Ask, ‘What do people not talk about?’ It might even help to use new languages. ‘Blockchain’ is a good example….

Here’s what negative space looks like.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 7.45.54 AM.png

That’s the Google Trends for “blockchain”.

Eddie Izzard had this definition:

the future = (history + change in society) * change in technology

One model for Zero to One thinking (do as I say, not as I do) is the burglar. In A Burglar’s Guide to the City, Geoff Manaugh wrote: “burglars use cities better.” Or, they found secrets.

Burglars think different. One of my favorite examples from the book was the burglar who set a dumpster next to his target building. From inside the dumpster, he worked his way through the wall and looted the store. The metal receptacle provided the perfect cover – no one thought to look inside. In the book, Manaugh has story after story about seeing the world differently.

If you’re going off the road – heck, off the map – you’ll want accomplices.


Thiel suggested a “golden mean” number of people for a zero to one situation. Of that group, writes Thiel, everyone is a builder or seller. And among them there should be more mafia less consulting.


The level of work should be “referee quality.” It’s so good you don’t even notice how good it is. Healthy arguments should be inherent in the culture. We’ve seen this advocated by Marc Andreessen, Charles Koch, and Bill Belichick.


Thanks for reading, I’m mikedariano.

14 thoughts on “Zero to One (revisited)”

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