Zero-to-One

The Best and Worst Parts of Peter Thiel’s New Book: Zero to One

In spring of 2012, Peter Thiel, cofounder of Paypal and Palantir and early investor in Facebook, taught a course at Stanford in the Computer Science department called CS183: Startup. One of the students in the class, a law student named Blake Masters, took meticulous notes that were widely shared across the web (1M+ pg views).

The ideas were intriguing, and ran counter to much of the standard startup wisdom. I had read some of the notes when they came out but they’re pretty lengthy and I didn’t get through them all.

Luckily for all of us,  the two have collaborated to write a book based on the class called Zero to One, which comes out September 18th.

Having snagged an advance reader’s copy, the book has definitely cut the word length down while retaining the ideas and most of the nuance. Instead of summarizing the book, I thought I’d share my favorite and least favorite idea. Continue reading…

BillGatesFavoriteBusinessBook

Insights on the Xerox Story From Bill Gates’s Favorite Business Book

When he met Warren Buffet in 1991, Bill Gates asked what his favorite book was. The legendary investor replied that it was Business Adventures, a collection of twelve business articles written by John Brooks for the New Yorker and originally published in 1969 [1]. Buffet lent his copy to Gates, who promptly read it, and recently declared in The Wall Street Journal that it was also his favorite business book.

The article alone has shot the book, which was previously out-of-print, up to number seven on the Amazon Kindle list (at the time of this printing) after Brooks’s son found a publisher to quickly release an ebook version. Who doesn’t want to glean business insights from a book praised by the two most wealthy men in the world?

Gates gives special praise to an article on Xerox, calling it one that “everyone in the tech industry should study”. Having read it, I found so many similarities between the company’s humble beginnings and disruption of the copier / office products industry as the tech startups of today. So without further ado, here are some of the timeless lessons learned from “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox”, part of Business Adventures by John Brooks. Continue reading…

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24 Ideas From Scott Berkun About Tech, Leadership, and the Future of Work

One of the few people who can match Paul Graham as writer is Scott Berkun. They have both succeeded as technologists, Graham in Viaweb + YC, and Berkun in Microsoft and Automattic. They both write thoughtful essays on a wide range of topics, like the Cities and Ambition or Street Smarts vs Book Smarts. If anything, Berkun is a bit more personable and relatable as a writer, he’ll refer to himself a bit more than Graham and use more culturally relevant examples.

I recently finished Berkun’s book, A Year Without Pants, about his experience as something like a product manager for Team Social at Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. The title of the book refers to the fact that the company is fully distributed and so you don’t have to wear pants to work if you don’t want to. I’ve written previously about 37 Signal’s book Remote, but this book is different because it doesn’t focus so intensely on the “remote” part. In fact, large swaths of the book are about times where Team Social were working together at an in person gathering.

Berkun primarily uses his experience at Automattic as a platform to offer a variety of other interesting and unconventional ideas about work. Here are 24 of my favorite quotes from the book (which you should read) and my comments. Continue reading…

No Silver Bullets: Etsy’s Randy Hunt on Product Design

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While on my Peru Trip earlier this year, I read a great book  called Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Products for the Web.

As one of two interaction designers who joined Etsy in 2010, Randy Hunt, now creative director, has written the book on best practices of product development for successful modern-day Internet companies. I highly recommend it.

I sat down with Randy recently to learn more about his perspective on product design. But before I jump into that conversation, here’s a brief look at some of the big ideas from the book:

Takeaways From Product Design for The Web By Randy Hunt

Note: these are not direct quotes but pretty close paraphrases

  • Great products are understandable (set expectations and live up to them) and meaningful (help people solve problems or accomplish goals) and, hopefully, delightful
  • It can be helpful to reimagine your product spec as a press release defining what the update is, who it is for and why it matters Continue reading…

Distribution is the New Currency

Here’s a thought experiment: What would you rather have: 1,000 dollars or 1,000 engaged followers?

Sure, having cash helps you pay rent and put food on the table. And when you are living paycheck to paycheck, the choice is obviously the former.

But if you’re reading this on a smartphone while on a break from responding to email, you probably have more to gain from the latter. Because real influence is very hard to buy. If you can shoot videos or record podcasts or write essays that capture people’s attention and trust, you have a powerful asset. An asset that probably is worth far more than $1,000.

In October, I released Winning Isn’t Normal and have made a few thousand dollars in sales. But what gets me most excited is reaching new audiences with my book. So I’m giving it away for just $0.99.

Amazon will only let me drop the price for three days: so click here between Jan 24 – 27 for the 87% discount.

Just one favor: if you like it, tell a friend and leave a review. It would make a huge difference.

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