By @SimonCocking

Notes on Startups, or How to build the future, Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

At the Web Summit this seemed to be the book that everyone was talking about. Of course it’s always another question whether any of them had actually read it. Irish Tech News bravely decided to undertake this task on your behalf.

download (1)

The first good news to report is that it is a quick read, less than 200 pages, with pictures too! Fortunately it is an interesting read. Thiel while in Dublin was quite critical of European culture, for it’s ‘pessimistic narrative’. Similarly in the book he doesn’t spare the horses when giving an overview of Western development, and tech’s place within this wider context.

Along the way there are some interesting observations and ideas to consider. Some seemed perhaps a little more idiosyncratic than others. For example his comment about immediately rejecting every greentech startup who wore suits when pitching to him. For him this suggested that they were heavier on marketing and weaker on product development. He wanted to see product inventors with better products than the current market solutions, rather than slickly dressed salesmen.


Peter Thiel, ‘give me a man with a plan in a teeshirt any day’

Despite some slightly quirky observations like this, there is a lot of interesting ideas and ‘uncommon’ common sense packed into this short book. He discusses the power law, that one investment is likely to be come super successful, and vastly dwarf the success of everything else you invest in, by a very large factor. As this is the guy who made the first outside investment in Facebook he has does have some prior experience.

From an investor’s point of view he stresses that a potential new product must be x10 better than the existing competitors in the market. To achieve the lift off needed to become a success and gain market share within a clearly defined niche. Far better to have a clearly defined niche market you aim to succeed in. Rather than the tired prediction of ‘even if we only gain 0.1% in the $/€ x billion dollar market, this will be worth …’ Which we have all heard from numerous startup pitches.

It’s a good book to read. You can even read a free version of it too, see below, and did we mention that it’s a short read too.

You can watch Peter Thiel here  at 6 minutes in, returning to Stanford where he delivered the lectures the book is based.

Download the free lecture notes the book was based on

The book has an interesting back story. The book is based upon a series of lectures Thiel gave at Stanford. Blake Masters was one of the students in the class. He wrote down what took place in each class, all 19 of them, and put the notes up on line.

These are free to download, becoming a mini viral sensation, and proving there would be interest in producing a book.
Notes Essays—Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup—Stanford, Spring 2012

You can download them too. The general consensus though is that the book puts it all a lot more concisely!


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