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Beyond the Pitch

Toolkit TOOL: Book Recommendation – Zero to One by Peter Thiel

We are always looking for recommendations of useful books, podcasts, websites, and the like from our portfolio companies.

Steve White, founder and CEO of Clarivoy, said this about his experience with the lessons of Zero to One by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal:

“I was reading the Wall Street Journal in September 2014 when I came across this article with a headline that certainly grabbed my attention: “Competition is for Losers” by Peter Thiel. I read it and thought, wow, that really captures how I feel. In his book, Thiel stresses the importance of focusing on a niche and owning it with a combination of proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding. One great example he gave was Facebook. (Thiel was Facebook’s first outside investor.) Facebook didn’t create a social network for everyone. Instead, Mark Zuckerberg’s first product was designed to get all his classmates signed up, not to attract everyone on the planet.”

“So, fast forward to mid-2015 and Clarivoy. Our SaaS product offering was starting to expand. We had a billion-dollar retailer, auto dealers, healthcare companies, and financial services clients. We were getting traction and busy, BUT we realized that building a SaaS product to support so many different verticals wasn’t scalable because each had a unique set of challenges. I started thinking about the ideas in Zero to One. I asked our executive team and a few others to read the book (as well as Blue Ocean Strategy, another good book for entrepreneurs). After we read the books, we discussed Clarivoy’s strategy. It became clear that we needed to go all in for automotive. We became laser-focused, aligned our infrastructure, sales, and marketing to it.”

“After two years, how’s it going? Great! Clarivoy won the DrivingSales Innovation Cup Award for the Most Innovative Solution of 2016 and this year, at the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting, we announced a major partnership with Cars.com. Clarivoy is disrupting a $37MM industry.”

If narrowing your focus to a particular segment of the market is part of your strategy, like Steve, Zero to One might be a book for you.”

Overview of Zero to One

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself. Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Author’s Biography

Peter Thiel, and entrepreneur and investor, is the co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, an analytic software company. The first outside investor in Facebook, Thiel provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and other tech startups.

Is there a book that has helped you become a better entrepreneur? We’d like to hear from you. Would you like to narrow your focus and improve your odds? Rev1 can help. Contact us.

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