Notes from “Zero To One” or Peter Thiel For Beginners

Two years after purchasing I finally decided to give “Zero to One” a read & totally loved it.

About four years back I came across Blakemaster’s notes from Theil’s Stanford class and was totally blown away. A lot of the content in the book is from these notes.

Sharing some things from the book that stood out for me

Zero To One:
For the uninitiated, loosely speaking creating new technologies/ways of doing things is “0 to 1” and just replicating what works/doing incremental improvements is “1 to N”.

In a world where technology creates an extreme leverage, it is much better to do “0 to 1” than “1 to N”. The “Zero to one” approach helps you in thinking bold and trying to solve bigger/non trivial problems. Successfully solving hard problems in most cases can lead to supersized returns.

Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.

Contrarian Thinking:
You get outsized returns for being right when the consensus is opposite to your thinking. The suggested way to get there is to
a) Think for yourself — Independent thinking over opposing the crowd (just to be contrarian)
b) Question what you know — Especially question what you know about the past and if you are not reacting mistakenly about the past

Secrets and Business:
Being contrarian in business is akin to uncovering a secret. Secrets(difficult to figure out) are different from Mysteries(impossible to figure out).

Great companies can be built on open but unsuspected secrets about how the world works.

Very few people take unorthodox ideas seriously today, and the mainstream sees that as a sign of progress.We have given up our sense of wonder at secrets left to be discovered.

You can’t find secrets without looking for them. Belief in secrets is an effective truth. The actual truth is that there are many more secrets left to find, but they will yield only to relentless searchers.

Great companies have secrets: specific reasons for success that other people don’t see.

Competition Is For Losers:

Competition and Capitalism are opposites.
Competition can make people hallucinate opportunities where none exist.

People tend to think competition is good but as per Thiel, competition is a destructive force and not a sign of value. When it comes to competitive environments, people tend to lose sight of what matters & focus on their rivals instead.

While competition might be good for consumers/supplies it definitely isn’t the best for the competing players. Monopoly businesses on the other hand (except when they purely act as rent collectors) by virtue of having higher margins/profits can afford to plan for long term and drive progress by innovation.

Who is likely to innovate more? Amazon/Google or say Lenovo/HP (PC space)

Making A Monopoly:

Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits

Every monopoly is unique, but they usually share some combination of the following characteristics:

a) Proprietary Technology
b) Network Effects
c) Economies of Scale
d) Branding

Brand, scale, network effects, and technology in some combination define a monopoly; but to get them to work, you need to choose your market carefully and expand deliberately. Proprietary Technology can lead to the strongest form of Monopoly while Brands are the weakest form of monopoly and only work well for long in a few cases such as Pepsi & Coke.

If your company can be summed up by its opposition to already existing firms, it can’t be completely new and it’s probably not going to become a monopoly (Think of a 10X better product/technology)

Running Startup as a Cult: While the popular answers to the question “What would the ideal company culture look like?” could include perks such as Foosball/TT tables, mac for everyone, open work hours etc Thiel calls them out for NOT being substance. What matters is

The opportunity to do irreplaceable work on a unique problem alongside great people.

Some commandments from Thiel in this regard include
a) Hire people who are talented, but even more than that they should be excited about working specifically with you.
b) You’ll attract the employees you need if you can explain why your mission is compelling.
c) Everyone should have a shared understanding of the world and your company’s intended position in it.
d) Defining roles reduces conflict. Everyone is responsible about one thing and everyone else knows about that one thing.

A Framework For The Future: Thiel offers an interesting lens to look at the future.

An indefinite pessimist looks out onto a bleak future, but she has no idea what to do about it.
A definite pessimist believes the future can be known, but since it will be bleak, she must prepare for it.
To a definite optimist, the future will be better than the present if she plans and works to make it better.
To an indefinite optimist, the future will be better, but she doesn’t know how exactly, so she won’t make any specific plans. She expects to profit from the future but sees no reason to design it correctly.

We cannot take for granted that the future will be better, and that means we need to work to create it today.

Thanks to Saloni, Navneet for reading the drafts

Startup Jobs

I’ve got tons of friends/acquaintances who are running startup and the only thing common to each one of them is that they are looking to hire smart talent. Despite 100 job sites, a lot of match making takes forever. Here’s a little effort from my side to fill this gap.

Running a startup? Looking to hire people? Share Job details (140 character), company name and contact email id at (dhingra dot mayank at gmail dot com)

Technology 

Marketing

Sales

Account Management

HR

Others

Books I read in 2015

Here’s a list of all the books I read in 2015. If you’ve read any of them or would like to recommend some books to me drop a comment below

Jan 2015

    1. The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do and how to change (Rating: 4/5)

 

A very interesting read on how to recognise habits, how they are formed and how to amend them. Great way to understand personal as well as institutional/organisational habits. It has suggests some experiments to cut down addictions like Smoking

2. How football explains the world (Rating: 3.5/5)

A good primer for anyone interested in knowing about Football and Globalisation across different countries and continents. Football fans would find it interesting how various clubs across the world came into being and how violence b/w fans accompanied many of them. Non football or globalisation fans might not find it that great.

April 2015

3. Heart of Darkness (Rating: 3.5/5)

May 2015

4. Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution (Rating: 2.5/5)

 

 

15 Best Articles on Product Design & Product Management

Want to become a PM or get better at it? This list of some of the best articles on Product design/management is a great way to onboard yourself (or your team members) on PMship

Articles:

1) The end of apps as we know them #intercom.io
2) How to do a Product Critique – Julie Zhuo #facebook #medium
3) The making of tiiny
4) Stop making users explore #medium #lauraklein
5) Super Normal: Innovation often starts with the ordinary #medium
6) How to Build Products Users Love – #howtostartastartup #video
7) So you want to manage a product? What no one tells you about the role
8) Product Strategy Means Saying No – Intercom.io
9) This Product Prioritization System Nabbed Pandora 70 Million Monthly Users with Just 40 Engineers
10) How Spotify builds products – Spotify
11) Twitter Will Onboard Users With “Instant Timeline”, Inject Top Tweets From “While You Were Away”
12) Chinese Mobile App UI Trends
13) The only metric that matters
14) Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager
15) Why mobile unbundling isn’t inevitable

 

 

 

Myntra’s End of Reason Sale in 7 images

# 1: A week or so back

The Build Up

YT ads promoting the sale
#2 Midnight on the day of sale

Midnight of Offer DayAs per Myntra’s twitter account, they were updating the offers

 

#3 Morning of the day of sale

Morning of the day of sale

Front double page ad on HT Delhi

#4 Minutes after the sale begins

Minutes after the sale began

 

Push notification to their app base (along with emails and sms)
#5 Few hours into the sale

Few hours into the sale

User Accounts (some say IPs) on both app and web were blocked for 30 minutes from making any request to the site

#6 Less than 12 hours into the sale

12 hours into the sale

 

 

#7 A little over 12 hours

end_myntra7

If the sequential order numbers of Myntra is anything to go by, the order id increased by over 1L  in the first 2 hours of the sale.

Time – 9:42 AM, Order id: 70303245

Time – 11:42 AM Order id: 70425987

Run rate: 60k orders/hour (16.67 orders/sec)

 

Inside the mind of an Indian online shopper: How & Where I spent my money online in 2014

Last year, around the same I time I posted a quick analysis of my spends across various e-comm sites. Thought of repeating the exercise again and see what all changed

1) Split of orders across sites

Split of Orders Across Sites

 

Not surprisingly, I placed the most orders in 2014 on Paytm (close to 70%), followed by Freecharge (8%), Flipkart (4.3%), Amazon & Bookmyshow. Various cashback schemes run on Paytm are the reason behind the skew of order count

Talking about physical goods #1 was Paytm (Aggressive offers early on), followed by Flipkart, Amazon & Jabong

 

2) Split of spend across sites

Split of Spend across sites

 

The story starts to clear up a bit when we look at split of spend across various sites

While 70% of orders I placed were on Paytm, 52% of the money I spent online went their. Flipkart (17.6%),  Jabong (14.1 %) & Myntra (3%) came next. The ticket size for Amazon has been quite less

3) Split of spend across categories

Split of spend across categories

This is quite revealing for me. While last year I spend considerable chunk of money (spent online) buying books, this year books formed a very small piece.

35% of money I spent shopping online last year, was spent on buying Electronics (mostly mobiles) & related Accessories. 25% was spent on recharges/bill payments and a significant change towards Fashion with 22% of my spend went there.

Some Interesting Bits:
1) I spent more ordering food online than buying books (Still can’t believe it or Maybe I got better deals at books 😉 )
2)  I spent more on Cab rentals than movies ( I don’t take cabs as much) and almost the same amount as I spent ordering food online
3) Between Fashion & Electronics – 57% of my money was spent

Purchase Summary
Orders placed: 321
Digital goods (recharges, bill payments and movies): 252

Money Spent: Rs 1,72,448
Money spent on Physical goods: 1,24,621

Closing Thoughts/points
1) I’m not the most savvy online purchaser but I do tend to compare prices before buying stuff and have started using mysmartprice and more recently  buyhutke (Chrome plugin)
2) Online mega sales trigger my purchases (super surprised to find out, I ordered on Myntra this GOSF after a break of 1 year from last GOSF). Made purchases on Big Billion Day and even Myntra’s “End of Reason” sale today
3) While I preferred purchasing on desktop (ease of selection, multiple tables, price comparison etc). I’ve started buying stuff straight of mobile. While for many purchases mobile still serves as the initiation point of my purchases and the same happens other way around, I add items to cart on web only to order them later on mobile when free
4) Most of my purchases (especially Fashion) are impulse (discount driven If I can admit), while Electronics etc are kinda planned
5) I’ve jumped the ship completely when it comes to paying by card. Almost, all my purchases (90% +) are pre-paid now.
6) Myntra and Jabong have spoiled me with their super easy return/exchange policies and flow. I don’t think twice before ordering stuff from them as I know I can always get the product returned/exchanged if I don’t like it. They also have superb delivery timelines (24 hours is a regular)
7) One thing I miss shopping online, is “Lack of Price Protection”. What you buy today for Rs 5000 can be available for say Rs 4000 and Rs 3500 the next day. As a buyer, you obviously feel bad about it
8) Newly caught trend of using wallets to pay on various sites to get discounts and cashbacks is a good incentive to use them. I’ve used Paytm, mobikwik and Payumoney, depending on the offers they are running.
9) I’m yet to order specs, furniture, grocery, health & wellness and things from a lot of these categories
10) Product wise – Wishlist and Rating/Reviews are by far the most useful features. Also, I love the feature to sort/filter using discount/offers (or the lack of them).

Hope, this post would help folks working in e-commerce get “some more idea” of their *Customers*

 

Reset Password Form

Forms are one of the most under appreciated elements of web design. Most interaction designers just won’t pay enough heed while designing them and thus the user frustration while filling all sorts of forms.

While using mailchimp I came across an interesting implementation of the password reset form so thought of sharing.

I’m not a fan of complex password policy, for obvious reasons

Password Must Contain

But, let’s say for some reason you need the password to match some criteria, this implementation works quite well towards

1) Communicating the exact requirements for a password
2) Active/real time feedback about which all conditions are met as user types the password

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 1.39.08 pm Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 1.39.18 pm Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 1.39.27 pm Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 1.39.33 pm
Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 1.39.53 pm Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 1.40.40 pm

The Books You Think Every Intelligent Person Should Read

Here’s a list of books which readers/followers of openculture.com suggested every intelligent person should read. How many of these have you read?

  1. Foucault’s Pendulum,
  2. Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  3. Short History of Nearly Everything
  4. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment 
  5. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick
  6. Voltaire’s Candide 
  7. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness 
  8. George Orwell’s 1984
  9. Dante’s Divine Comedy 
  10. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
  11. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War 
  12. Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince
  13. Plato’s Republic
  14. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
  15. Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha
  16. Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  17. Julian Barnes’ A History of the World in 10½ Chapters
  18. William Godwin’s Political Enquiry

Source: http://www.openculture.com/2014/04/the-books-you-think-every-intelligent-person-should-read-crime-and-punishment-moby-dick-beyond-many-free-online.html