Notes on Peter Thiel’s Talk Zero to One in Hong Kong

These are my notes from Peter Thiel’s talk in Hong Kong (PMQ) – cleaned up and organised. I’ve decided not to cut anything from the notes that I perhaps disagree on or feel differently – it’s how you take it that matters! If you have any notes you want to add please let me know!
zero to one hong kong

Speech Notes:

  • Remember there is no exact formula, if there was a formula for a successful company then everyone would be rich. The next big success won’t be a copy of the the successful companies already, we won’t gain anything copying what they are doing.
  • Courage is in much shorter supply then genius.
  • “Tell me something that is true for you that few people agree with you on.” This is an interview question he would ask people – it’s sort of a social contextual question. 
  • You should try to create a monopoly and aim for it. We are attracted to competition, and thats the opposite of a monopoly. We find safety in crowds and we seek the comfort of competition. This reminded me of Red sea vs. Blue sea concept. We think its safer because more people are there already. 
  • Everyone tries to catch the wave that just went by. We seem to enjoy the big market, a small share of a big market is what we think is profitable – however it’s more beneficial to have a larger share of a small market vs. a smaller share of a big market. Example given: Facebook started with a market of 12,000 people at Harvard, and in 10 days was able to capture 60% of the market.
  • Buzz words are overly used and in many cases reflect a bluff.
  • We aren’t a developed country- if we think that – then we are done. There’s no more progress and we have nothing left to contribute. We need to move away from this notion of thinking.

Interviewer Question regarding:

Last mover advantage.

  • You want to be both first and last – you may say that Facebook wasn’t first ( but it was the first to establish a proper real identity) and Google wasn’t the first search engine – but it was the first machine powered search algorithm.

Incremental Movements

  • Tricky for business – certain areas with steady growth is good for society – but for building a business this is trickier. You want to jump (10x, Zero to One). A poor plan is better than no plan.


  • It is important to move on when you fail. Talk about failure as a badge of honour is misleading – you don’t learn as much from failure. You will find most of the time you fail is from being overdetermined. Instead – just move on. I personally feel that you can learn from failure – just don’t dwell on it for too long. Maybe that’s what Peter meant – you can look at it and see what you can do better – then move on. We might not need to talk about it. 
  • Don’t bet against Elon


  • What do you understand about the business that no one else understands. Look at how the company was a year ago – if it doesn’t go up in value over time then it isn’t a good buy.

Overall the Peter Thiel’s talk was pretty good, as a person who read the book, it reinforced the key themes in Zero to One.