Read This Book – Zero to One


I just finished reading Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters.  Refreshing!

If you are tired of the endless march of pop startup articles and books that advise how to use yet another variation of Lean Startup (or the Business Model Canvas, or SEO metrics, or social media prowess, or crowdsourced innovation, or …), then Peter is your man – and Zero to One is your book.

The title is derived from the difference between building another version of something already built or well known (going from 1 of something to version 2, 3, 4, etc.) and building something entirely new (going from 0 of something to the first 1).  Peter presents a framework for building a business that is entirely new (and valuable), and he injects various bits of standalone wisdom along the way.

The book is related to a 2012 startups course that Peter taught at Stanford.  Blake was one of the students, and he published his detailed course notes at  Zero to One will be published in September, 2014.  Before then, you may still be able to order a pre-release copy at

I don’t intend to summarize the book here (sorry – you’ll just have to buy it), but I would like to give you a few examples of why I called Zero to One “refreshing”.

  1. Peter’s preference for a monopoly mindset.  While most tend to view monopoly as a dirty word, Peter acknowledges that “… every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot.”  He explains that fixating on competition tends to produce small value in the form of incremental improvement because companies tend to compete in large numbers around an existing model.  A monopoly, on the other hand, will produce tremendous value as a single new firm captures years or decades of profits from a decisively new (and valuable) technology. True, monopoly that somehow captures and controls a non-changing market is certainly bad.  But, monopoly that introduces a new technology to the world is good.  It drives innovation and progress and makes the world a better place.
  2. Peter’s observation that convention is a killer.  Being conventional produces incrementalism, risk aversion, complacency, and homogeneity.  Finding the unconventional secret, the important truth that few others agree with, is the beginning of creating something new and valuable.  If you can also find those few others who agree with you, you just might have the beginnings of a company.  As Peter puts it, “… every great business is built around a secret that is hidden from the world.”
  3. Peter’s explanation of how the Power Law works in business.  One venture will outshine everything else in the VC portfolio.  One market will dominate your company’s markets.  One distribution channel will dominate your company’s channels.  Even the decisions you make will follow the Power Law – the decisions you make when you found your business will likely influence your future far more than those you make later on.

Those of you who have read Zero to One realize that I’ve cited probably 1% or less of the ideas Peter presents.  Two things are important to know for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

  1. Peter cites and explains business first principles that are insightful.  Some may appear contrarian, but as he puts it, “The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”
  2. He then explains the implications of those principles for those of us who operate or are starting a business.  Although he states that no formula exists for creating a new, highly valuable business, I’ll state that Zero to One gives you plenty of practical advice toward that end.

Buy it.  Read it.

Three “Co”s

Since I last wrote here back in October (wow, has it been that long?), a lot has changed here in the Fort.  Let me tell you about three “Co”s that I’m excited to see happening in Fort Wayne.

  1. Co.Starters at Artlink’s Fort Wayne Arts Incubator
  2. Co Work Fort Wayne
  3. Coder Dojo

Co.Starters at the Fort Wayne Arts Incubator

I have the pleasure of facilitating the first cohort of Co.Starters in Fort Wayne.  Artlink licensed the program from the Chattanooga company to use in the newly formed Arts Incubator.

CoStarters Fort Wayne

Arts Incubator Co.Starters cohort digging in one day one.

Over 1,000 entrepreneurs across the nation have built business models and graduated from this program, producing ventures with over 2,000 jobs.  Now there are 11 more entrepreneurs a few weeks from graduation – right here in Fort Wayne.

They are a diverse group of creatives.  Their ventures include a craft beer operation, fine art, digital media marketing, retail gallery or store art, musical performing art, product photography, and food venture.  They are intensely engaged in the process of thinking through a business model – and, at the same time, staying true to their art.

It is enormously gratifying to see Artlink step up and provide a venue for creatives here to make a living with their art.  Kudos to Rebecca Stockert and Deb Washler.  I thank them for giving me the opportunity to facilitate this group.  If you’ve visited my page, you’ve noticed that I am interested in growing both the entrepreneur and arts communities here.  This program touches on both goals!

 Co Work Fort Wayne

Some good people, led by Dave Sanders and Chad Clabaugh, have banded together to create a coworking space with a great location and an even better view.  Located in the Murphy Building right across the street from Pint and Slice and the Dash In, Co Work Fort Wayne sits on the 5th floor overlooking Calhoun Street.  It is a shared-cost space.  Right now $125 will buy you a monthly table space with some amenities, and the cost will go down as more member join.

Co Work Fort WayneOne of Co Work Fort Wayne’s conference rooms overlooking downtown.

Coder Dojo

Last year, Noel Knox got the idea to start an after-school coding program for kids.  Well, actually his son may have had the idea – or at least was the first intended beneficiary.

Coder Dojo

February Coder Dojo Meeting

That idea turned into the Fort Wayne Coder Dojo.  It started small, with just a few kids showing up to code together for a couple of hours on a Saturday at the Indiana Tech computer science lab (thanks to Brian Lewandowski).  The group grew, affiliated formally with the Coder Dojo global network, and now includes a diverse group meeting twice a month with kids working on everything from Minecraft, robotics, Arduino, MaKey MaKey, web apps, and more.

Three new initiatives that add a lot to Fort Wayne entrepreneurial and arts cultures.  Go check them out!

Listen for the Whistle …

Before dawn on a chilly Saturday morning in October, they lined up at least a quarter of a mile long to board the train.  Why?  Steam locomotive Nickel Plate 765 was going on an excursion!  Tickets had sold out within hours!


Even more remarkable, all along the way from Fort Wayne to Lafayette – and then back -they lined up at nearly every crossing to take pictures, movies, or just wave.  They  pulled over on the side of the road.  They stood outside in yards and fields.  Where the track parallels Highway 24, they caused a traffic jam in one lane by slowing down en masse to keep pace with the train.

CAM00024 CAM00020

They stood in crowds or even by themselves, anywhere they could, to get a glimpse of 765 – to see the steam and hear the whistle.  There were hundreds of us riding the train, but I am absolutely sure that more than that were on the roadside – in groups of 1 to 30 or 40.


Aboard 765, the atmosphere was a cordial throwback to the warm personalized service you’d expect from days gone by.  Here’s car host Scott giving us our overview of what to expect (yes, 765 might just lurch a bit now and then, so be careful when you get up to walk to the concession car).


Fernando Tarango and one of the smoothest sax players around were adding to the mood.  Here they were teaching us how to sing the Wabash Cannonball (since we were in fact tracing part of the path of the Wabash Cannonball).  Fun fact – the gentleman on the left side of the photo below is one of the original engineers of 765, along for the ride!


Perhaps the best part of the train experience is that you see an entirely different vista than when you travel by car.  Here’s a view of downtown Fort Wayne that I hadn’t seen before.


765 is operated by volunteers, like Scott, associated with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society.  Here they are poring over the locomotive at our stop in Lafayette to make sure we were ready for the return trip.

CAM00039 CAM00037 CAM00036

This isn’t a 765 thing, but while we were in Lafayette I was able to grab lunch at a great food truck, EMT – Emergency Munchie Truck.  Gotta put in a plug for them.CAM00043

And, of course, Fernando couldn’t resist playing some more music as we waited for the shuttle to take us back to the train from downtown Lafayette.


Among all of the volunteers, I need to call out Kelly Lynch.  Not only does Kelly handle communications for the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, but he is leading a bold vision to bring Nickel Plate 765 to downtown Fort Wayne.


The concept, Headwaters Junction, is on the table along with other plans to transform our downtown riverfront area.  It is a superb plan that deserves to happen – not just because it would be fun or cool – but because it can do so much to improve the quality of life in our city and bring tourism revenue here.

Think about it for a second.  For this weekend’s two excursions, 700 tickets sold out in a mere couple of hours.  Hundreds (maybe thousands) of people lined up at crossings, along highways, in fields, on overpasses – on both days – just to catch a glimpse of this historic steam locomotive.  Given the number of cameras I saw on tripods or being held by hand, I’d hazard a guess that more videos were shot between Fort Wayne and Lafayette this weekend than in Hollywood during all of last year.

I personally urge you to support this project however you can.  You can start by visiting the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, googling the many videos online about 765, going to see 765 in its current home outside of New Haven, or riding the Santa train in December (yes, there’s another excursion coming up soon).

Whatever you do, remember to … Listen for the Whistle!

Center of the Diamond


Ted Serbinski of Detroit made the point in his May 8 post that the Midwest has an amazing amount of assets in this diamond.  For example …

  • 8 of the 25 entrepreneurial colleges (Entreprenuer Magazine)
  • 6 of the top 20 engineering schools including Chicago, Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, Illinois (US News and World Report)

Hey, what’s that in the center of the diamond?  That’s us – good old Fort Wayne right in the center of the entrepreneurial resources!

Fort Wayne’s Comic Con

appleseed comic con

The Appleseed Comic Con draws comic artists from all around the region to Fort Wayne each year.  But what makes me smile each year is the amazing number of highly talented comic artists from right here in Fort Wayne.  It’s always good to see so many local artists (or in some cases those who studied here and have roots here) creating so many great products.  See you next year!

You can browse through all of the Comic Con artists at   Before you do, enjoy a few pics of some (not all. sorry) of the Fort Wayne artists.