Book Review: IDEATE Magazine First Issue

Experienced all-round entrepreneur and investor, Peter Thiel, co-founded Paypal and sits on a throne of honour constituted by his position as number 40 on Forbes’ The Midas List: Top Tech Investors 2019[1]. In Zero to One: Notes on Startups, Or How to Build the Future, this arbiter in the dynamic field of business shares invaluable words of wisdom accrued from his years of observing, learning from and shaping the competitive business industry, propounding that innovation still possesses capacity for development in spite of the pre-existing inundation of technological phenomena. Although this premise may seem difficult to visualise vis-à-vis the reality of today’s business milieu, Thiel argues, through the algorithmic metaphor of “zero to one”, that innovating something from scratch elevates you from zero to one, as compared to producing repetitive products or services, which starts you off at a baseline of one rather than zero, as it entails a mere increase of products that have similar functions in the already saturated global landscape. Tapping on his cavernous repository of insights, Thiel highlights seven essential questions that businesses and startups must address, one of which is “the engineering question”: Instead of innovating by making gradual enhancements to a particular technology, Thiel recommends inventing breakthrough technology following the likes of Bill Gates and Larry Page, his rationale being that companies must strive for ten times better in order for the end user to benefit. Another question Thiel encourages reflection on is, “Is now the right time to start your particular business?” Stay updated on market trends before taking the plunge and seize a unique opportunity others have not yet become cognisant of, instead of rushing to ride a wave of positive feelings about a particular industry. This is a mere preview of the wealth of business lessons manifested in this luminary’s book, and we postulate that there are not many titles that rival it.

 

Ben Horowitz, one of the two founders of Andreessen Horowitz, a leading venture capital firm, dishes on hard truths about building and running a business – mobilising an unconventional style that melds his idiosyncratic humour with his creative accentuation of prose with song lyrics. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are no Easy Answers is unlike your run of the mill Business 101 guidebook, as Horowitz uncovers the daunting situations that could arise when a business is in the works, not hesitating to wear his heart on his sleeve as he recounts the personal struggles and demons he had to overcome. An authentic account of who he was before he made his distinguished name in Silicon Valley, this book contains Horowitz’s inalienable ruminations about how a CEO can manage his or her mentality and achieve optimum synergy with the Human Resource department and entire team of employees.

 

A connoisseur of literature, Toni Morrison has won multiple accolades for her epic novel on slavery, Beloved, and possesses a solid oeuvre under her name. Being the first African American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, Morrison is well-versed in the humanising essence of art and literature, the subject of her non-fiction anthology, The Source of Self-Regard. “Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be”, she expounds. Besides honing your business acumen with our above-recommended titles, take some time to appreciate Morrison’s take on how art and literature unlock intimate self-knowledge, which is tethered to knowing what your business stands for.

 

 

[1] https://www.forbes.com/profile/peter-thiel/#71b72237533a

Helena Ma brings with her a wealth of experience and a truly cosmopolitan perspective, having lived and worked in Shanghai, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; and London, UK. Her stints in Europe and China has armed Helena with a potent blend of ancient Chinese wisdom and contemporary Western knowledge which she incorporates into business management and client project