Category Archives: Business

Book review Zero To One

My buddy Jonathan Salomon recommended me to read Peter Thiel’s book “Zero To One” back in 2015 already and I only came around to finish it this week. Not only was I totally inspired by reading it, but also regretted not reading it earlier! It was an easy and fun read. Although the topics and main subject are very philosophical and ground-breaking (actually), the book is ‘light’ and easy to read with great examples to accompany the theories projected.

Zero To One by Peter Thiel

So, what was so inspirational and what did I learn? As an entrepreneur I love to read books written by other entrepreneurs and what mistakes they made and especially what makes the successful. Peter Thiel is one of the founders of PayPal and later on teamed up with fellow futurist and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk (a.k.a. Mr. Tesla). If you like reading books about successful entrepreneurs, business books and/or innovative/new theories, Zero To One is a must-read book for you!

Well, if you do not have patience to read this complete blog post, the takeaway secret of Zero To One is:

ALWAYS ASK THE CONTRARY QUESTION!
Most answers to the contrary question are different ways of seeing the future and therefore unlocking the future!

The book starts with Thiel explaining thath he asks every applicant during a job interview this particular quesions; “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”. A very simple quesion, but very hard to ask. I immediately tried to answer the question for myself and after a few moments of tranquilly thinking I came up with an answer. After finishing the book two days later, I re-asked myself the question and came up with another question. I advice you to answer this question for yourself now. At the end of this blog post you can read my initial and final answer.

Few chapters later he explains the Power Rule (of venture capital), which is all about exponential growth. The chapter can be summarised by the first paragraph where Thiel quotes an unverified saying by Albert Einstein: “compounded interest is the greatest mathematical eight wonder of the world”, “the most powerful force in the universe”, or even “the most powerful force in the universe.” His takeaway in this chapter is (page 86): “The biggest secret in venture capital is that the best investment in a succesful fund equals or outperforms the entire rest of the fund combined.”

In Zero To One Thiel also gives HR advice in chapter nine op page 113 where he believes in a strong team that is well knit and interact well. He even makes bold statements: “As a general rule, everyone you involve with your company should be involved full-time. Sometimes you’ll have to break this rule; it usually makes sense to hire outside lawyers and accountants, for example. However, anyone who doesn’t own fundamentally stock options or drawa regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned. At the margin, they’ll be biased to claim value in the near term, not help you create more in the future. That’s why hiring consultants doesn’t work. Parte-time employees doesn’t work. Even working remotely should be avoided, because misalignement can creep in whenever colleagues aren’t together full-time, in the same place, every day. If you’re deciding wheteher to bring someone on board, the decision is binary. Ken Kesey was right: you’re either on the bus or off the bus.”

Three quarters into the book Zero To One the author Peter Thiel gives a small handbook with seven questions for every business, which he thinks every entrepreneur/company should answer:

1. The Engineering Question: Can you create  breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
2. The Timing Question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
3. The Monopoly Question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
4. The People Question: Do you have the right team?
5. The Distribution Question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
6. The Durability Question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
7. The Secret Question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Obviously if one doesn’t have good answers to these questions, one will run into a lot of bad luck and most probably fail. Answering all seven positively will most probably lead you to fortune and success. And, getting five or six correct might work. A company that nailed all seven is Tesla according to the author.
In my opinion the seventh and last question, The Secret Question, is the most important question and is the main theme of the Zero To One Theory: ask the contrary question to find novel views & ideas. To go from zero to one, to make something from nothing and not copy something existing and make it slightly better. Thiel urges to find new ways to grow exponentially!

To finish this blog post, I said I would give you my answers to the question Thiel asks every applicant during job interviews: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”. As Thiel starts his book with this question, I initally answered the following before finishing the first chapter: “I believe that it is an important truth that retailer businesses that do not convert their traditional brick-and-mortar operation to an omni-channel business before the year 2020, will die. Especially businesses/companies that sell luxury products!” I beliee this is true and I am believing this already since 2008, hence we transformed our family business Ace Jewelers from a classic boutique business into the first luxury jewelry business to sell online and be authorised by premium luxury brands. In 2008 many people did not agree with me and unfortunately few people still today agree with me.
When I continued reading and finished reading this awesome book two days later, I noticed that Thiel is more of a philosopher than a mere businessman. He is a visionary, like his buddy Elon Musk. Really inspiring. What he means with this question is that we need to seek secrets that are hidden and contain the answer to a better future and the way to find them is by asking the contrary question… Most answers to the contrarian questions are different ways of seeing the present. So, looking at the big picture like he Thiel wants you to look at it, my answer became: “Why do people fear change? Because people are afraid of the unknown. To accelerate progress and innovation, one will need to both break dogma and take away ignorance.” So, therefore my answer to the question of what important truth do a few people agree with me on is: “Breaking dogma and fighting ignorance will propel innovation and progress.” In simple language: “We need to teach kids to think more out-of-the-box and basically give them space to grow-up like entrepreneurs. To teach that if one has different views, that does not make the outsiders and that there is no wrong if they do not copy/paste their parents/friends. Only being different can truly make society progress.” It seems my answer sounds simple and logical and obviously not a few people agree with me, but a majority… But, think twice… The majority loves their old rusty ways and are scared of change.
Like Thiel writes on page 63: “Every culture has a myth of decline from some golden age, and almost all peoples throughout history have been pessimists. Even today pessimism still dominates huge parts of the world.” But, I am positive and an optimist by nature and therefore really believe we are at the verge of a(nother) great change in society/societies and the world.

 

To Doodle or Not To Doodle?

Do you doodle?

I do doodle!

Doodle

Source: Doodlerblog.com

According to the Wikipedia page about Doodles the term is:
“A doodle is an unfocused or unconscious drawing made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be abstract shapes.”

Although I love technology, I always have a notebook and pen with me. I never thought why I love to doodle when I am on the phone or in a meeting, but after reading an article about Mark Parker, Nike’s CEO, I know why. And, I am convinced why you should doodle too.

The article “Nike CEO Mark Parker Shares His Secret To Success” on SoleCollector.com gives the following conclusion:

… have you ever wondered what his secret to success is?

Its simple really, doodles. You read that right, Mark Parker’s secret is his doodles. They help him clarify the brainstorming process. And, increasingly, scientific research backs up that claim. According to Business Insider, doodling can help people stay focused, grasp new concepts, and retain information. A blank page also can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing people to revise and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.

The studies say:

• Doodlers had 29% better recall of a recorded telephone message than a control group when given a surprise memory test.

• Doodles help guide the “default network” of the brain, which allows you to better pay attention.

• For people who have a higher optimal level of stimulation — like those with ADHD — doodling helps them focus.

• Doodles help people express emotions that are hard to fit into words.

Please let me know if you doodle too 🙂

 

Nominated for Entrepreneurs Award by City of Amsterdam

I am proud to announce that the City of Amsterdam, nominated our company, Ace Jewelers Group, as one of the 15 nominees to win the Entrepreneurs Award 2013!

Announcement Nominees Ondernemersprijs 2013 City of Amsterdam

The City of Amsterdam nominated 15 entrepreneurs from 69 candidates for the Ondernemersprijs 2013.
First in the list: Alon Ben Joseph of Ace Jewelers Group 🙂
This is the sixth time the City of Amsterdam organizes this Award and last year ID&T won the prize.
Our company will be audited next week and we hope we will make it to the last three. The Award will be announced on November 27th, 2013.

For additional information, please visit: www.amsterdam.nl.

 

Speaking at Thuiswinkel Update 2012

I have been asked to speak for the second time at the leading eCommerce event in The Netherlands: Thuiswinkel Update. This time I am one of the CEO’s participating as a panel member during the so-called: CEO Debat. The event will take place in DeFabrique in Utrecht (The Netherlands) on September 27th, 2012.

Please come and join the discussion on September 27th, 2012 in DeFabrique in Utrecht. Get your tickets via: http://www.thuiswinkelupdate.nl and join the buzz via: @T_W_update and #TWU12.

I hope to see you all there :)

 

Book Review: “When China Rules The World” by Martin Jacques

Usually I send out a ping/tweet about books that I read, liked and think my friends should read to. I just finished a book that I like so much, that I am posting a short review about it. I liked it so much, as it really opened up a new world to me and created a ‘wow-effect’, maybe even an enlightenment moment.

Martin Jacques

For the over a decade everyone is speculation that China is going to rule the world, but as China is slowly growing and becoming its own self fulfilling prophecy, nobody really quantified why and/or if China is going to rule the world. When I heard about Mr. Martin Jacques, and his newest book: “When China Rules The World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World“, I knew I needed to read it immediately. (By the way, I first heard of him via TED.com, where I learn many mind gobbling things 🙂 ).

Although it is a thick (441 pages) and rather academic, it does read rather smooth. This book is not just a in-depth analysis of the current situation of China and where it is moving, but gives an deep, full historical understanding of the 3000 years old Chinese culture. It gives an inside view, seen from the Asian perspective AND Western perspective. Very well done.

As I declared this book as a ‘must-read’, I don’t want to spoil too much… The books concludes in “The Eight Differences that Define China”:

1. China is not really a nation-state in the traditional sense of the term but a civilization-state.

2. China is increasingly likely to conceive of its relationship with East Asia in terms of a tributary-state, rather than nation-state, system.

3. There is the distictively Chinese attitude towards race and ethnicity. The Han Chinese conceive of themselves as a single race, even though this is clearly not the case.

4. China operates, and will continue to operate, on a quite different continental-size canvas as continental in scale.

5. The nature of the Chinese polity if highly specific. Unlike the Western experience, in particular that of Europe, the imperial dynasty was neither obliged, nor required, nor indeed desired to share power with other competing institutions or interest groups, such as the Church or the merchant class. The Confusian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people, but instead insisted on its loyalty to the moral precepts of Confucianism.

6. Chinese modernity, like other East Asian modernities, is distinguished by the speed of the country’s transformation. The Asian tigers are time-compression societies. They embrace the new in the same way that a child approaches a computer or a Nintendo game console.

7. Since 1949 China has been ruled by a Communist regime. Paradoxically, perhaps the two most significant dates of the last half-century embody what are seemingly entirely contradictory events: 1989, marking the collapse of European Communism and the demise of the Soviet bloc; and 1978, signalling not only the beginning of the most remarkable economic transformation in history but also one presided over by a Communist Party.

8. China will, for several decades to come, combine the characteristics of both a developed and a developing country. This will be a unique condition for one of the major global powers and tems from the fact that China’s modernization will be a protracted process because of the country’s size: in conventional terms, China’s transformation is that of a continent, with continental-style disparities, rather than that of a country.

As quoted in the final chapter of the book. It also contains a great Guide to Further Reading on pages 438-441.

If you have read the book already, please share your thoughts. If you are interested in China, world politics and/or economics, please do read this book.

I really enjoyed it and learned a great deal from it.

看到您的到来 (Kàn dào nín de dàolái) = See You Soon