"Humanities majors may well learn a great deal about the world. But they don’t really learn career skills through their studies. Engineering majors, conversely, learn in great technical detail. But they might not learn why, how, or where they should apply their skills in the workforce. The best students, workers, and thinkers will integrate these questions into a cohesive narrative."
Overlooking the fact that the Peter Thiel teaching at Stanford is the same Peter Thiel who paid 20 kids $100,000 to drop out of college and start a business, this is a great recap of Thiel’s first course at Stanford. Student Blake Masters took detailed notes, and there are some real gems (not, it should be noted, necessarily captured verbatim). The above comment shows the recognition of a workforce that can integrate inputs from diverse source, while this quote should also be borne in mind by all would-be entrepreneurs:
Channeling Tolstoy’s intro to Anna Karenina, all successful companies are different; they figured out the 0 to 1 problem in different ways. But all failed companies are the same; they botched the 0 to 1 problem.
I was also fascinated by Thiel’s interpretation of “the problem with big business,” which comes down to a question of scale and design:
North of 100 people in a company, employees don’t all know each other. Politics become important. Incentives change. Signaling that work is being done may become more important than actually doing work. These costs are almost always underestimated. Yet they are so prevalent that professional investors should and do seriously reconsider before investing in companies that have more than one office. Severe coordination problems may stem from something as seemingly trivial or innocuous as a company having a multi-floor office.
Thiel also gets into why people should ever embark on a startup in the first place, and it’s not, he advises, in order to merely copy what already exists. You can learn a lot if you shot for the moon and miss. But:
If you try to do Groupon for Madagascar and it fails, it’s not clear where exactly you are. But it’s not good.
And then finally, he details some questions all entrepreneurs should pose to themselves. I say we’d all probably benefit from taking a conscious look at where we are:
First, what is valuable? Second, what can I do? And third, what is nobody else doing?