An excerpt from Peter Thiel’s Zero To One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

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?

Whatever your industry, any great business plan must address every one of them. If you don’t have good answers to these questions, you’ll run into lots of “bad luck” and your business will fail. If you nail all seven, you’ll master fortune and succeed. Even getting five or six correct might work.

Thiel, Peter; Masters, Blake (2014-09-16). Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (pp. 153-154). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Leave it to the old sage, Jeremy Grantham, to provide some interesting insights.  A few brief excerpts from GMO’s latest quarterly letter – available here.

 

“The main potential reward, especially in an economy that is having the slowest recovery ever recorded, is in job creation. Job creation turns out to be an incredibly complicated economic issue, depending on the unique circumstances of each project and how it interacts with competing projects. If there were armies of unemployed welders and other construction workers sitting around, one could easily imagine that almost every job needed would draw from the unemployment pool and would be true job creation. But what if there were intense competition for every welder, every oil worker, and most heavy construction workers? Then we would not be in the job creation business but in the job competition business, deciding which potential employer will bid up wages and which will go without workers. A recent Bloomberg article opened with the question, “How high is the demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?” It then answered, “So high that you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” citing a source from Huntsman Corp. “So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night” because the equipment is finally available then.”

***

“Considering the above, it is clear that the XL Pipeline will not “create” jobs. Every one of its potential workers, almost all of whom already travel widely for jobs, could get a job several times over if given an hour on the telephone. What is happening here is an allocation of limited manpower resources: will we use them to extend chemical plants to capitalize on the incredible U.S. advantage in cheap natural gas; will we extend our fracking of U.S. sweet crude; or will we transport Canadian diluted bitumen, the most dangerous and toxic of all fuels, in order to increase the price for a handful of Canadian Tar Sand producers who currently suffer from constrained delivery capabilities and hence lower local prices? Even ignoring the severe environmental risks, it should be an easy decision on economic grounds alone.”

 

Emphasis mine. 

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Today, the great city of Detroit turns 313 years old.  As fate would have it I also recently read about the origins of Detroit’s motto:

“Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” or “We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes”

The motto, first uttered in 1805, is eerily fitting for the city today.

The full story of the motto’s origin comes from the WSJ:

That motto, Detroit’s, comes from a French Roman Catholic priest, Father Gabriel Richard. He was born in France in 1767 and moved to Baltimore in 1792 to teach math. Reassigned to do missionary work, he moved first to Illinois and later to Detroit, where he was the assistant pastor at St. Anne’s Church.

St Anne’s Church, in the southwest part of the city, stands between Michigan Central Station and the Ambassador Bridge. It was founded in 1701 and could be the oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the U.S.

On June 11, 1805, a fire destroyed nearly the entire city, weeks before the Michigan Territory was established. It was that fire that led Mr. Richard to write: “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus.”