zero to oneOne of my key interests is self-development, so, I often self-reflect and read books that helps me along, whether that be biographies or just key insights of successful people. Since, I see myself as a future entre- or intrapreneur I signed up to take the course Entrepreneurship. Consequently, I thought it be fitting to read some books on entrepreneurship.

One of these books that I recently finished is Zero to One – Notes on startups, or how to build the future by Peter Thiel. If you’re not completely unfamiliar with entrepreneurship and the tech scene you’ve probably heard of Peter Thiel, the hugely successful serial entrepreneur and one of the founding fathers of one of the world’s most successful startups, PayPal. In the book he shares his top tips on how to create a successful business and cover topics ranging from ideation to distribution. He highlights the importance to innovate, not just copying what others have done and making horizontal progress, or going 1 to n, but rather coming up with something new and making vertical progress, or how he likes to put it – going from 0 to 1.

In a few coming posts I will share some of the takeaways from the book. Nevertheless, I would still recommend anyone even slightly interested in entrepreneurship or business to read it. Until the next post, think about the question Peter Thiel always like to ask people he interview for a job, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”.

I was convinced by one of my friends that it would be fun going to this lecture, like Forrest Gump, I just went with the flow. When I signed up for this lecture from Dr. Terrence Brown at Playhouse Theater, I thought I would get the same content he delivers in his classes at KTH but I was in for a treat.

Here is the conclusion,

There is a thin line between love and hate

This is what he said, that’s it. Now, to understand what this conclusion means, I had to stay until the end.

The conversation started by some light jokes from Dr. Brown to set up a jovial atmosphere in the Theater, followed by his introduction. His talk started with a brief overview of how some brands have trademarks which have now become too generic, some examples of which are Velcro, Band-aid, Superhero(co-owned by both Marvel and DC comics) etc, also he told that few brands have lost the trademarks because they could not utilize them frequent enough, the examples he delineated were Heroin, Videotape.

Then, post this introduction of trademarks going generic, he moved on to explain that there are four types of innovation- technological innovation, product and service innovation, process innovation, and business model innovation. Technological innovation is what we can see around us happening at KTH, product and service innovation are visible in the advent of new gadgets in the market, process innovation is done within companies, business model innovation is reinventing and redefining how a firm makes money. To point out the importance of business model innovation and how standout the performance of business model innovation is, he showed us the figure below, indicating the there is six times more growth in business model innovation compared to other innovation strategies.

Business Model Innovation showing 6x growth

A cool example was given later after this, this was the Haloid Case of 1959, model 914, skip this paragraph if you already are familiar, otherwise, read on. Haloid created a new way to create copies using static electricity and flashes, the process had a big capital cost initially. They approached big companies like IBM, Kodak etc. but were rejected outrightly. On facing a no from all the big brands, they started to lease out the machines, with providing the paper and ink free for up to 2000 copies. They were successful in creating a sustainable business model and they renamed themselves from Haloid to Haloid Xerox to Xerox.

This example was followed by lots of business model definitions, Terrence said that the one from Joan Magretta[1], who says that business models are just

“Stories that explain how enterprises work”.

This was followed by highlighting the importance business models that it helps the organization and managers, and gives a good overview of a venture, in capturing the value, in driving innovation, to optimize production, and to reduce failure rates.

After this, there was a long discourse on the move from business plans(30-40 pages) to business model canvas(1 page). Although time and again, it was told by Terrence that it is just a framework or a tool and focussed on explaining it is the wisdom of the user, by reiterating thrice in his talk that

“A fool with a tool is still a fool”

He told that Business Model Canvas has evolved and had taken many forms, and simply think of the business model as the way a venture makes money. There was a minute overview of Alexander Osterwalder famous author of book Business Model Generation [2]. Alexander Osterwalder’s doctoral thesis [3], however, analyzed established corporates and not startups(and is thus not a one size fits all tool, may fit well with some but might not fit at all with others). Business model just is a widely used tool, or rightly told later in the presentation widely abused tool.

The talk then diverted to a discussion about lean methodology as suggested by Eric Ries in his great book The Lean Startup and Steve Blank’s Customer Development with quotes about lean manufacturing and a customer centered product development. Terrence then said a simple statement that defined the evening’s talk about business tools that how they lose the essence when the common public has to be educated about the business concepts.

“When methodology is repackaged, it is oversimplified”


Now explaining what the first figure means.

There is a fine line between love and hate(this was said about the business models, you can love them or hate, them). All in all, you have to be wise, tools won’t do that for you.



During these two weeks, I have been collecting feedback on our group’s venture idea. In my personal opinion, a great step forward for the public transport operators. An entertainment platform, only accessible through NFC tags in Stockholm’s public transport by using a smartphone or tablet. Sound cool, doesn’t it? Here is a summary of the feedback I received:

  1. I tried to collect feedback from five person with different background, here is a description of the people:
  • A friend with no academic background
  • A friend halfway through his studies in Computer and System Science
  • A colleague from the marketing department of my current job
  • A student (and friend) from KTH
  • A man, much older than the four above. Age ~50.
  1. The feedback was in general very good. I realized that the description of the actual product is very important. As I was about to describe it to the last person, who lucky was the older man, I already knew which aspect that would be harder to explain, and already had adjusted this explanation, which maybe is the goal of this exercise. Anyway, all the younger people though that this idea was great and that they absolutely would use it was a part of the city’s public transport. I got a lot of feedback on the content of the website, and how companies could advertise here. The older man was a little more But he admitted that it was a great and modern product that probably would be used by the majority of the younger population but also by a big portion of his generation.
  1. This was very interesting to observe. I noticed that the two persons with a tech education asked the more advanced questions, about the actual execution of the idea. My colleague, a talented marketer, had his focus on the actual content. The older man addressed the question of easy functions and interface.
  1. The idea will not change after this, but rather gave me further motivation to continue working on this idea. What I actually learned was, as mentioned before,that the description of the product has to a very clear one; to travelers, companies with content on the platform and potential future investors.

My recommendation to those of you who have not collected feedback yet – try to be as diverse as possible when choosing these persons.

Why I picked this course? There is a simple answer to that question being that one day I might be an entrepreneur myself and I really want to be a good one. Specially I want answer for that what I should do when I have good business idea and I want to create profitable company so the biggest cap or black hole in my knowledge is what comes between great idea and running a quite stable and profitable company. The question is really complicated and there is no right answer for it but I think there is good and bad answers. The real job for me is to evaluate the good ones from the bad ones and then create my own vision how to survive the crucial beginning of my company.

I am not quite sure if these blog posts or tweets help me become the master of entrepreneurship but that we will find out. I have studied just a few business courses but rather studied and spoke with others students I get the feeling that entrepreneurship is more like art or black magic than anything else and it is also weird that almost all business students don’t want to create their own company. The more you study business the less you want to create your own business. Maybe one reason for that is the really hard beginning, high risks to fail and usually big investments so in many cases you will sell your whole life for your own business and if you fail hard you will lose everything. But there is also chance for success so if you rock and you rock hard I think that it will be really nice especially if your company or invention can help people around the planet and make this a better place for us.

We will see if this course can give us right keys and tools for creating profitable business which I really hope. So it is now the teacher’s turn to convince us. But still I think the most important parts for success are:

  • good idea,
  • confidence in your own business,
  • vision and
  • great team!

Lastly there is a picture bellow which tells what people think about entrepreneurs and I think the last picture tells the true story what being entrepreneur really will be. I really hope that society or friends are right at least this time!






This week in class I presented you a business idea about public transportation. My inspiration was a real-life experiment conducted by ProRail and NS Dutch , and designed by Edenspiekermann, a Dutch design agency.

They created a “LED display which provides real-time information on carriage crowdedness and other details”. Then, they conducted a three-month pilot run at the train station of Den Bosch, a city in the south of The Netherlands. People really liked the concept and “gave NS a significantly higher evaluation at the end of the trial period”.

Edenspiekermann & ProRail

Their design process resulted in a physical display, but I thought that the initial concept can be further explored and expanded, and that’s how I came up with the idea of an integrated, smart system designed to enhance public transportation in big cities, with multiple functionalities.

If you know of any other interesting innovations in the field of transportation, give a shout in the comments.