What Startup Innovation in the 15th Century can Teach us Today…

Like many of today’s startup founders, the 15th century architects of Florence began with a vision — an intuition of what was possible and then began the process of trial and error to find out ‘what works’ in new ways.

A decision was made to build a larger dome than had ever been built before (breaking new boundaries).

And, rejecting the traditional methods of cathedral building — Gothic buttresses to hold the building together, they had to find a new way to build.

This was an aesthetic, political and ‘what the heck’ decision.

Like today’s founders, they began with a small scale model — a prototype, which set the vision, whilst recognising that in practice, at full scale, the dome would collapse under its own weight.

Then began three innovations: mathematical, new materials and new building tools.

New maths enabled the designers to identify that ‘S’ shaped pieces enabled the dome to hold its own weight (rather than a simple curve).

New materials — the use of bricks — not stone, enabled a lighter total weight and great flexibility in building method.

New tools — lifts and pulleys — enabled materials to be lifted into place without cutting down the forest of Tuscany for scaffolding.

The achievement took two architects — one with the vision and a second with the ability to implement.

The project faced many set backs — not least the death of the first architect — but ultimately it succeeded and set Florence at the heart of the Renaissance and the many innovations that either took place there or were inspired by this city.

What can today’s founders learn from this story? Two things — innovation is nothing new, and it is a simply case of a powerful vision — followed by trial and error experimentation.

If you want help developing a powerful vision or setting up and running startup experimentation, get in touch