A few years ago I read a book called The Medici Effect that discussed how innovation is brought about by combining multiple disciplines.
The base premise of the book is based on the Medici family from late 14th century Florence. The Medici family are most-often known as bankers, but they were also innovators in a variety of other verticals. The family had a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a banker and a farmer, among others. What makes it compelling was that each of them were at the top of their field. They continuously made huge breakthroughs to push their respective disciplines into new domains.
With further investigation by historians the theory is that given such a wide range of expertise, combined with the fact that the family was very close (having frequent dinners and get-togethers), they were cross-pollinating each others’ disciplines creating a virtuous loop of innovation. Each of them had a T-shaped skill-set with deep domain knowledge in one area and a broad range of surface-level knowledge across many others.
It’s often said that “good artists borrow, great artists steal” and this cross-pollination (also known as associational thinking) is proven to be a cornerstone for innovation. An engineer with deep knowledge about engineering can often borrow ideas from medicine and law to solve difficult problems.
It’s this concept that makes me so excited about Techstars METRO.
I’ve recently accepted the role as managing director for Techstars METRO here in Berlin where we’re working hard to cross-pollinate innovation for the hospitality and food tech vertical.
First off, we’re taking two distinct T-shaped skill-sets.
- METRO is the world leading wholesale supplier for hotels and restaurants. They understand the needs of these customers better than any other organization on the planet.
- Techstars is the world’s leading startup accelerator. Their knowledge of how to accelerate startups to success is un-matched.
Bringing these two T-shaped skill-sets together provides us with an opportunity to innovate in this highly-underrepresented vertical like never before.
And this leads me to the 2nd cross-pollination opportunity: technological awareness.
Innovation is most rapidly brought to the verticals where the innovators have the most familiarity. This is precisely why we see so many project management apps – the people who innovate in this domain (software developers) need and understand project management. Today, innovation comes largely through technological advances and, occasionally, new ways of thinking about business models.
With Techstars METRO we want to bring these two groups together. By bringing deep domain knowledge around hospitality together with technological innovation, it’s an exciting time to own a hotel or restaurant.
Techstars METRO is looking for startups that can add value anywhere along the value chain for how hotels and restaurants do business. This could be a financial technology POS system, B2B SaaS solution, wearable tech, supply chain management, logistics or anything in-between.
Lastly, if you’d like to watch the launch of Techstars METRO featuring Olaf Koch, the CEO of METRO, check it out here: