Request for Startup: Renaissance Man


Renaissance man: the romantic idea of a person who is skilled in a wide variety of areas.

Becoming a polymath was possible in the Middle Ages and Enlightenment when the entirety of disciplines consisted of a few books and a handful of expert scholars. There is far too much information and expertise out there nowadays to have a true grasp of the cutting edge thought of many fields but I still love the idea of an individual that is knowledgeable and well-versed in lots of different arenas.

A startup idea I’ve had in this vein, that I have zero interest in actually starting myself, is called Renaissance Man. Every few months we would ship a box containing all the essentials of a specific area or category for an individual to immerse themselves in until the next box comes in the mail. By the end of a year, or over a number of years, one would have accumulated conversational and practical knowledge of lots of different arenas such as:

  • Chess
  • Wine
  • Cooking
  • Meditation
  • Personal wealth management
  • Wood-carving
  • Jazz
  • Poker
  • Philosophy
  • Espresso
  • Whiskey
  • Guitar
  • Stereos
  • Coffee
  • Classic literature
  • Beer
  • Civil War
  • China
  • Military History
  • Poetry
  • Theater
  • Classical Music
  • Running
  • Exercise
  • Rugby
  • Cricket
  • Bar tending
  • Grilling
  • Non-fiction reading
  • Movies

There can be a continuum of price points from inexpensive to unlimited. The goal would be to include 1) something physical representing the area that you can keep on a shelf and use continuously 2) resources to read, watch, and learn more about the topic and 3) a series of objectives to complete.

Take chess, for instance. We would include books about the history of the game, related movies to watch, classic matches, and objectives for the session: find an opponent to play 3 games with you, find a game of speed chess against a stranger (SW corner of Washington Square Park if you’re in NYC), start a game online against a relative. At the low end of the price spectrum we would provide resources to online chess games, stores, or a cheap board. At the high end we would include a really gorgeous stone chess set.

If I had unlimited money I would do a very high-end version of the following idea. I’d fly in my private jet to the Middle East, to the birthplace of chess (remember I have unlimited money). I’d want to interview grandmasters, join a local chess club, and attend large tournaments at the college level and above.

Now that the box-of-the-month club trend has come and gone, does a real business like Renaissance Man exist already? I’d like to subscribe.

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