Florence, Italy in the early 15th century was a textile manufacturing city of around 50,000 to 60,000 people. It was about one-fourth the size of Venice, Milan, Paris and London. A large portion of its economy  and workforce depended upon the making and trading of wool. It was not considered at the time to be of any particular significance culturally or artistically.

Yet over the next century, it would become the epicenter of the European Renaissance and stage the rise of the most prominent artists and intellectuals of the era.

One reason: they found a generous and reliable financial backer in the Medici family. The Medicis were a band of Italian merchants who had risen to political prominence in Florence during the 13th and 14th centuries.

“This family rises from being a bunch of wool-makers to becoming the pope’s bankers, and then goes on to finance, in a period of 100 years, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Machiavelli, Galileo – these unbelievable names that set off the Renaissance,” said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of the nationally-ranked Milwaukee-based startup accelerator gener8tor. “Is it that all of those amazing people just happened to be born in that same city at the same time, or is there something about what they did as it relates to their money and their financing that allowed all these people who would’ve been anonymous in any other city to become, historically, some of the names we associate with being the best artists ever?” Read the full story here.