Lessons from Entrepreneurs from the Titanic

Lessons from Entrepreneurs from the Titanic

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We all know that the iceberg sank the Titanic. But, that was just the trigger, if you peel the layers. something would have been not right with the ship itself if just a brush with an iceberg rendered it punctured and useless? This question baffled investigators for decades.

Then after a series of experiments with the wreckage, the weak link was found – 48 weak rivets!


McCarty and Foecke began examining 48 rivets brought up from the wreck and found they contained more than acceptable amounts of “slag,” a residue of smelting that can make metal fracture prone. Researching in the Harland & Wolff archives, they discovered that the shipbuilder’s ambitious plans to build three large ships at the same time had put a huge strain on its shipyard. “Not because of cost, but because of time pressures, they started using lower-quality material to fill the gaps,” says Foecke. Now this iron, that was of poor quality was pounded by hand into the ship’s bow and stern, where the large machines required to pound in steel rivets didn’t fit. Interestingly, the good quality steel rivets were also used – but only inthe more-accessible middle of the ship.

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, McCarty and Foecke say, the weaker iron rivets in the bow popped, opening seams in the hull—and hurrying the ship’s end. It’s no accident, Foecke says, that the flooding stopped at the point in the hull where the steel rivets began.

Why were the creators of this magnificent ship not focused on the basics? After all, they spent a lot on the embellishments. We have all seen the opulence of the interiors in the movie, haven’t we?


For instance, the Grand Staircase which was made from polished oak, wrought iron and an assortment of boutique glass. It was situated below a beautiful dome that gave an excellent illusion of natural light at any hour of the day.  The centre piece of the grand staircase was a large carved panel containing a clock.  Passengers would descend the staircase to enter first class dining room or take the very modern elevators.

Then, there were luxury features such as a swimming pool, turkish baths, squash courts and a gym. The Turkish baths also offered a freshwater drinking fountain (made of marble) and featured ornate tiles in the Arabic style and comfortable lounge chairs where passengers could rest.

In the face of such luxury, it’s a sad irony that the rivets were of poor quality.

Take a moment to think about the ‘rivets’ of your start-up. Are you focusing on the basics before getting swayed by the glamorous bits?

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