Project Flying Elephant: The Incubator For Tech Savvy Teams Solving Real Problems

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Fabian Leipelt, program manager for the incubator Project Fyling Elephant, explains what skills they are looking for in a team and what should be improved in Europe's startup ecosystem:

Describe Project Flying Elephant in 50 or less words.

Project Flying Elephant is the Berlin-based incubator of early-stage investor WestTech Ventures and supports teams and founders in their founding stage and early development phases. We are looking for strong tech-savvy teams who want to solve real problems with innovative and unique ideas and whose goal is to build sustainable companies.

What is your role at and how did you get involved?

I am program manager of Project Flying Elephant. I take care of organizational things such as the planning of workshops together with our local partners, mentor events as well as management of the dealflow and support of past and current teams. Early on the partners of WestTech Ventures involved me in the setup of the incubator.

Which technologies, industries or regions do you focus on?

The teams can focus on different topics, e.g. B2B, SaaS-related software and other tech topics as well as on media technology, education, health, and others. Though there is one condition: teams must be able to build and/or oversee their technology on their own.

Project Flying Elephant: The Incubator For Tech Savvy Teams Solving Real ProblemsTell us a bit about your program – what can startups expect and what do you ask for in return?

We have just closed the application for our program in Berlin starting from October that will support teams with either €25,000 or €50,000 in funding, mentoring, workshops, office space, and various high-quality services. In return, we either take 5% or 10% of equity. Teams could apply until August 15th through our website – we got a lot of great applications and are in the midst of the selection process 🙂

Why should a startup apply for Project Flying Elephant?

Our focus during the program is to support teams with hands-on advice from our mentors, partners, and us, as well as services which are helpful in day-to-day operations. We believe that we have a very positive impact on teams in their early phases due decades of experience from our team and learnings from the more than 30 investments we have done.

What do you think makes a startup successful? Which of the mentioned qualities are usually missing?

A successful startup consists of three variables: team, market, and product. For me, the market is especially important as it defines the demand for a product. Are customers willing to pay for it? Do they really need this solution? Of course, the team has to have to ability to build the product and ship it the right way. Most often the market is missing, unfortunately.

With insane growth of incubators joining the ecosystem in Europe – how do you make sure you stand out?

There is an ever-growing landscape of accelerators and incubators in Europe…like there is an ever-increasing number of startups. We see it on a balanced level, nevertheless, competition about good teams is rising.

We differentiate ourselves as a partner who is supporting teams which have been through our program for a lifetime (so to say) as we are a VC at the same time. We bring knowledge and connections to the table which are very important for startups in their beginning.

Which startups success stories went through your program already?

Several teams, such as or Talentwunder, which took part in Project Flying Elephant over the last two years, secured funding. Many more stand on solid ground, have raised a financing round, or going to in the near future.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Our aim is not to churn out unicorns (which we don’t mind at all), but rather help to build the foundation of sustainable companies in the first place which then have a solid base to focus on growth. In the end, success is defined by exits in the future as a long-term goal. In the short-term, we want to help the companies to become either profitable or raise follow-on funding. With a solid CRM in place, we are not worried about losing track 😉

If you had the chance to accept one particular startup right away, which one would it be?

That’s a tricky question as investing is not cherry picking. Therefore, we can only encourage teams to have the guts to apply to our program and join us next year if they work on something exciting!

If there is one thing you can wish for improving the European startup ecosystem, what would it be?

The European startup ecosystem is maturing in many aspects: more entrepreneurs, more talent, and more available capital. That’s already very positive, however, the more the merrier 🙂 Improvements can definitely be made on the bureaucratic side to make collaboration, investments and working together easier for all related parties.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs for their startup?

“Ideas are worthless until you get them out of your head to see what they can do.” – I always liked this quote by Tanner Christensen. You have to start at some point in the beginning, never lose this attitude when you build a company as it’s about evolving further, testing hypotheses, and growing. Don’t be afraid of risks!



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