Validate Your Ideas

Our Program

Welcome to our program

At the heart of Start-up Lab is our Incubation Program. It offers funding, coaching, lean processes, a vast network of experts as well as executive attention. Accepted teams get the chance to test and prototype their ideas as well as to pitch for long-term support. Help us shape the future of logistics!

Targets of the program

What are our aims?


  • identify, validate and scale promising innovation projects
  • offer a fast-track opportunity for testing and scaling your ideas
  • provide a safe space in which you can learn and grow
  • give you the means to engage and connect with peers and experts

Why are we running DHL Start-up Lab?

To futureproof our business, we need to keep pace with the speed of innovation

Rather than wait for our business to be disrupted from the outside, we want you to develop the future of logistics from the inside

How to get in

Who are we looking for?

You! If you work for DPDHL and have an innovative idea, you’re more than welcome to apply.

What requirements do I need to meet?

You need to be:

  • An employee of DPDHL Group
  • Ideally have a core team of up to four members
  • Have an innovative idea and the vision and willingness to bring it to life

What sort of ideas are we looking for?

  1. New business models which will build the basis for the future of our company
  2. Use cases for new technologies to radically improve our customer’s experiences or the operational efficiency of our ongoing business

How mature do ideas need to be?

Essentially, all good ideas are welcome. Your project can still be at the idea stage or already exist as a first proof of concept that is being worked on by yourself or your team. As a minimum requirement, you should be able to give a clear description of the problem you are trying to address, explain why your solution is potentially superior to existing alternatives, and provide an overview of the potential market size and a first concept of a sustainable business model. As a point of reference, you can take our application form or the lean canvas.

Promising results from first experiments showing that the problem you are trying to solve is relevant and that your idea is feasible will be looked upon favourably. This is not mandatory, however.

On what criteria will your application be evaluated?

  1. Team: The members have the right vision, motivation, knowledge and expertise to drive the idea forward
  2. Problem Relevance: The idea targets specific customers with real needs
  3. Market Size: Relevant size of the number of potential customers/users
  4. Idea Validity and Superiority: The proposed solution is feasible, viable and potentially superior to the status quo
  5. Strategic Fit: The idea corresponds with Start-up Lab’s areas of focus and Deutsche Post DHL would make a suitable investor for the idea long-term
  6. Unfair Advantage: Deutsche Post DHL has an unfair advantage in the process of bringing the idea to life and to market

Your benefit

What are we offering?

  • Seed funding
  • Intensive coaching
  • A sandbox environment with lean processes
  • Access to internal and external subject matter experts, mentors, and cross-functional groups
  • Executive attention

What is in it for you?

Work on something you love, your own idea, and be responsible for turning it into a new company or business unit

Get to know all the tools you need to be intrapreneur and experience the ups and downs on your way to success

Develop professionally as well as personally through an intense learning experience in a safe space that puts you in the driver’s seat

Create a vast network with people from inside and outside of the Group

How do I sign up?

Just complete this application form




Our incubation program comprises of two phases, which focus on validating different aspects of your project. Each phase includes a structured process, clear deliverables and quality gates that the projects have to pass. After successfully completing Phase 2, the goal is for you to pilot, deploy and scale your validated idea and build a business around it. We still provide active support, but these processes take place in our divisions or outside of our company, depending on the nature of your idea.


Program Phase 1

Phase 1 is mainly focused on validating the business potential of your idea. We support you in identifying your key customer segments, finding out whether the problem you’ve identified really exists and whether the potential is there to build a sustainable business model around solving it. To achieve this, you will be given 4 months and intensive support from us. We will spend three weeks together in person and work together virtually for the remaining time.

Program Phase 2

Phase 2 starts after you have successfully pitched to the Corporate Board of DPDHL. It’s structure is similar to that of Phase 1 but its focus is on building the first working version of your idea and testing it with real users. You have 6 months to also focus on validating more details around your business model, your unit economics, your go2market strategy as well as the long term setup which would be necessary to pilot and deploy your idea successfully.

Phase 2 takes place over 6 months and focuses on helping you prototype and create a successful business model. Phase 2 starts after you’ve successfully pitched your idea to our board.

Deploy & Scale

You’ve made it through the funnel. Taking place outside the program, this is your chance to shape the future of logistics.

Long-term set-ups

Upon graduation from Start-up Lab, Deutsche Post DHL offers two different options for a long-term set-up:

Founding a new legal entity

The teams receive seed investment from deutsche Post DHL and leave the group to found their own
legal entity.

Creating a new organizational unit within the Group

The teams create a new organizational unit within Deutsche Post DHL where they turn their business
model into reality.


What is Start-up Lab?

The Start-up Lab supports DPDHL Group employees and departments in testing and scaling ideas around new logistic products, services and business models, as well as new technologies within the ongoing business o2f our Group. The goal is to make it easier to start new innovation projects throughout our company. The program, which is managed by Corporate Development, offers funding, coaching, lean processes, a vast network of experts as well as executive attention for the ideas. Accepted teams get the chance to quickly test and prototype their ideas as well as to pitch for long term support in front of the Corporate Board in order to help DPDHL shape the future of logistics.

Why do we need Start-up Lab?

The logistics industry is rapidly evolving because of new technologies and changing customer needs. To achieve our vision of being the global logistics leader in a digitalized world, we need to leverage these new technical capabilities to optimize our core business by improving our operations. Also, we need to make our core smarter by exploring new business opportunities in logistics leveraging our key assets and capabilities. We strongly believe in the power of transforming our company from within. That’s why two years ago we created the Start-up Lab program to support innovative ideas from inside our Group that help make our vision a reality.

Where can I get additional information on the Start-up Lab approach, tools and methodologies?

You can find more information on our myNet page (just search for “Start-up Lab”) or on our website at
Also join the “Start-up Lab & DP DHL Intrapreneurs” Yammer Group to receive the latest information on methodologies, approaches and the Start-up Lab program .
Additionally, the Start-up Playbook will give you a taste of the tools and methodologies to defy outdated business models and design tomorrow’s enterprises. You will find it on myNet if you search for “Startup Playbook”.
Last but not least, the best way to stay up to date to everything around Start-up Lab is to subscribe to our Newsletter here .

Application requirements

What types of ideas is Start-up Lab looking for?

For the fourth batch of Start-up Lab, we are looking for innovative ideas that address relevant problems and needs, either of our customers or our operations. Regardless of whether your idea drastically improves our operations or explores new products, services and business models, it should have the potential to be scaled across multiple regions or divisions of our Group. If you and your team have the curiosity and motivation to succeed, it does not matter whether you are still in an ideation stage or have already begun working on the idea as part of an ongoing project.

We are not looking for incremental innovations to already existing processes, products & services, ideas which are not within or adjacent to our core business and which are not leveraging our key expertise or assets, nor for ideas which only apply to one specific region.

If you have an idea that is relevant to DPDHL but does not fit to our requirements you might consider applying for the internal ideas management program “YourIdea”. Please check myNet for more information.

Who is eligible to apply?

Start-up Lab is a global program open for applications from all DPDHL Group employees with an entrepreneurial mindset from all around the world, no matter which division they are working for.

Are there any regions in the world where DPDHL employees are excluded from the application?

All DPDHL employees from all parts of the world are invited and encouraged to apply. However we ask for your understanding that the language for the Start-up Lab application and further process will be English.

Do I need to have a team to apply?

A team (of up to four members) is preferred, but not mandatory. This is because typically a team is required to complete all the tasks to turn an idea or concept into a proof of concept, minimum viable product, or pilot. In case you believe you need more than four team members, please explain your case. Applications by individuals are also fine, however you should explicitly describe the plan on how you intend to realize your idea and we encourage you to start looking for additional team members to join you on your intrapreneurial journey going forward.

Does my team need specific skills?

The most important skill we are looking for at the beginning is your motivation to learn and make your idea a success. In case you are successfully implementing your project we jointly try to add the right team members for you to build a kick-ass team!

How mature should my idea be?

If you and your team have the curiosity and motivation to succeed, it does not matter whether you are still in an ideation stage or have already begun working on the idea as part of an ongoing project. Nevertheless, you should be able to define the problem and how you aim to address it. At the time of your application, if you have already developed a proof of concept and can explain this in your submission, this is looked on favorably. However all good ideas are welcome!

Do I need to submit a business plan for my idea?

Start-up Lab is intended to support ideas and early-stage projects, not mature businesses. Hence, you are not required to submit a detailed business plan and this is also not expected. However, make sure to include your long-term vision.

What do I need to bring to the table?

If you want to apply, all you need is

  • an innovative idea that fits to the scope of Start-up Lab (see 2.1)
  • a motivated and entrepreneurial team and
  • time to work on your idea (in case your line manager does not support you with the necessary time please let us know in your application so we can align with him or her).
Application requirements

In what language can I submit by application?

The language for the application is English. In case you can only apply in another language or need language assistance, please contact the Start-up Lab team at

Who can I contact in case I need technical support with my application?

Please reach out to our team at as your first point of contact (e.g. if you are unable to send your application, unconventional formats, language problems, etc.).

Selection process

What does the selection process and timeline look like?

Applications for the fourth batch of Start-up Lab need to be submitted by 31 October 2019. Shortlisted teams will be notified in November 2019. For the accepted teams the Start-up Lab program starts in January 2020.

How do teams get selected?

Once the application phase for the next Start-up Lab batch has ended and all applications are handed in, a committee of cross-divisional experts from all divisions of DPDHL together with the Start-up Lab core team will evaluate all ideas and jointly decide which ideas will be shortlisted. The shortlisted teams are then notified and invited to the first phase of Start-up Lab starting in January 2020.

What are the selection criteria?

The criteria will include, but are not limited to:

  • The team: Do the team members have the right vision, motivation, knowledge and expertise to drive their idea forward?
  • The problem: Does the idea target specific users/customers with real needs?
  • The idea: Is the proposed solution feasible, viable and does it have the potential to create a new solution which is clearly superior to already existing alternatives?
  • The market: Is there a relevant size of a potential market to be addressed (revenue, efficiency gains, etc.)?
  • Strategic fit: Would DPDHL be a suitable investor with an unfair advantage in making the idea successful and defend it against potential competitors?

If I am short-listed or selected, how will I be notified?

The lead team member, as specified in your application, will be notified via e-mail or telephone.

Will I also be notified in case I am not selected?

Every team that applied to the Start-up Lab will get a notification whether it is selected to the program or not. Please understand that we are unfortunately not able to support all applying teams.

Start-up Lab Program

What can I expect as part of an accepted team?

The accepted teams will join the first phase of the Start-up Lab program, which lasts about 3 months, starting with the onboarding in January 2020. During this period team members will remain in their current position and there is no need to relocate. The Start-up Lab is a part-time program. The Start-up Lab team will agree with the line managers of the team members on the exact amount of time the team is able to dedicate to the Start-up Lab idea (starting with a minimum of 20% (1 day per week)). The Start-up Lab will support the teams with coaching, expert feedback, a safe-environment to learn in, quick decision-making, executive attention and seed funding.

What are the milestones of the program?

The first phase of Start-up Lab starts with the Onboarding to kickstart the team’s Start-up Lab journey. The teams will receive coaching and an introduction to the Lean Startup approach. The tools and methodologies introduced here will help the teams to quickly validate their idea, the problem they are trying to solve as well as the market size of their potential solution. At the end of the first phase of Start-up Lab the teams will share their results with the Start-up Lab as well as key stakeholders in the divisions of DPDHL, who will then jointly decide which teams will get the chance to present their ideas in the global finals in order to be accepted to the second phase of the Start-up Lab.

What happens with my current position?

Your current position will not be affected by participating in the first phase of the Start-up Lab program. There will be no changes to your salary and other benefits, your contract stays untouched whilst you are participating in Start-up Lab. In case additional support or a temporary replacement for the day-to-day business in your current role is necessary, this can be arranged on an individual basis. If this is the necessary, please indicate this in your application. In case your team is selected to the Start-up Lab program, these arrangements would be aligned with your line manager.

When should I tell my boss?

Once you have decided to apply to Start-up Lab you should let your line manager know about it and align with him or her whether you will get to dedicate at least 20% of your working time to your Start-up Lab project in case you are selected to the first phase of Start-up Lab. Your application does not mean that you can directly start at Start-up Lab as you still have to go through our selection process but it is important to inform your line manager about your interest to join us. If your idea is selected to Start-up Lab, we will closely align with you and your line manager on your time and resources spent within Start-up Lab in order to limit the impact on the ongoing business.

If I am selected do I need to relocate?

There is no requirement for relocation.

Will I be required to work on my idea during my spare time?

Participation in Start-up Lab is on a project-like basis and should be done during your normal working hours. We will help you to come to an arrangement together with your line manager to determine the specific working conditions (e.g. full time or at least 1 day a week aka 20% of your working time).

How will my tasks be temporarily covered if I am accepted into Start-up Lab?

It is likely that many of the ideas submitted would be related to an employee’s existing work area. In that situation, the program will actually help those teams be more successful. However, if temporarily covering your position by somebody else in the short term is required, then please indicate this in your application. If your team is selected, then we would discuss potential arrangements with your line manager.

What happens after the first phase of the Start-up Lab program?

After the first phase of the Start-up Lab program comes to an end the team’s progress and results will be evaluated. Based on this there are the following options:

  • Invitation to global finals: If a team showed promising progress and results during the first phase of Start-up Lab, they will be invited to the global finals in Bonn, Germany. There, they will pitch in front of a jury consisting of top management of all divisions of DPDHL in order to get accepted to the second phase of Start-up Lab. If they convince the jury they will continue their Start-up Lab journey in phase 2, which focuses on building the first prototype of your idea and test it with the first real users/customers.
  • Continued support by other stakeholders: If the idea is promising but does not fit to the Start-up Lab selection criteria for the later stages, we will try to find other follow-up supporters for the ideas in the respective divisions, so that you can continue to work on the ideas and make them come to life.
  • Stop: In case the team realizes during Start-up Lab phase 1 that their idea does not work (e.g. because there is no customer interest, the numbers don’t add up or the market is too niche) then we encourage the team to document and share what they have learned as well as their experiences. This is an important step and crucial for future projects and the establishment of a failure-tolerant culture within our company.

What happens if an idea is successful?

Start-up Lab is not about taking an idea away from employees but finding innovators within our company and supporting them in turning their ideas into reality. If an idea is successful in the long term and creates new revenue, cost reduction, profit and/or customers for DPDHL, it is important to make sure that the employees that had the idea and put their hard work into it benefit from its success. We want you to lead this journey to succeed and grow together with your idea. Many Start-up Lab alumni now are managing directors of their new business unit or product managers of the new products they created. If you have questions around this topic feel free to contact us for more details.

What happens if the idea fails?

If the team invalidates their idea (through customer interviews, etc.) we encourage the team to share what they have learned as well as their experiences – through presentations and documentation of the learning. To quickly realize that an idea is not feasible in a market is to be seen as a success, not as a failure. The startup environment is a ‘fail smart or scale fast’ environment in which learning from projects that didn’t work out is crucial for the success of future projects. We would like to encourage this mentality not only within our program but for all DPDHL Group employees.

It’s important for the long-term success of our company that we nurture the curiosity and creativity of our workforce. The Start-up Lab provides a space where ideas can be transformed into promising growth opportunities.
Jill Meiburg
Start-up Lab provides inspiration and motivation for our team members. To attract and retain the best talent, we need programs that allow them to create and implement new ideas and concepts. Thank you SUL for providing this platform.
Adrian Kumar
By being part of Startup Lab, teams not only get the funding and resources to bring their ideas to reality, but they also get taught how to rapidly validate and develop a solution under the guidance of an experienced Mentor
Gina Chung