Bunker Labs Expands to Nashville

About a quarter of veterans coming out of the military today say they want to start a business; around 6 percent actually do it. The No. 1 challenge for veterans aiming to start businesses today? Creating professional networks.

Bunker Labs-- a 14-week cohort-- aims to change that, providing veteran entrepreneurs with a national community of like-minded individuals, mentors, professional events and a platform to pursue the next chapter in their lives.

With 11 locations across the United States and a new partnership with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Bunker Labs focuses on early-stage veteran companies and aspiring entrepreneurs transitioning back into civilian life, helping them to establish the right connections to get their companies off the ground.

“At the heart of it is the center’s mission, being created by the community for the community to serve those entrepreneurs looking to gain resources to create, launch and grow their businesses,” Nashville Entrepreneur Center President and COO Sam Lingo said. “So this is a natural expansion to make the EC a hub for veteran entrepreneurship with our newest partner, Bunker Labs, here in Nashville.”

But Bunker Labs and the EC won’t be doing it alone.

Fifty-three years ago, Comcast was started by Navy veteran Ralph J. Roberts. Today, the company is partnering with Bunker Labs to help other veterans to build their businesses from the ground up, and it seemed “natural opportunity” to bring the relationship to Nashville as well, Macke said.

“Our relationship with the Bunker actually began in Chicago in 2014 and quickly expanded to a national partnership with the addition of Philadelphia. We’re very proud now to be a founding member of the Nashville Bunker,” Comcast Corporation's Vice President of External Affairs Andy Macke said. “This network, combined with the vibrant entrepreneurial community that exists here in Nashville is certainly going to help veteran entrepreneurs take their ideas to the next level and-- as importantly-- help to drive our local economy.”

In 2011, Comcast made a goal to hire 2,000 veterans over a three year period, and ended up doubling that number with 4,200 veteran employees by March 2014, Macke said. Today, the goal is to hire 10,000. 

“It’s part of our tradition to help fuel entrepreneurialism in the communities where we operate,” Macke said. “But also we have a deep commitment to veterans.”

Not only will having a Bunker Labs location in Nashville help to make the city a national hub for innovation, but will serve as a partnership between the city and veteran entrepreneurs that did not exist before.

Veterans are well-prepared to make the transition into entrepreneurship, because of the leadership skills, ingenuity and dedicated spirit they’ve employed during their time in the service.

“I think, one, our veterans understand hard work, they understand working with little to make something happen with less. When you’re an entrepreneur, that’s what you do. You’re starting with nothing and creating something out of scratch,” said Senator Mark Green.

“I think that’s what’s going to come out of this, the experiences that the entrepreneurs who are veterans are going to have is going to be monumental for Nashville. As we grow and expand our economy here, veterans are going to be a huge part of that,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

For more Nashville podcast content, visit ec.co/podcast.