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Empowering military vets

New organization offers help to entrepreneurs

Bunker Labs Seattle is an organization dedicated to helping veterans begin their own businesses. Photo courtesy Bunker Labs

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Legend has it that Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern in a barn that caused the Great Chicago Fire in October 1871.

Following the conflagration, reconstruction began in earnest and from the ashes arose lasting economic development.

That sense of perseverance in the face of adversity continues today in the presence of Bunker Labs.

A national not-for-profit organization located in Chicago in an entrepreneurial center known today as 1871.

Bunker Labs, a 501(c) 3 organization committed to veteran entrepreneurship, is launching its newest chapter in Seattle.  

With local chapters in 15 other cities thus far, military veteran entrepreneurs built Bunker Labs to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship.

A Navy officer and veteran, Todd Conner, founder of Bunker Labs, served on the USS Bunker Hill.  To honor his tour of duty and to reflect the experimental nature of military veterans' entrepreneurship, his organization was formed.  

"He notes with irony that the USS Bunker Hill is named after an Army battle," new executive director of the Seattle branch wrote.

"One could argue that the name has its roots in Army history."

And so, too, does economic growth driven by veterans.

A Navy veteran, Schonberg joined him in this local endeavor with Army veteran Jake Tozier and Air Force veteran Maggi Molina.

Comcast NBCUniversal is the founding sponsor for Bunker Labs Seattle, and provided $100K to build the labs' office at CoMotion Labs at Startup Hall on the University of Washington campus.

To celebrate the launch of the chapter, Bunker Labs Seattle will host The Muster Seattle at Startup Hall, May 5, at 11 a.m.  

The event, which is part of The Muster Across America Tour, is sponsored by JP Morgan Chase & Company.

"We think Seattle has the potential to be the most successful Bunker Labs chapter yet," wrote Tozier in an email.

He has an excellent point.

Following World War II, approximately 50 percent of returning veterans began businesses.  Today, about 25 percent of post-9/11 veterans say they want to start a business, but only 4.5 percent will follow through.  And last, 62 percent of those who fail to begin a business say they fail due to a lack of professional and peer network.

Bunker Labs Seattle offers veterans the opportunity to learn about exploring and networking their entrepreneurial ideas.

"NETWORK!" wrote Schonberg.

"Bunker Labs solves the network problem with low- and high-tech solutions that appeal to millennials and support a physical and virtual network to empower veterans as successful entrepreneurs."

Schonberg also stated that the tech and entrepreneurial scene in Seattle - paired with the large veteran community in the greater Pacific Northwest - will take advantage of veterans' unique set of experience and skills to generate new veteran-founded startups."

The fire of starting one's business waits.

The May 5 Muster Seattle will commence at the University of Washington CoMotion Labs at Startup Hall, 1100 NE Campus Parkway, Suite 200, Seattle.

For more information, visit, email, twitter @BunkerLabsSea or call 253.345.9503.

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