By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A ribbon was cut today for a new, center-city-based innovation center that will act as a national incubator for veteran-led businesses.
The goal is to help more veterans to innovate, says Todd Connor (center of photo), founder and CEO of The Bunker, “whether it’s raising money, whether it’s getting pro bono services, whether it’s creating a network to help them identify tech talent.”
The organization has locations in seven cities.
Connor notes that after World War II, 49 percent of veterans started businesses when they returned home. Today, however, while 25 percent of returning military personnel say they would like to start a business, only six percent actually do.
“We have that clear gap that The Bunker is trying to fill,” Connor says.
Daniel Tobin, an Army veteran and attorney (far left in photo), founded Starchup, an online marketplace that helps laundry businesses deliver. He’s one of the six startups already registered to use The Bunker Philadelphia.
“As soon as you are accepted into the veteran program at the Bunker, people know that you’re a legitimate company,” says Tobin. And that, he says, helped his business get started.
“Imagine GrubHub or Seamless, but for laundry,” he says. “For every laundry business in an area, we link customers to their services via a mobile app.”
Jennifer Gallagher (second from right in photo), the wife of a US Navy veteran, started GoPaperboy, an online marketplace that connects students to families who need services. She launched her prototype with The Bunker’s help.
“Families are hiring students for anything from tennis coaches to babysitting to dog walkers to party services,” she says. “You name it, and we can help families fill their needs. Being around veterans who are committed and hardworking, we all understand each other.”
Comcast will serve as The Bunker’s national sponsor, providing financial support, infrastructure, mentors, and more for the veteran startups.
“I tell people all the time: 52 years ago we were an entrepreneurial startup,” says David Cohen, senior executive at Comcast. “Nobody knew whether our company was going to work. We had 1,200 customers and a half-dozen employees. Today, we are a $68-billion company with 139,000 employees. It’s a great entrepreneurial success story.”
The Bunker Philadelphia is hoping to expand to 12 veteran startups by the fall, and will move to a larger space inside the Curtis Center, at 6th and Walnut, later this year.
The organization is now accepting applications for startups, mentors, employees, and more. Details at bunkerincubator.com.