A national nonprofit organization is establishing incubator space in Research Triangle Park that will cater to military veterans who have caught the entrepreneurial bug.
The Bunker RDU – part of a national network of incubator spaces established by The Bunker, a nonprofit based in Chicago – expects to begin working with an initial group of 15 to 20 veteran-run startups early next year.
“Although there’s a lot of organizations and a lot of initiatives out there that focus on encouraging people to hire veterans, there haven’t been a lot of organizations to encourage veterans to start businesses,” said Dean Bundschu, executive director of Bunker RDU. Bundschu, a former U.S. Army captain, also is managing partner of LSP Consulting, a digital sales and marketing consulting firm in Cary.
Bunker RDU will provide at least six months of free space to entrepreneurs with a military background as well as a free four-month entrepreneur-in-residence program that includes instruction on the basics of starting and running a business as well as daily access to mentors and advisers.
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Mentors and advisers will be provided in partnership with organizations such as Groundwork Labs and HQ Raleigh.
“It’s definitely a community initiative,” Bundschu said.
The Research Triangle Park Foundation is providing free space to Bunker RDU in The Frontier, a five-story building that the foundation reinvented earlier this year. The building offers free first-floor space “for people to meet and mix” plus office space for tenants ranging from startups to The Army Research Office.
The Foundation plans to provide somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500-square-feet of dedicated space in The Frontier for Bunker RDU’s veteran entrepreneurs. In addition, those entrepreneurs will have access to the co-working space on the first floor.
“Having a space for veterans who are coming back or have been back for awhile and want to take what talents they have and apply those to an entrepreneurial venture, we think that’s awesome,” said Bob Geolas, president and CEO of the RTP Foundation, which manages RTP.
Bunker RDU aims to inspire more military veterans to start their own businesses. After World War II 49 percent of veterans started their own business, Bundschu said, but today only about 6 percent become entrepreneurs.
Although there are 2.5 million veterans who own businesses nationwide, “about 75 percent of them are 55 years or older,” he added.
On Sept. 24, The Frontier is hosting VetStart, a free event where veterans and military spouses can learn about starting a new business and the resources that are available for veteran entrepreneurs. To register online, go to startupveterans.org/vetstart/.