Roughly 200,000 service members leave active duty each year, and a quarter of them express interest in starting their own business. Following World War II, 49 percent of veterans started their own businesses after returning home. However, veterans representing new entrepreneurs have declined from 12 percent in 1996, to 6 percent in 2011.
We founded The Bunker, an innovation accelerator for veteran-led businesses, to combat those troubling numbers. Built by veteran entrepreneurs for veteran entrepreneurs in 2014, The Bunker provides working space, mentors, access to investors, pro-bono services and a community of support to help veteran-led startup companies. We currently have programs in seven cities across the United States, with the goal to channel the energy among military veterans to become entrepreneurs and business owners, and create a new forum for high-performing veterans to meet and collaborate.
When building the program, we knew it would take a lot of corporate support to get it off the ground and running—fortunately for us, Comcast was among the first companies to support The Bunker in its first year. I was proud to stand with Comcast leadership in Philadelphia this week to announce that the company would become The Bunker’s first National Corporate Sponsor, and the Founding Sponsor of The Bunker Philadelphia, our newest location.
As someone who works with Comcast as a veteran and as an entrepreneur, I am continually impressed by the company’s steadfast commitment to both communities. Comcast was a startup 50 years ago, led by Navy veteran Ralph J. Roberts, and today the company’s commitment to veterans and innovation shines through in so many of its programs. A perfect example of this is its hiring practices: in addition to hiring 4,200 veterans between 2012 and 2015, the company announced in May that it would hire 10,000 new reservists, veterans and their spouses or domestic partners. The company even created a new role that is completely dedicated to supporting our company’s programs and outreach engaging the military and veteran community.
The company’s commitment to innovation is also clear. Comcast Business has also been working with entrepreneurs who own and operate small businesses for years, including programs like Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs that celebrate and reward entrepreneurs and startups that are using technology to better their businesses. The Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, currently being built in Philadelphia, will become a beacon for innovation, and will also offer incubator space for local technology startups.
This commitment has very real results for veterans and for entrepreneurs. Thanks to Comcast’s support, The Bunker has gone from an idea to a national network of veterans leading innovation and a model that we continue to replicate in cities across country.
Entrepreneurs interested in learning more about The Bunker can visit www.BunkerIncubator.com