By: Derren Burrell, Bunker Labs Knoxville

Bunker Labs Knoxville is proud to be a part of The Innov865 Alliance, and we’re committed to building up the entrepreneurial ecosystem in and around our community.  Some of you may have never heard about Bunker Labs, and we wanted to introduce you to this relatively new and growing community of military entrepreneurs!

Bunker Labs – a 501(c)(3) non-profit – is a national network of veteran entrepreneurs dedicated to helping new veteran entrepreneurs start their own business. We are committed to seeing that every entrepreneur in the veteran community has the network, tools, and resources they need to start their own business.  The Knoxville Chapter has been in operation for a year and a half, and we are excited to take the chapter to the next level as part of The Alliance.

25% of transitioning service members want to start a business and they need places inside their community where they can connect with the people, resources, and support they need to start and grow their businesses. A very small percentage of transitioning members (about 6%) actually start businesses, and two of the main limiting factors are 1) access to capital, and 2) lack of a strong business network.  Bunker Labs seeks to bridge this gap by creating an environment in which veterans are able to interact with successful business leaders within their prospective communities. The Knoxville Chapter is a part of a nationwide, 25-city network that seeks to be within all 50 states over the next 3 years. Here are some of the national statistics of Bunker labs in the 5 years since its founding:

  • $117,436,328 Revenue generated by participating startups (excludes companies which individually generated more than $10 million in revenue)
  • 3,648 New business connections made through Bunker Labs
  • 1,954 Jobs created by participating startups
  • $80,120,447 Capital raised by participating startups
  • 1,012 Startups that have completed Bunker Labs programs 
  • 1,002 Jobs created for military veterans

Our core pillars and what we do can be summed up in three words: Inspire, Equip, and Connect.

Inspire. One of the many reasons why more veterans are not becoming entrepreneurs is that they don’t know all of the options available to them. After World War II and Vietnam, veterans returned home and started everything from shoe companies (Nike) to shipping companies (FedEx). Veterans today are just as ambitious and innovative in entrepreneurship but their stories aren’t being told. We want to find and tell their stories.

Equip. Bunker Labs was started by veterans who got out of the military and started their own businesses. As such we understand the unique challenges associated with the transition process combined with the difficulty of starting a business. We have compiled and curated the best entrepreneurial training from the brightest minds in the field into three distinct phases of entrepreneurship.

Connect. Whether you are exploring a new career path after active duty service, starting a business or growing your business—building your network is critical. Bunker Labs invites veterans, business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and subject matter experts to get plugged into their local entrepreneurial ecosystem through our monthly Bunker Brews meetups.

This mission aligns perfectly with The Alliance, as both believe that entrepreneurship is essential to the success of our community. The Innov865 Alliance develops, supports, and promotes the Knoxville region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is a collaborative effort to celebrate and showcase Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses and increase access to capital.  Bunker Labs Knoxville mirrors this same collaborative nature, choosing to hone in on the military veteran demographic.  

The veteran entrepreneur is fast becoming a powerful force across the nation, and we want to see this same phenomenon take root in Knoxville.  Tennessee is a magnet for veterans, ranking in the top echelon in places for service members to retire and begin their life after the military.  We at Bunker Labs believe that Knoxville’s entrepreneurial future is incredibly bright, and as a member of The Alliance we will continue to pour our efforts and resources to help this vision become a reality!