A veteran’s transition into a regular day job isn’t always easy. Josh Roberto said that after six years in the Air Force, working at a software company was a stark change in an atmosphere that he wasn’t accustomed to.
“It was a big culture shock,” he said. “The discipline and expectations were quite different.”
Although Roberto said he initially worked with a government contractor, which eased the process into working a regular day job, he still had to adapt to the changes that come with working a regular business day. But he persevered, and Roberto has now founded his own startup, Faro10, a behavioral healthcare analytics software company based in Apex.
Being a veteran in the entrepreneurial world can be difficult. But Roberto said going to the Triangle chapter of Bunker Labs’ monthly “Bunker Brews” networking events — where anywhere from 50 to 150 veteran entrepreneurs and business owners gather — really helped him figure out how to find the team that now helps him run his startup.
Bunker Labs is a national nonprofit organization that was built by military veteran entrepreneurs to help empower other military veterans who want to start and grow their own innovative companies. The nonprofit was founded four and a half years ago in Chicago and currently has 28 national chapters. While the rest of us celebrate Veterans Day once a year — it’ll be observed this coming Monday, Nov. 12 — at Bunker Labs it’s an everyday focus.
The nonprofit has a chapter in the Triangle founded by Dean Bundschu, and it’s now expanding to five other locations in North Carolina thanks to a grant from NC IDEA. Bunker Labs will launch its Wilmington chapter in February 2019, and then will have a staggered launch about every two months after that in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro and Asheville.
Although Bundschu was the founder of the local Triangle chapter, he is now the regional executive director of Bunker Labs’ Atlantic Region. He said the organization has had satellite events in the new North Carolina regions, so that “we’re not coming in cold — we’ve done a lot of work to set the table for the launch of those chapters.”
The nonprofit offers programs and regularly hosts events in partnerships with national organizations like co-working space company WeWork to help offer free business and entrepreneur training to veterans. On average Bunker Labs runs about 40 events across the state of North Carolina, a number that will increase with the new chapters.
Arrival in Triangle
Bundschu served as Headquarters Commander for the U.S. Army in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After serving for about 10 years, he said he knew he wanted to stay in touch with the veteran community, and had a passion working with veterans. Eventually, he collaborated with some of the veterans who worked with Bunker Labs after meeting them in Chapel Hill, and Bundschu set his mind to founding the Raleigh-Durham Chapter.
The nonprofit offers various programming for any stage of a business for an entrepreneurial veteran. For instance, Bunker Labs offers Launch Lab Online, which is a 10-mission course that allows veterans to test an entrepreneurial idea. Over 400 veterans haven gone through the nonprofit’s online program. On the other end of the spectrum, Bunker Labs also offers CEOcircle, which allows veterans who are already running businesses that are showing growth to gather and share ideas.
Bundschu said he was passionate about founding the first chapter in North Carolina because the Triangle area and North Carolina have the “key ingredients” to have a buzzing innovation sector, which he believes include a highly skilled talent pool, great universities and an affordable cost of living. With these strengths in place, Bunker Labs made the decision to actively expand in North Carolina, while it also continues to try to grow to all 50 states.
“More than anything,” he said, “we’re trying to let every vet know that if you’re serious about starting a business, the best way to do that is with Bunker Labs supporting you throughout the entire life-cycle of you company.”