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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Bunker Labs @ Wisconsin aims to support veteran entrepreneurs

UW-Madison began a partnership Nov. 10 with Bunker Labs @ Wisconsin, an outlet that allows veterans pursue entrepreneurial interests in high-tech startups.

Bunker Labs is located at University Research Park in Madison and is currently recruiting 10 to 20 veterans with strong ideas for a technological-based endeavor, according to a UW-Madison release.

Executive Director of Bunker Labs @ Wisconsin and U.S. Army veteran Michael Ertmer said the characteristics maintained by soldiers often mirror the personality traits of entrepreneurs.

“Veterans have unique qualifications to be entrepreneurs because of their experience on active duty and the battlefield,” Ertmer said in the release. “The current generation of vets has been charged with simultaneously fighting a war and building a country, and it's hard to think of anything more fundamentally entrepreneurial.”

Bunker Labs will work as a help center where veterans can gain advice and referrals for their specific entrepreneurship project, such as customer recruitment and revenue growth, according to the release.

“Few soldiers are over-resourced,” Ertmer said in the release. “They're given responsibility but not always authority; [they] are forced to make things happen, to do more with less. That reads like the resume of a successful entrepreneur.”

Bunker Labs’ first company-in-residence, Polco, gives citizens the chance to interact with local politics through a specially designed software program. Ertner said in the release that Dane County is Polco’s largest customer thus far.

The Wisconsin chapter is one of 10 Bunker Labs in the nation, all of which raise their own funds. The Wisconsin group is in need of corporate and foundation support, which led the Small Business Development Center within the UW-Madison School of Business to help the Labs, according to the release.

The SBDC created the Wisconsin Business AnswerLine service to give veterans an outlet to ask questions about the Bunker Lab.

“I participated as a mentor in Patriot Boot Camp,” said SBDC Director Neil Lerner in the release. “It was a terrific experience, and it opened my eyes to the special skills and interests that military veterans bring to entrepreneurship.”

Ertmer said in the release he believes the Bunker Labs @ Wisconsin is about forming a professional set of connections between veterans to support them in their future endeavors.

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