Dubbed “The Bunker,” Incubator to House Veteran-Owned Technology Companies Beginning in Fall of 2014.
1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman confirmed today that 1871 will be launching a veterans-focused technology incubator called The Bunker in 2014 as part of 1871’s recently announced expansion plans at its digital startup hub in The Merchandise Mart. The announcement is officially being made in concert with the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn, as well as the Pat Tillman Foundation – all of whom are also expected to provide support and resources for the new program.
Tullman describes the inspiration for the new initiative: “Many years ago in law school, I learned that my most mature classmates and the hardest and most serious competitors in the school were the vets. They had the positive ‘can do’ attitude, the ‘take no prisoners’ drive, and the commitment to success that are precisely what it takes to build a successful startup. In addition, we owe these men and women a great debt for their sacrifices and service to our country. At 1871, we want everything we do to make a difference, not just a living, and we hope in our own way that we can help our vets move forward and make yet another important contribution to our economy.”
The Bunker will be the Nation’s first Veteran Business Accelerator and will harness the leadership experiences of veterans as a strategic differentiator for startup and early stage veteran owned technology enabled businesses. The Bunker will be a veteran-operated, veteran-focused effort that will seek to offer an entry point into the technology economy for hundreds of local and national veteran owned and operated technology businesses, with the dual goal of exploring and tapping into the significant resources available to veterans from government organizations and maximizing the skill and trainings which our veterans developed while serving in the military.
While there are a substantial number of city, state and federal veteran assistance programs, it is sometimes a challenging and complex process – especially for novice business builders - and one of the focus areas of the 1871 veteran’s incubator will be to work closely with the city and the state as well as the vets to help smooth, streamline and accelerate these interactions. 1871’s huge population of volunteer mentors (especially in the legal and accounting fields) will be of invaluable assistance in these areas. The Bunker will be run by Todd Connor, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Navy veteran and successful entrepreneur who most recently led the city of Chicago’s military high schools program.
The Bunker will be a part of the new 25,000 square foot expansion coming from 1871 this October, which was announced on Tuesday, June 17, in conjunction with Governor Quinn. Fueled by a $2.5 million investment from the State, the 25,000-square foot space will house alumni companies, venture capital firms, and incubators and accelerators, including this effort.
"Illinois' veterans are some of the most talented and skilled individuals in our state's workforce," Governor Quinn said. "By supporting veteran-owned and operated businesses, we can ensure that our men and women service members have what they need to continue contributing to our communities while driving our economy forward. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many brave Illinois men and women who have answered the call to serve and I commend The Bunker and 1871 for launching this innovative platform on their behalf."
Just last week Governor Quinn joined 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman to announce that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is providing the $2.5 million investment as a result of 1871’s strong contributions to job growth. Throughout his career, Governor Quinn has made commitment to veterans, service members and their families a top priority. He led the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program that helps veterans transition back to their daily lives and the Welcome Home Heroes program which helps support Illinois service members seeking home ownership. In total, the state has targeted $20 million total in capital Illinois Jobs Now! funds to the Welcome Home Heroes program to help increase affordable homeownership opportunities for military veterans and their families. As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, which established a fund to provide grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who are called to active duty. These grants help service members and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities and other expenses when the wage-earner has left civilian employment for active military duty. The fund has distributed more than $15.1 million to 29,625 Illinois military families to assist with the financial burden at home.
"Our veterans have provided a tremendous service to this country for which we all owe a debt of gratitude. We as a nation and a city have a special obligation to provide opportunities for success to our veterans once they return home,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Veterans are among the best, brightest and most talented individuals our country has to offer, and I applaud 1871 for making it a priority to promote and recruit them to be leaders in Chicago’s highly-skilled tech workforce.”
Earlier this week, Mayor Emanuel introduced and City Council approved the City’s first veteran’s preference bid incentive program for all city contracts. The veteran’s preference bid initiative will create more opportunities for participation in City contracts and foster partnerships between small local businesses and veteran-owned businesses in the form of joint ventures, by awarding a 5 percent bid incentive off the contract base price to such joint ventures.
These efforts follow the successful launch of the City’s first "Returning Veterans Initiative,” a program to ensure every returning veteran has the tools they need to successfully transition back to civilian life and continue to serve this country from home. As part of this initiative, the Mayor has opened two new veterans resource offices, launched the City College’s “Service to Success” program, launched an online resource guide and built 70 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans.
“Great startup businesses need great leaders who know how to ‘get it done’ amidst uncertain and challenging circumstances. This is what veterans bring.” stated Todd Connor, CEO of The Bunker. “This represents a truly different model for the veteran community that is not about defining the veteran population as a group that needs help, but rather capitalizing on the talent pool of some of the highest performing veterans.”
The Bunker is announced with the support of the Pat Tillman Foundation, which is holding its 5th Annual Leadership Summit in Chicago from June 26-29. 1871, and which, in concert with the Mayor, will formally announce The Bunker initiative at the Pat Tillman Leadership Luncheon to be held at the Hilton Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, on Friday, June 27 at 12:00pm. The luncheon is open press. For more details, please visitwww.pattillmanfoundation.org/summit.
“Investing in future leaders is at the core of our mission supporting military veterans and their spouses,” said Marie Tillman, President and Co-Founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “As an extension of that, we’re excited to partner with the Mayor, Governor and 1871 to empower these leaders through a new, dynamic platform, so they can to scale their business ideas, bring their ventures to life, and continue impacting our communities.”
The Bunker is expected to maximize use of 1871’s existing shared facilities for housing its companies and hopes to bring companies to Chicago and 1871 for long-term, permanent stays that will allow integration into the 1871 community as well as the broader Chicago business community.
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1871 is an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, the soon-to-be 75,000-square-foot facility provides Chicago startups with programming, access to mentors, educational resources, potential investors and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs that help them on their path to building successful businesses. 1871 is the flagship project of the CEC.
About the Pat Tillman Foundation
In 2002, Pat Tillman proudly put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve his country. Family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation following Pat’s death in April 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. Created to honor Pat’s legacy of leadership and service, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships – building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others. Nationwide nearly 350 Tillman Military Scholars have been named in Pat’s honor to continue their service to our country in the fields of medicine, law, business, government, education, technology and the arts. For more information on the Pat Tillman Foundation or to make a donation, please visit www.pattillmanfoundation.org.
© Illinois Science and Technology Coalition
Illustration by Dieter Braun