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Bunker Labs helps veterans start companies

By Judy Newman, Wisconsin State Journal

Veterans who want to start businesses in the Madison area will be able to get a helping hand from Bunker Labs, a Chicago nonprofit that started a branch here.

“Our mission is to help veterans start and grow businesses,” said Michael Ertmer, Madison office executive director. “We want to help them with whatever they need next — mentorship, access to capital, their first customer.”

Bunker Labs opened an office Tuesday in the MGE Innovation Center, 505 S. Rosa Road, Suite 120, with support from University Research Park and AT&T. But don’t expect to sit and chat right away — there’s no furniture just yet, Ertmer said.

Ertmer organized the Patriot Boot Camp held in Madison last fall by the TechStars tech accelerator program. Thirty vets from about a dozen states participated.

Bunker Labs, launched last year at Chicago’s 1871 tech incubator, has been expanding its efforts around the country.

Why Madison?

“It’s a great and growing community for startups,” Ertmer said. “The city, the state and the University of Wisconsin are very supportive of military veterans and entrepreneurs, and we’re at the nexus of that.”

Ertmer said Bunker Labs has developed a 14-week curriculum for entrepreneurial development, calling it a “pre-accelerator program.” But he said it’s not a strictly structured program, and it’s not what every veteran needs. Read more …

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