The country's first business incubator for veteran-owned technology firms will launch a local chapter here Wednesday at the Hub Cira Centre, next to Amtrak's 30th Street Station.
Under the name the Bunker, the new incubator will assist military veteran-owned start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Launched in Chicago earlier this year, the Bunker is opening affiliates in Philadelphia and six other cities.
"The veteran community is an able and ready talent pool of entrepreneurs," said Todd Connor, CEO of the Bunker and a Navy veteran.
The Bunker's first "class" of Chicago start-ups launched this month with 16 companies.
"In just a matter of months, this movement has gained enormous momentum, and soon we will have a network of incubators around the country to assist veterans who have a dream and a solid idea to start their own business," Connor added.
Open to the public, the Bunker will launch at a monthly Startup Grind meet-up from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hub Cira Centre. Josh Kopelman, a local entrepreneur and venture capitalist, will be a guest speaker. Kopelman recently was ranked No. 11 on the Forbes Midas List of the top tech investors nationally.
RoseAnn Rosenthal, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, is endorsing the initiative.
"It's time to help them pursue their entrepreneurial dreams," she said in a statement.
The Bunker will assist at least five companies in the first start-up class in early 2015, primarily hailing from the tech sector. The Bunker in Philadelphia will be housed temporarily at Benjamin's Desk, a coworking office space in Center City for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Benjamin's Desk cofounder, Michael Maher, a 2005 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Cape May native, will serve as executive director of the Bunker's Philadelphia affiliate. Along with his wife, Jennifer, Maher launched FirstBase, a real estate brokerage that matches start-ups with office brokers and discounted services, and RealComps, a real estate and tech start-up.
Maher is also setting up the Veterans Initiative at the Union League of Philadelphia, where corporations post jobs for unemployed veterans. In 2015, the Union League Veterans Job Fair will also provide opportunities for veterans to connect one-on-one with the business community.
"We have a special obligation to provide opportunities for our veterans to achieve success once they return home," said Maher.
To register for the Bunker's Philadelphia launch Wednesday, visit StartUp Grind Philadelphia's website via www.inquirer.com/startupgrind.
Tickets are also available at the door. For more information about the Bunker visit its website (bunkerincubator.com).