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June 27, 2014

Veterans’-focused high-tech incubator in Chicago

by Dan Rodriguez

Great initiative, reflecting the work of distinguished alum, Howard Tullman ’71, and his colleagues at Chicago’s high tech incubator, 1871:

1871, GOVERNOR QUINN, MAYOR EMANUEL, AND THE PAT TILLMAN FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE VETERANS TECHNOLOGY INCUBATOR AT 1871
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.”

“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 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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About 1871

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.

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