By Mike Maher, Co-Founder & Chairman of Benjamin’s Desk; The Bunker Philadelphia Leader
Last week, Comcast announced it is the first National Corporate Sponsor of The Bunker, an innovation accelerator for veteran-led businesses. Most important for Philadelphians, Comcast has also become the Founding Sponsor of The Bunker Philadelphia—providing a unique opportunity for Philadelphia’s veterans and business community.
The Bunker was launched in Chicago on Veterans Day in 2014, and has opened up shop in seven cities over the past year. It was created to provide support for prospective veteran entrepreneurs. After all, roughly 200,000 service members leave active duty each year, with a quarter of them expressing interest in starting their own businesses. Sadly, the number of veterans who actually fulfill that dream and join the ranks of new entrepreneurs has sharply declined, from 12 percent in 1996 to 6 percent in 2011.
The Bunker Philadelphia will provide these individuals with a working space (I’m proud to say that is at Benjamin’s Desk), mentors, access to investors, pro bono services and a community of support to help military veteran-led startup companies grow in today’s competitive market. This expansion into Philadelphia would not be possible without Comcast, and it will surely be the impetus for other corporate sponsors to join in supporting the new initiative.
As an entrepreneur and a veteran in Philadelphia, I see this sponsorship as much more than a financial donation. It’s about two of Comcast’s significant commitments coming together ― helping veterans to succeed, and developing Philadelphia as a beacon for innovation. The company’s support for veterans is evident through its hiring practices and community involvement. Comcast has also provided unwavering support for Philadelphia’s startup community, including Benjamin’s Desk and other initiatives. Ever since Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen listened to my Benjamin’s Desk pitch in 2013, we have developed partnerships with several departments, helping to provide tremendous resources to thousands of mobile professionals, entrepreneurs, and startups in the region.
The Bunker has decided on its first cohort of six Philadelphia veteran-led startups, and will continue to accept additional applications. The businesses include: Houwzer, a residential real estate brokerage company; Starchup, a software and mobile application that enables dry cleaning and laundry businesses to provide a better customer experience; CauseEngine, which matches non-profits with freelancers; VetsFoward and Serve1 are, both resources for veterans; and GoPaperboy, a hyper-local marketplace matching students, families and communities.
I am grateful to Comcast for their partnership in The Bunker, and I know they will continue to give to Philadelphia. I’ve never been more excited for our startup community, and I look forward to participating as these innovative businesses grow and succeed in Philadelphia.