There are more than 21 million fearless heroes who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. While we honor their service year round, today—November 11th—we pay special tribute to these brave women and men. We are shining a spotlight on several innovative businesses and incubators, founded by active and veteran service members that are using entrepreneurial ventures and strategies to uplift veterans. With the support of incubators like veteran-started Bunker Labs and policies like the Veteran Entrepreneurship Act of 2015, we hope to empower more veteran entrepreneurs to start thriving businesses.
The Unite US team recognized a problem: services available to veterans are often managed by any number of disparate government offices and non-governmental organizations. The lack of coordination and various processes make it increasingly difficult for veterans to receive the critical services they need. In response, Unite US developed an online application that allows government offices and other service providers to better serve the veteran community. A free platform, Unite US is connecting current military service members, veterans and their families to transformative resources and opportunities in their local communities. These opportunities include networking channels with veteran organizations, peers and civilian supporters that provide seamless solutions for current and former military service members. With its interactive, proximity-based technology, Unite US members and organizations are able to seamlessly connect with resources, each other and services based on need and location.
Unite US, which has more than 1,000 users accessing their software and upwards of 100,000+ users on their consumer platform, is looking forward to powering over 25 city and state coordinated networks and helping organizations and government use real-time data to measure collective impact and better understand the needs of service-members, veterans and military families.
Unite US is a for-profit social enterprise founded by three men who deeply value, and are committed to supporting the men and women who have served in our armed forces. The company’s CEO, Dan Brillman currently serves as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force reserves.
RallyPoint deploys technology to create opportunities for veterans to connect with one another in order to pursue employment opportunities. Anyone currently serving (active duty, active reserve, nationals guard, pre-commission) or who has formerly served can join RallyPoint at no cost. Since it was founded in 2012, it has been a recruitment tool for companies to connect with more than 750,000 qualified military personnel and veterans. Employers can post targeted employment and education opportunities, search through a database for qualified applicants, find a team to launch a new venture or move quickly through contingency hiring. In addition to helping veterans find employment opportunities, RallyPoint serves as a social networking platform to keep military service members connected to one another.
RallyPoint, a for-profit business, was created by two U.S. military veterans and Harvard Business School graduates, Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing.
The mission at Bunker Labs, a co-working space and accelerator for veteran-owned businesses and new veteran entrepreneurs, is to catalyze the entrepreneurial potential of the military experience to lead the American economy. The Bunker team seeks to elevate existing, veteran-owned tech startups and to help launch the businesses of aspiring veteran entrepreneurs through education, mentorship and better access to funding. Its goal is to unleash the entrepreneurial potential of our nation’s veterans and create a new forum for high-performing veterans to meet and collaborate. To date, the Bunker has helped to launch 19 businesses in Chicago and has opened nine locations nationally.
Bunker Labs is led by Navy veteran Todd Connor and had its start in Chicago, but is currently successfully expanding its efforts with new locations across the country.
Today, about 25 percent of military members transitioning to civilian life are considering entrepreneurship as their choice of employment. Veterans have a stubbornly high unemployment rate — one that is higher than the national average — making it even more critical that we consider how to remove some of the obstacles they face to becoming entrepreneurs. In addition to the great programs we discussed here, there is also recent legislation that passed in both the House and Senate in July, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015. The Act aims to break down the barriers and challenges to entrepreneurship for veterans. This act will waive the upfront guarantee loan fees for veterans and increase the Small Business Administration’s lending authority from $18.75 billion to more than $23 billion for this type of loan. The goal of the bill, as explained by Chairman Chabot, is to make sure our veterans have the resources needed to apply their strategic planning, tactical expertise and dogged perseverance to launch a new business and build up the communities they’ve protected. We are hopeful that this legislation, together with ventures like those we spotlighted here, will help veterans experience a smoother transition to civilian life and entrepreneurship.
If you know of other great organizations or programs like these, we invite you to share their stories as well by joining the conversation on twitter with #VeteransDay.