BTN LiveBIG: Northwestern alum digs in on 'vetrepreneurship'

BTN LiveBIG: Northwestern alum digs in on 'vetrepreneurship'

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucDV2ncT870&w=560&h=315%5D

The common stereotype on military veterans who find adjusting to civilian life difficult is they’ve seen terrible things while serving their country that the rest of us couldn’t imagine. But that’s often not the case. Many times, these vets simply can’t establish the kinds of close, reliable bonds with civilian counterparts that they had in the armed forces.

“It’s one thing I think a lot of us miss,” said Mike Dawson, a Michigan alum and former lieutenant in the Navy. “When you’re in the military and serving on a ship, as I did, they become your family.”

But Dawson, a co-founder and chief operating officer of CloudSpotter, has found those kinds of bonds at The Bunker, a start-up incubator established by former Navy officer and Northwestern alumnus Todd Connor to help his fellow vets find camaraderie and guidance as they launch new businesses.

John Duffy, CEO and co-founder of Stock Trend Spotter and retired U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer, said he gets a lot out of the “Gains and Pains” session at Bunker meetings.

“We talk about what we’re able to accomplish, but we also talk about the pains that we’re facing,” he explained. “What’s really helpful is that everyone else is in the same boat and they’re able to contribute.”

In addition to formal sessions like that, a great deal of assistance comes in informal interactions.

“They’re able to catch us on the side and say, ‘Hey, you’ll want to look at this,’ and ‘Here’s a contact for you,’” Duffy said.

Behind it all, Connor works doggedly to help the “vetrepreneurs” of The Bunker succeed in their second careers.

“Todd is a force of nature,” said Rod Rakic, co-founder, OpenAirplane, and former auxiliary captain in the U.S. Air Force. “When we come to this, he’s there for us, making those connections, working hard for us — not just in the general sort of sense of being an entrepreneur working in a co-working space, but being part of this very focused community.”

Watch the one-minute video above to learn more about The Bunker.

By Brian Summerfield

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