By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
There are many moving parts right now in Blake Hogan’s life, ranging from a second baby on the way to an expanded role at Bunker Labs as the organization focuses on covering the country in the next few years and an upcoming major event in Nashville that is influenced by his own entrepreneurial journey.
“I’m taking on a new role as our Chief Growth Officer to support our national expansion and roll out an access to capital strategy,” he told us recently. “There are 70 cities on the waiting list for a chapter and adding 38 by 2021 would get us to all 50 states.”
The growth has come quickly to the organization that is focused on equipping military veterans and their spouses with the tools to be successful entrepreneurs. It just celebrated its fifth birthday on June 14. Founded in Chicago, the not-for-profit added Nashville to its list of cities with chapters in 2016, and Hogan, a U.S. Marines veteran, moved to Music City to lead its efforts there.
Over the past two years, he has expanded the organization’s footprint in Tennessee to include satellite activities in several other cities in the Volunteer State. The Knoxville effort is led by Derren Burrell, founder of Veteran Venture Capital
Now, thanks to a $3 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bunker Labs has launched a significant national expansion strategy that will result in the creation of Bunker Labs chapters in all 50 states by 2021.
“JPMorgan Chase has been a phenomenal partner since 2014 in helping us to build and expand our mission,” Hogan says. That help includes securing Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase, for a featured fireside chat at the upcoming “Muster Across America Tour” that makes one of its seven U.S. stops next Thursday (August 8) in Music City.
“Our job at Bunker Labs is to inspire, equip, and connect the military community to be successful entrepreneurs, and Jamie Dimon’s participation demonstrates the level of business leadership engaged in the mission,” Hogan says. “In every city where Bunker Labs is active, a critical success factor is engaging private sector executives to serve as supporters of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs.”
“The Muster’s theme is all about opportunity . . . Customers, Connections and Capital,” Hogan added. “We expect entrepreneurs to leave The Muster with opportunities that move the needle for their companies.”
The Muster runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church Street. There are two program tracks, one for entrepreneurs who have just launched their companies and another for those that are in growth mode. For each track, a series of panel sessions is planned where a city leader in the program or a Bunker Labs company will be paired with a business leader to explore a topic.
Bunker Labs has also partnered with the Ford Fund to host pitch competitions for veterans and their military spouse entrepreneurs throughout the 2019 “Muster Across America Tour.” That means that each of the 10 participants in the latest Nashville cohort of the “WeWork Veterans in Residence Program Powered by Bunker Labs” will be eligible to win either $5,000 or $3,500 from the Ford Fund to help support their businesses.
As Hogan has worked to organize the event, he’s brought along a personal perspective to the plans. He’s an entrepreneur, founding his own start-up – Breakaway Safety Solutions. It has a patent pending product named SafeGate that is designed to save lives at outdoor events acting as an emergency exit that can be installed by one person. To date, the technology has safely evacuated over 50,000 people and was used recently at the CMA Fest.
“It’s such a fulfilling mission and an exciting time to be part of the Bunker Labs mission,” Hogan says of the work with military veterans who want to be successful entrepreneurs.
Here’s a recently issued news release on next week’s Muster (Bunker Labs Nashville Muster Release_2019).