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September 07, 2017 | Tom Ballard

Inaugural “Bunker Brews Knoxville” set for September 18 during “Innov865 Week”

Bunker Labs NashvilleBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The Bunker Labs Nashville team is coming to Knoxville to hold its inaugural “Bunker Brews” here during “Innov865 Week.” The event is set for Monday, September 18, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC).

As noted in this first article in multi-part series on, the organization was created to help military veterans achieve their entrepreneurial goals. “Bunker Brews,” monthly happy hours that connect military entrepreneurs with business leaders through pitch sessions and panels to share their business lessons from the frontline, is one of several components of the organization’s programming.

The expansion to Knoxville and three other Tennessee cities is funded by a grant from Launch Tennessee. It starts in Memphis with a “Bunker Labs Leadership Reception” event September 11, stops in Knoxville September 18, goes to Clarksville on October 2, and finishes the inaugural round in Chattanooga on October 20.

“We want to make 1,000 connections with veteran entrepreneurs,” Blake Hogan, Executive Director and Founder of Bunker Labs Nashville, said about the statewide effort.

While noting that Bunker Labs focuses on veterans, he emphasizes that anyone is invited to attend the events. That’s because of the importance of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that is essential for veterans to succeed in a start-up business.

“Success looks like real, meaningful connections made at the event,” Hogan says of the September 18 event in Knoxville as well as the others. “It’s veterans connecting with people who can help them.”

Another key goal of the “Bunker Brews” meet-ups is to start identifying a core group of younger veterans to lead the local effort. Hogan has engaged with several individuals in the Knoxville area to help with the initial efforts led mainly by retired Air Force Colonel Derren Burrell, a Knoxville businessman.

“He will be recruiting two to three people who will commit to leading over the long-term as the Knoxville Bunker City Leadership Team,” Hogan said.

As noted in the May article about Bunker Labs, there are resources the organization has developed to help local organizers and the veterans themselves. The organization also has just launched an app as noted in this recent post.

Success, however, is not achieved if it is just veterans who turnout for Bunker Labs events.

“It’s important that the business, executive and finance communities get excited about veteran entrepreneurship,” Hogan says, so he hopes representatives of those sectors will attend the inaugural “Bunker Brews.”

“The military is one of the greatest alumni groups that doesn’t have a formal alumni organization,” Hogan says. Through its expanded efforts across the state, Bunker Labs hopes to develop that vibrant alliance.

“We want to engineer the right environment for veteran entrepreneurs to be successful,” Hogan says. “We have great anchor partners with KEC, CO.LAB, and Start.Co.”

To register for the September 18 event, click here. Those in the Chattanooga area can click here to register for that event.