Michael Maher hosted a star-studded launch to his new project this morning, a local expansion of a Chicago business incubator for military veterans called The Bunker.
Maher, a former naval officer, founded Center City coworking space Benjamin’s Desk in 2012 and recently gave the reins to his brother so he could focus on his real estate startup, Houwzer. He first announced his plans for The Bunker on Veterans Day.
The Bunker’s launch coincided with Comcast’s announcement of a national sponsorship for The Bunker, one month after the media and telecom giant pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and their spouses over the next three years. (Comcast did not disclose details of the sponsorship.)
That’s why Comcast super-exec David L. Cohen was seated in the front row of Benjamin’s Desk’s eighth floor event space, next to the Bunker founder Todd Connor, Comcast Cable CEO and former Navy SEAL Neil Smit, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger and perhaps a bit surprisingly, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the daughter of a veteran, who spoke of the importance of small business. (She actually worked for the lone FCC Commissioner who opposed the Comcast/NBCUniversal deal.) The 3,000-square-foot room was packed, with the bulk of attendees standing.
The Bunker’s mission of supporting veteran-led businesses is close to Comcast’s heart because its founder, Ralph Roberts, who recently passed away, started the company after he left the Navy.
“We will be on the lookout for this generation’s Ralph Roberts,” said Bunker founder Connor.
The Bunker will launch with six startups, including Maher’s own, and will have a permanent home in Benjamin’s Desk’s second location: a 10,000-square-foot space on the top floor of the Curtis Center at 601 Walnut St.
Find a list of the startups, and their respective founders, below.
- Houwzer, Mike Maher
- Starchup, Dan Tobon
- CauseEngine, James Brobyn
- VetsForward, Dave Foster
- Serve1, Chris Diaz
- GoPaperboy, Jen Gallagher
Maher hopes to take on about six more startups by the fall.
Starchup founder Dan Tobon, who was in the first class of the Bunker in Chicago and has since moved to Philadelphia, got the biggest laugh of the morning when he told the crowd why being an entrepreneur and being a veteran are so similar.
He said: “Everyone thinks it’s really cool when you tell them, but there’s no way in hell that they’ll do it themselves.”