RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Bunker Labs RDU, one of 22 national chapters of the nonprofit organization built by military veteran entrepreneurs with the mission of empowering other military veterans and military spouses to become leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation, was just voted the best national chapter of the organization.

The group also has been honored for an event it put on last year.

Dean Bundschu

“We have worked to build a model which allowed us to become one of the first chapters to build a statewide network,” said Dean Bundschu, the founder and executive director of Bunker Labs RDU, “to better connect veteran entrepreneurs to local ecosystems within North Carolina.”

When Bundschu launched Bunker Labs RDU in 2016, he knew that the way to grow the organization’s impact and reach across the state was to work through partnerships and to hold events in other parts of the state.

After partnering with the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington to run a series of events, Bundschu knew the organization was onto something. Events in Charlotte, Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Wilson followed.

Now, less than three years later, there are more than 40 events scheduled across the state of North Carolina, each of which attracts 50–100 veterans, said Bundschu in an interview.

Early success through collaboration

According to Bundschu, Bunker Labs RDU has directly supported more than 120 veteran-run startup companies through two programs, CEO Circle and Launch Lab, and supported more than 300 more companies through Muster RDU, Bunker Brews, and collaborative partner events.

The organization’s model relied on collaborative partnerships across the state to deepen connections between entrepreneurs, veterans, and local communities. Now, the organization’s theory of change model maps how the organization can create impact for North Carolina’s veteran entrepreneurs and their families in the years ahead, said Bundschu.

There are notable early successes—10 companies have received funding totaling just over $3 million through Bunker Labs RDU.

Across all 22 chapters, Bunker Labs startups have raised an aggregate total of $62 million and created 1,581 jobs, with at least 300 jobs for veterans.

And one vet/CEO sees Bunker Labs emerging as a national player in the startup industry.

Muster RDU named best event in Bunker Labs community

Bunker Labs RDU

Bunker Labs RDU also received the award for hosting the best Muster Conference—the one-day entrepreneur conference with panels, keynote speakers, and a pitch contest—in the country.

Last year’s event brought more than 300 active duty military, veterans, spouses, reservists, national guard members, and civilians, as well as angel investors, venture capitalists, politicians, and community members, all of whom came together to focus on inspiring and supporting veterans on their entrepreneurial journey, said Bundschu.

“Recognition like this helps us demonstrate impact, which allows us to further engage with our members, partners, volunteers, and mentors who give their time to support early-stage companies,” said Bundschu, “and the incredible group of sponsors and supporters who share our vision and goals for the veteran entrepreneurial community.”

The Muster RDU 2018 event takes place on September 20, 2018, at the Military Veterans Network at MetLife’s Global Technology Campus in Cary, and will be presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co., a partner of Bunker Labs RDU.

“Through events like the Muster and Bunker Brews, Bunker Labs has helped to make meaningful connections throughout the Raleigh entrepreneur community,” said Roxanne Bras, co-founder of Supper Meals, a service which provides fresh meals from local chefs. “The kind of support and connections Bunker Labs has provided would be impossible for most entrepreneurs.”

Promotions for RDU leaders

The two national awards, voted on by their peer organizations across the country, have now earned Bundschu and Nick Bradfield, an entrepreneur and local Bunker Labs RDU leader, promotions to run the Atlantic Region of Bunker Labs that will cover territory from Baltimore to Miami and look to add new chapters in places like Atlanta.

Bundschu is the new Atlantic Regional Executive Director and Bradfield, a Marine combat veteran, has been named the Atlantic Region Experience Director to direct the impact and programming of the new chapters.