RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Bunker Labs Raleigh-Durham, the local chapter of a national network of military veteran entrepreneurs and support organizations, will be hosting its third annual conference next Thursday,bringing together around 300 veteran-led companies, business leaders and professionals.

The agenda includes a full day of panel discussions, educational sessions, keynotes and networking. Tracks cover topics such as navigating the funding stages from boostrapping to Series A, short-term and long-term goal planning, choosing the right financing options, blending creativity into entrepreneurship, sales tips and more.

Muster 2019 takes place March 14 at 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the MetLife Global Technology Campus in Cary.

The morning keynote will be presented by David Morken, co-founder and CEO of Raleigh-based Bandwidth and former CEO of Republic Wireless. Morken served active duty in the Marine Corps before starting the company in the late-1990s.

Cameron Cruse, co-founder and COO of Southern Pines-based handbag company R. Riveter, will also deliver a keynote. Cruse started R. Riveter in 2011 while her husband was serving in the U.S. Army. The business is run by a workforce of military spouses.

Presenting the closing keynote is Brian Hamilton, co-founder of Sageworks (sold in 2018) and founder of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, an organization that aims to make entrepreneurship more accessible through programs such as Inmates to Entrepreneurs and initiatives focused on military transition readiness, youth entrepreneurship and support for main street businesses.

The Muster program also includes a pitch competition, in which five veteran-led companies will present their products and services for a $10,000 prize and a title of “top-performing veteran-led startup.”

Nick Bradfield, Atlantic experience director for Bunker Labs, says there was a promising pool of applicants for the program.

“The pitch competition was really tough to narrow down,” Bradfield said. “We had a lot of really neat companies apply.”

The five finalists are:

The event also features an afternoon/evening showcase with booths from 20 veteran entrepreneurs.

“This is our third Muster at MetLife, and each year we keep setting the bar higher and getting more efficient in our planning,” Bradfield said.

One key addition to the 2019 program is an increased focus on facilitating “more interaction between MetLife and veteran entrepreneurs who may be able to supply services to them,” Bradfield adds. In a dedicated session, MetLife’s procurement leaders will share recommendations on how to become a supplier with the company. They will also hold pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings with attendees mid-day.

According to Bunker Labs, the expected turnout for Muster 2019 is around 300 people, including veterans, entrepreneurs, investors, service organizations and community supporters.

Tickets are free for active duty and National Guard and Reserve Service members. The standard registration price is $40.