Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

National veteran entrepreneur nonprofit opens Des Moines chapter

Bunker Labs, a national non-profit helping veteran, military spouse, and active military entrepreneurs, is launching its newest chapter in Des Moines.

Bunker Labs seeks to inspire veterans, active military, and military spouses to start their own business by providing them proper resources and connections. The Des Moines chapter is the first Bunker Labs chapter in Iowa.

“Bunker Labs is excited to continue its expansion in the Midwest,” said Todd Connor, Bunker Labs CEO. “There are so many skilled, qualified, and passionate members of the military community in Des Moines and we are excited to help them develop the knowledge and connections to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.” 

Bunker Labs DSM will host monthly Bunker Brews events that bring communities and resources together, deliver substantive content, and host mentors and relevant speakers. The organization also host a Launch Lab Online Program, Veterans in Residence (VIR), and CEO Circle programs. These programs will provide access to military-connected companies, a network of fellow entrepreneurs andimpactful mentors.

Bernie Stone will serve as the Des Moines chapter’s volunteer city leader. Stone has already begun to build momentum for the new chapter by establishing strong business connections and speaking with veterans and entrepreneurs throughout the area.

Stone, an Army combat veteran became interested in Bunker Labs after witnessing under-utilized veteran talent around Des Moines and the positive impact Bunker Labs has made in other communities. 

“The military does a fantastic job of emphasizing the organization over the individual. So, veterans leave the military and feel adrift because we are no longer part of a unit or organization. We scatter resumes everywhere in the hope that someone will recognize the tremendous value we bring. Sometimes it works – most of the time, it doesn’t,” said Stone. “Bunker Labs is a great solution providing education, guidance, and support for the military community to create their own company – one where their talents and experiences are guaranteed to be put to work.” 

As part of its soft launch, the chapter’s first event will be a Bunker Brews on March 19.

National veteran entrepreneur nonprofit opens Des Moines chapter | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now