Todd Connor is the CEO and founder of Bunker Labs, a network of accelerators for entrepreneurial vets. Bunker Labs provides working space, education, mentors and funding to startups led by veterans.
It has 10 chapters in cities around the country (including a just-announced location in Nashville). Bunker Labs has helped businesses raise a combined $16 million since launching in 2014. A vet himself, 37-year-old Connor served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy for four years and has held roles in the public and private sectors.
What about your job most excites you?
Every day we get to work with military veterans who have become entrepreneurs working to build fascinating and impactful businesses. I’m fascinated by the people, their personal stories and their businesses.
How many hours do you sleep at night?
I wake up at 4:30am regardless of when I go to bed – a habit I learned in the Navy that has stuck with me ever since.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Half a pot of coffee and a protein bar.
If you could pitch to one person, who would it be?
It would be the person that none of us have heard of, on active duty, who has probably built something of value and just doesn’t know how to get the word out about it.
What’s on your home screen?
I rotate pictures of my nephews and niece on my home screen. I get a constant feed of them from around the country, and nothing breaks the day like catching a glimpse of a nephew in cowboy boots and a diaper
How often do you exercise?
2x per week -- currently in a group fitness class called “Iron and Ore” that hurts. I also have an aversion to cabs and will bike (divvy – Chicago’s public bike system) or walk if at all possible
What app can’t you live without?
Tribe. It’s one of our companies and it’s a task assignment tool that doesn’t require any onerous logins. It lives in your inbox and integrates seamlessly across all other platforms
What's your favorite city?
Washington, D.C. It’s such a beautiful place -- underappreciated for its post-political culture and livability
What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?
RumiSpice. They are a Bunker company cofounded by two women who met at Westpoint, served combat tours in Afghanistan and then went to Harvard Business School together. They have built a saffron spice company that employs 120 Afghan women and a crew of warehouse employees here in Chicago at their distribution facility. Most importantly, it’s an exemplar of how to build a luxury goods business with a social impact spanning from the Middle East to the Midwest.
Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?
I keep Facebook pretty sanitary and “professional.” I crossed a threshold of public friends that made it lose any utility for me as a personal place.
What are you reading right now?
Patriarch, the story of Joseph P. Kennedy who owned the Merchandise Mart (where the Bunker @ 1871 is HQ’ed) among other things. It’s a panoramic look at the 1940s and 50s told through America’s first family
Do you think there’s a tech bubble?
No. I think the tech sector is evolving and opening up. I think there is a democratization of “access” to tech taking place that is very healthy and more distributed. I think we will see opportunities opening up outside of the coasts and more niche SaaS platforms coming from unexpected places.
Best piece of advice you've been given?
Do what you are great at and uniquely competent for. Outsource the rest.
What keeps you up at night?
250,000 active duty service members are going to get out of the military every year for the next five years. 25% of them want to start a business. We are a small organization with a big ambition and a huge population that we need to serve. We need to get it right, and I am constantly thinking about our strategy, scale, impact and sustainability.
If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Be patient, be humble, and keep focusing on following what’s in your heart -- it ends up exactly as you dreamed it would.