Behind almost all work, education, entertainment, and administrative hum drum, something is collecting, sending, and receiving data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that computer and information technology jobs are predicted to grow much faster than other occupations between 2019 and 2029, with particular demand in cloud computing, big data storage and collection, and information security. The BLS data also shows that the median annual wage for computer and IT workers was $91,250 in May 2020, more than double the median annual wage for all professions, which was $41,950.
Job Trends in Data & IT
The job growth trends signal high market demand for computer and IT experts, products, and services—which is also good news for Data and IT entrepreneurs, who seek to innovate through new and improved products and services.
Veteran-Owned Companies in the Data & IT Space
In the Bunker Labs Veterans in Residence cohort, we have companies bringing technology to new realms, reinventing digital relationships, and bringing honest, military-honed approaches to IT infrastructure. Read on and check out the video interviews to learn more.
Founder: Don Tobul
Military Affiliation: Ohio National
Location: Willoughby, OH
How you can help:
Get the word out about the existence of OD Greens. Write to your congressperson about the value of organizations like OD Greens and SAVE VETS that provide community-based mental health services to veterans.
In 2018, Don Tobul bought the proverbial farm. This farm, however, was a shipping container retrofitted to grow hydroponic produce, and his goal was to provide mental health services and workplace training to disabled veterans in the context of hydroponic farming and urban agriculture. Not only is gardening a therapeutic experience, OD Greens also provides veterans with the opportunity to build their self-esteem, knowledge base, and communication skills, and then put those skills into practice at the local farmers’ market or in a pitch to a restaurant.
Don has a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and worked for eight years as a vocational rehabilitation counselor at the VA. Since March of 2020, he’s been focused on building clientele and working to integrate OD Greens into the VA’s treatment offerings.
AI:ML Technology Solutions
Founder: Alex Seguin
Military Affiliation: U.S. Air Force
Location: Austin, TX
How you can help:
The target customer is schools, but any student or adult interested in artificial intelligence can purchase artificial intelligence kits on the company website. AI:ML is raising their first round of funding, and while they are particularly looking to connect with angel investors, they welcome any size of investment.
Artificial intelligence is a fast-growing industry with significant job opportunities and investment funding. But most students don’t gain access to machine learning education until they are in their master’s or PhD curriculum—if ever. AI:ML Technology Solutions aims to provide access to machine learning technology to students as early as middle school. The company sells a machine learning robotics platform that consists of a robotic car which students can train to drive courses they build. The car uses visual sensors to recognize objects in its path, much like Tesla’s Autopilot feature recognizes nearby cars and traffic features. The car’s capabilities will evolve as the platform is continually updated. In the future, the company hopes to add new hardware to their platform, such as a robotic arm that could interact with the car.
Founder: Brandon Esse
Military Affiliation: Military Family (U.S. Navy)
Location: Nashville, TN
How you can help: Meal POPs partners with 40+ restaurant brands including Little Caesars and Quiznos and offers consumers over $200+ in cash vouchers refreshed every month. They’re currently scaling and looking for connections with national and regional restaurant brands and food/restaurant tech advisors and investors. If you own a business in Nashville TN or Cedar Rapids IA, they’d love to meet you and discuss offering Meal POPs to your employees!
Meal POPs incentivizes people to eat at local restaurants with cash vouchers. Restaurants sign up for free and offer customer promotions; customers pay to access all of those promotions. For customers, it’s a great deal—pay $5 each month to save $5 to $15 at restaurants across the city, with no minimum order. For restaurants, it’s a simple way to get eyes on the business and feet in the door while skipping the revenue sharing model most third-party delivery apps use. Right now, the app is available only in Nashville and Cedar Rapids, IA, but Brandon is looking to expand into cities nationwide with new restaurants being added daily. Hear from Brandon directly and learn more about Meal POPs.
Founder: JT Liddell
Military Affiliation: U.S. Navy; U.S. Army
Location: Atlanta, GA
How you can help: Your experience is needed! Sign up to become a Promenade beta user on the landing page. JT is also seeking funding to support continued development.
After navigating the transition from the military to an MBA and a civilian career in technology, JT Liddell saw opportunities to use technology to remove hurdles and challenges for other veterans navigating post-military life. Promenade uses machine learning to provide recommendations for careers, universities, mentors, VA compensation benefits, and more, and helps connect veterans to people, programs, and resources that will help them on the journey. Right now, JT has built an MVP and has users actively testing and giving feedback, with a full launch slated for Veteran’s Day 2021.
Founder: Brandon Childers
Military Affiliation: U.S. Marine Corps
Location: Los Angeles, CA
How you can help: Freelance Corporal is looking for a programmer familiar with gamification and financial technology to help develop their app. More broadly, they are looking to build connections and awareness within the Marines, their initial market. If you know an NCO, Staff NCO, PFC, or lance corporal that would benefit from a financial tool, whether veteran or active duty, reach out.
It’s easy to make a bad financial decision that is detrimental to future financial security, especially as a young enlisted service member targeted by salespeople offering bad deals and expensive loans. Many people, veteran and civilians alike, don’t receive financial education, or tools to support their financial goals. At the same time, debt is a common link between negative transitional issues veterans face.
Freelance Corporal gamifies the budgeting process and makes money management fun for junior enlisted service members. Users can enter their current salary and their End of Active Service date to see where they will be financially when they transition if they budget and save versus if they don’t. In the future, Freelance Corporal will incentivize positive spending behaviors using points, raffles, and competition against yourself and fellow savers. As Brandon puts it, people should enlist to serve their country, not to serve their car loan, and the military should be a path to financial success. He’s rolling the product out first to Marines, and will then expand to all branches of the military, and will eventually offer the product to all Americans.
All the Farms
Founder: Jim Cupples
Military Affiliation: U.S. Marines Veteran
Location: Eugene, OR
Ask 10 people if they’d like to support local farms and the majority will say yes. But how many actually do? Is it all talk, or are there barriers to acting on real intentions? All the Farms is attempting to answer that question by removing barriers to action with software that aggregates small and medium-sized farms in a local region. All the Farms serves consumers who are curious to discover what the farms in their area grow, as well as restaurants, producers, grocery stores, and other commercial buyers interested in buying local. The app allows users to sort on criteria from regenerative farming practices to veteran-owned farms so users can target their impact as much as they like.
How you can help: If you are interested in discovering local farms, create an All the Farms account. They’d love to hear your product feedback! If you work in the food industry, Jim would love to hear thoughts on sourcing and whether there’s a need for what All the Farms provides.
Founder: Doug Bauer
Military Affiliation: U.S. Marine Corps
Location: Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
It’s hard to differentiate yourself as a managed IT service provider when many customers don’t understand exactly what it is that you do. Doug Bauer is building Serac Technology, which provides managed IT services to small- and medium-sized businesses, on a foundation of honesty, discipline, and fortitude—attributes he honed in the military. Doug started Serac Technology after working his way up to senior positions in the IT industry and doing the math on how much the company was charging clients for his services compared to his own salary. Under his own banner, he realized, he could provide the same high level of services at a more competitive rate.
How you can help: Doug is looking for introductions to small- and medium-sized businesses that have IT pain points.
Veterans in Residence Program
Each of the veteran entrepreneurs mentioned were part of the Veterans in Residence program. The program is a six-month startup incubator that provides veteran and military family member entrepreneurs with coworking space, community, a national business network, and resources to grow their business. Apply to Veterans in Residence or sign up to be notified of future application periods at https://bunkerlabs.org/veterans-in-residence.