CivicWhitaker joins The Bunker – An incubator for veteran owned businesses

Tonight, the President of the United States voiced strong support of hiring veterans. The exact quote was “To every CEO.. if you want someone to hire who will get the job done right, hire a veteran.”

I’m in the odd position of being my own CEO. Technically speaking, I’m the only employee of my company. Scaling a consulting company isn’t easy, and so I’m super pumped to announce the following:

CivicWhitaker, Inc is joining The Bunker as one of their first Ramp Up companies. The Bunker is a non-profit business incubator that targets existing veteran owned tech startups and aspiring entrepreneurs to come, create, and conquer the business world through their ideas, hard work, and strategy.


I’m honored to become a part of The Bunker and I’m very excited about starting this new chapter for a number of reasons.

The first of which is that this is going to be very good for CivicWhitaker as a company. The company operates in a pretty unique and wonderful space. CivicWhitaker specializes in knowledge transfer and community organizing around leveraging the power of technology to help civic organizations.

CivicWhitaker doesn’t build products, we help build relationships. We’re less interested in having 1 million customers and more interested in helping a smaller number of organizations have a deep impact in their communities. I’ve been fortunate to work two leading organizations in the space. Smart Chicago and Code for America. Between these two organizations, I’ve been able to be involved in a lot of projects that have had tremendous impact in cities.

The space has been growing at a ridiculously fast pace. Despite that, there’s still a huge amount of work to do. So much, that in order to achieve our mission we have to grow. Currently, my company is just one person. The amount of work we’d like to be doing is beyond the work that can realistically done by one person. We have to grow.

It’s much harder to scale a consultancy than it is a startup. A startup simply needs to get more users. A consultancy has to have enough revenue to enable the hiring of additional staff. Getting that new revenue means taking on more work before you actually have the staff to do more work. It’s one of the tough business problems that can be tricky for first time entrepreneurs.

Being part of the Bunker means that I am going to be getting help with that. Having access to the Bunker’s network of mentors and professional development is going to be key to helping my company grow. In particular, it’s going to be tremendously useful to have contacts and mentors that are outside my field and can give our operations a fresh look.

Governor Quinn at Bunker Ribbon cutting

I’m also a big believer in the Bunker’s mission.

One of the things that’s frustrated me about veterans employment effort is that there’s a bit of a skill mismatch in some of the more prominent campaigns from Uber and Walmart.

So, you’ve just got back from fixing million dollar machines/disarming bombs/leading troops/patching people up on the battlefield and the job offer is driving a car around? Or bagging groceries? I mean -sure- I appreciate what these companies are doing. As somebody who used to work on the front lines at the unemployment office, I always like to see people getting hired. (Or in Uber’s case contracted since they don’t actually make direct hires.) However, it seems like a waste of talent to bring somebody whose tackled some of the toughest problem sets around and ask them to be drivers.

When I attended the ribbon cutting for The Bunker, I was struck by Bunker CEO Todd Connor’s remarks:

“Great startup businesses need great leaders who know how to ‘get it done’ amidst uncertain and challenging circumstances. This is what veterans bring. This represents a truly different model for the veteran community that is not about defining the veteran population as a group that needs help, but rather capitalizing on the talent pool of some of the highest performing veterans.”

The Bunker will provide veterans with opportunities to take those same leadership and problem solving skills to create new companies (that will hire more people) and become part of Chicago’s growing and thriving technology scene.

I’m super excited to be part of this effort. You can follow updates on The Bunker on their website and on Twitter.

Midwest Selected for Code for America Brigade Regional Pilot

I’m excited to announce that the Midwest has been selected for the first Code for America Brigade region. The Midwest Regional Brigade program will support existing Code for America brigade cities as well as work to expand the number of Brigade cities in the region. I’m also excited to announce that Code for America has signed with CivicWhitaker to help manage the new program.

Code for America Brigade

Continue reading “Midwest Selected for Code for America Brigade Regional Pilot”

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be working with the Data Science for Social Good fellowship to help tell the story of this great program. Here’s an expert from their website about the program.

The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good fellowship is a University of Chicago summer program for aspiring data scientists to work on data mining, machine learning, big data, and data science projects with social impact.

Working closely with governments and nonprofits, fellows take on real-world problems in education, health, energy, transportation, and more.

For three months in Chicago they apply their coding and analytics skills, collaborate in a fast-paced atmosphere, and learn from mentors coming from industry, academia, and the Obama campaign.

The 2014 program will bring 48 aspiring data scientists from across the country to Chicago. They are graduate and undergraduate students from quantitative and computational fields – from computer science to machine learning to statistics to public policy.

Data Science for Social Good

Keep an eye out on the DSSG blog to keep up with the fellows progress for the next few months.