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Navy Sailors To Pitch Innovative Ideas In Front Of Military Personnel, Entrepreneurs

Lindsey Kilbride

Navy sailors will have the opportunity to pitch ideas in front of military personnel and entrepreneurs at a Jacksonville event Thursday night.

The Navy hopes the sailors will help improve practices and technology.

Derek Distenfield says people in the military have great ideas.

“And who better to take our American economy to the next level than these patriots that have had all these lessons on the battlefield that are applicable for start-ups,” Distenfield said.

Distenfield is the executive director of The Bunker in Jacksonville. The space is located in CoLabJax MakerSpace at The Jacksonville Landing.

After eight years in the Army, Distenfield now helps others transitioning out the military develop their ideas.

That’s why he’s welcoming the Athena Project, an organization which promotes innovation inside the Navy, to take over The Bunker for the night.

Distenfield describes the event as “kind of like Shark Tank meets the Navy, meets The Bunker.”

He says four sailors will pitch their ideas for improving Navy practices to a six-person panel of local entrepreneurs and military vets. The pitches range from aviation technology to how ships operate.

“All the technologies that we use here as civilians, the Navy needs perhaps with their own little angle,” Distenfield said.

The winner will receive a free year of mentorship from The Bunker.

The event starts at 5:30 in CoLabJax at The Jacksonville Landing. The public is invited to hear the pitches.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.