April VOM: Adam Nelson

This month’s Veteran of the Month is Adam Nelson, U.S. Army veteran, current Regional Experience Director for Bunker Labs Northeast, and the founder of Philly Esports.

Adam grew up on a horse farm in central Pennsylvania, where his family bred endurance racing horses. After graduating from high school, Adam enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“I wanted to do something worth doing that would equip me with skills I didn’t have, something that would allow me to grow and earn respect. So the Army was a good choice for me.”

He served on active duty for four years, then continued for two more years on reserve in Philadelphia. During this time, Adam studied Computer Science at Drexel University, and eventually graduated from Penn State World Campus with a degree in Information Sciences and Technology.  

Adam worked for the IT department at the University of Pennsylvania while completing his degree, and was eventually connected to Bunker Labs Philadelphia through his mentor John Ondik.

“I remember going to the 2017 Muster and being so impressed by how professional and kind everyone was. Seeing people just like me who had military experience and were just going for it and starting a business was so inspiring. I knew I wanted to work with this group of people.”

Adam was brought on as Program Director for Bunker Labs Philadelphia in early 2018, and was recently promoted to the title of Regional Experience Director. He manages the volunteers and all of the programming for the Northeast chapter of Bunker Labs, which includes Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia.

Since starting his work with Bunker Labs, Adam has founded two companies. The first is Nelson IT Solutions, an IT consulting service which focuses on helping veteran entrepreneurs with the IT aspects of starting a business. He also recently founded Philly Esports which hosts competitions for online gamers in the Philadelphia area. 

“Esports is a very new thing,” Nelson explained. “It’s a hot topic right now, and there’s a lot of money being put toward it. Hundreds of people who all love the same game come together to compete against each other and try to win money.” 

Adam was featured on the Esports Business Podcast to discuss the industry and his business earlier this year. Philly Esports has held three tournaments since launching at the beginning of 2018.

“I’ve been seeing more people attending each event from month to month, and I’m hoping to keep on that trend,” he said. “I’ve been bootstrapping the entire thing myself, but it’s been really great to see the company start to gain some traction with the monthly events.”

Philadelphia has a lot of space for esports to expand in, and plans have been made by Comcast Spectacor to construct the first esports arena in Philadelphia. The global esports audience is 380 million, and increasing.

“It’s cool to see the growing interest in this industry,” Adam remarked. “Video games were kind of an escape for me as a kid, but they were also an avenue for me to excel in something unique and feel a real sense of accomplishment. I want Philly Esports to be an organization that supports people who are finding their strengths in gaming, especially as it becomes more and more popular.”

He remarked that the military equipped him with the confidence to pursue something like starting a business: 

“The skillsets you get in the military are leadership, endurance, being innovative, and the ability to overcome obstacles. I think another big skill that we don’t often talk about is the ability to push through, especially in high levels of adversity when you’re scared. You always have to get the mission done. I think that is what makes military members uniquely equipped to become entrepreneurs and business leaders.” 

To read more about veteran business leaders like Adam, click here.