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Meet Brent Filson

Lever Head of Innovation Brent Filson has lots of perspectives to draw on. He’s been a Marine Commander. He’s been an intrapreneur. He is a Cornell MBA grad who grew up in Williamstown and has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the region.

The innovators who work with Lever all work with Filson. Whether they are Lever Challenge finalists, entrepreneurs incubating at Lever’s North Adams headquarters, intrapreneurs working on innovations at established companies, or companies that Lever has invested in, Brent helps connect them with experts and investors, build their pitch decks, and grow scalable ideas that ultimately create jobs in the Berkshire region.

Entrepreneur Stories

Meet Brent Filson

Lever Head of Innovation Brent Filson has lots of perspectives to draw on. He’s been a Marine Commander. He’s been an intrapreneur. He is a Cornell MBA grad who grew up in Williamstown and has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the region.

The innovators who work with Lever all work with Filson. Whether they are Lever Challenge finalists, entrepreneurs incubating at Lever’s North Adams headquarters, intrapreneurs working on innovations at established companies, or companies that Lever has invested in, Brent helps connect them with experts and investors, build their pitch decks, and grow scalable ideas that ultimately create jobs in the Berkshire region.

“It energizes me,” he said. “All of the entrepreneurs we work with are so eager to learn. Working alongside them to develop these solutions and make sure they have a viable strategy has been a lot of fun.” 

Filson was introduced to Lever in its early years and joined the team full time in June 2017. “It appealed to me—an active role in fixing the economy in our region,” he said. “Growing up here in the ’80s and 90’s I saw first-hand the degradation of our regional economy. Working at Lever allowed me to apply the skill set and strategies I love to impact the place I grew up and where I chose to raise my family.”

That skill set comes from a broad collection of experiences. Growing up in Williamstown, Filson had seen his siblings leave the Berkshires, then marred by the exit of major manufacturing firms like GE and Sprague, for the U.S. Armed Forces. He chose the same path and entered the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course as a student at Union College in Schenectady. He was twice deployed to Iraq as a platoon commander, and in 2006, a roadside IED disabled his right leg. He was 26. (In recalling this event, his main point is that none of his Marines lost their lives.)

After a long rehabilitation and a stint as Company Commander for the Wounded Warrior Battalion on the West Coast, he took medical retirement and headed back to Williamstown to figure out his next steps, staying at home to take care of his kids while his wife, Rebecca, worked as a nurse. By then, the country was enduring the Great Recession and there were still few job prospects in the Berkshires. Filson was accepted to Cornell’s MBA program, and lived in Ithaca part-time as he earned his degree. 

The entrepreneurship courses he took at Cornell sparked an interest in the techniques and strategies employed by startups, and his MBA led him to a strategy consulting job at MassMutual. “This position was a way to apply those strategies in a larger corporate structure, which was fun and fascinating,” he said. 

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled. Companies often say they lack the time, money, or resources to pursue new opportunities,” he said. At Lever, “The methods we teach de-risk those opportunities. We’re working with these companies to develop muscle memory and validate opportunities as they come up.”

This kind of support can be even more significant in a region that lacks corporate density, is far from major research institutions, and where geography can make networking difficult. “New England often operates in a silo,” Filson said. “We want to break companies out of that silo. Teaching these methods is a way for us to catalyze a culture of innovation in rural areas like ours.” 

In the years he’s worked at Lever, Filson has seen the companies he’s worked with get acquired by major corporate outlets, secure seven-figure government contracts, develop eco-friendly techniques that can revolutionize farming, and more. 

“I’m inspired when these entrepreneurs and business leaders reflect on how much our programs and mentorship have accelerated the pace of their innovations,” he said. “These innovators are really absorbing what we’re teaching them. And it’s gratifying to watch them continue to use what we’ve taught them in developing new products and services beyond our programs. That’s the work of innovation—it’s inherently exciting, and it should be.”

“It energizes me,” he said. “All of the entrepreneurs we work with are so eager to learn. Working alongside them to develop these solutions and make sure they have a viable strategy has been a lot of fun.” 

Filson was introduced to Lever in its early years and joined the team full time in June 2017. “It appealed to me—an active role in fixing the economy in our region,” he said. “Growing up here in the 80’s and 90’s I saw first-hand the degradation of our regional economy. Working at Lever allowed me to apply the skill set and strategies I love to impact the place I grew up and where I chose to raise my family.”

That skill set comes from a broad collection of experiences. Growing up in Williamstown, Filson had seen his siblings leave the Berkshires, then marred by the exit of major manufacturing firms like GE and Sprague, for the U.S. Armed Forces. He chose the same path and entered the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course as a student at Union College in Schenectady. He was twice deployed to Iraq as a platoon commander, and in 2006, a roadside IED disabled his right leg. He was 26. (In recalling this event, his main point is that none of his Marines lost their lives.)

After a long rehabilitation and a stint as Company Commander for the Wounded Warrior Battalion on the West Coast, he took medical retirement and headed back to Williamstown to figure out his next steps, staying at home to take care of his kids while his wife, Rebecca, worked as a nurse. By then, the country was enduring the Great Recession and there were still few job prospects in the Berkshires. Filson was accepted to Cornell’s MBA program, and lived in Ithaca part-time as he earned his degree. 

The entrepreneurship courses he took at Cornell sparked an interest in the techniques and strategies employed by startups, and his MBA led him to a strategy consulting job at MassMutual. “This position was a way to apply those strategies in a larger corporate structure, which was fun and fascinating,” he said. 

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled. Companies often say they lack the time, money, or resources to pursue new opportunities,” he said. At Lever, “The methods we teach de-risk those opportunities. We’re working with these companies to develop muscle memory and validate opportunities as they come up.”

This kind of support can be even more significant in a region that lacks corporate density, is far from major research institutions, and where geography can make networking difficult. “New England often operates in a silo,” Filson said. “We want to break companies out of that silo. Teaching these methods is a way for us to catalyze a culture of innovation in rural areas like ours.” 

In the years he’s worked at Lever, Filson has seen the companies he’s worked with get acquired by major corporate outlets, secure seven-figure government contracts, develop eco-friendly techniques that can revolutionize farming, and more. 

“I’m inspired when these entrepreneurs and business leaders reflect on how much our programs and mentorship have accelerated the pace of their innovations,” he said. “These innovators are really absorbing what we’re teaching them. And it’s gratifying to watch them continue to use what we’ve taught them in developing new products and services beyond our programs. That’s the work of innovation—it’s inherently exciting, and it should be.”

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