Lever announces 7 Berkshire-based finalists for its 'Intrapreneur Challenge'

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NORTH ADAMS Small-business incubator Lever has selected seven Berkshire-based entities as finalists for its first "Intrapreneur Challenge," which will take place in Williamstown in early October.

Three of the finalists are from Pittsfield: Shire City Herbals, The LTI Group and LymphDIVAs. The four others are B&B Micro Manufacturing of Adams; Boyd Technologies of Lee; Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge; and Zogics of Lenox. One of them will be selected by a panel of judges to receive $25,000 toward launching their innovation when the finals take place on Oct. 3. All seven will receive coaching and mentoring from Lever staff until then.

The finals of the Intrapreneur Challenge are taking place from Oct. 3 and 4 in conjunction with Lever's first Innovation Summit, also in Williamstown. Each of the seven finalists in the Intrapreneur Challenge will make their final pitches to the judges at 2 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Williams Inn. The winner will be announced at 8:30 p.m. at the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance at Williams College.

The Innovation Summit includes a keynote presentation by Williams College grad Steve Case, the co-founder of America Online, at 7:30 p.m. at the '62 Center. On Oct. 4, the summit will include morning and afternoon panel discussions, and a second keynote presentation hosted by the Berkshire Business Roundtable that will all take place between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Williams Inn.

Since its inception in 2014, North Adams-based Lever has supported more than 150 entrepreneurs, helped raise more than $6 million in funding, and hosted or placed more than 70 college students in paid internships. It has also led more than 100 sessions on topics like software development, women in business, digital media and coding for youngsters. The firm's mission is to develop a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Berkshire region.

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The Innovation Summit is being held to engage entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and students with a program that emphasizes innovation and an engine of regional economic growth, according to a news release.

The term "intrapreneur" is believed to have been coined by Apple founder Steve Jobs in the 1980s to describe entrepreneurs who have created innovative products while working for larger companies, according to Lever's Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas. Examples include the Post-it note, Facebook's "like" button, and the Sony PlayStation, which were all invented by people when they were working for other companies.

Lever has held several entrepreneurial challenges, including a second manufacturing innovation challenge that will take place later this fall. But Thomas told The Eagle this spring that he believes no one has held an intrapreneur challenge before.

The firm's second Berkshire Manufacturing Innovation Challenge will also award $25,000 to a startup that presents the most scalable business model with health applications. Applications for this challenge are being accepted through Oct. 27. The four finalists will be selected Nov. 11. A "Shark Tank" style pitch day will be held to pick the winner on Feb. 27. For more information, visit leverinc.org.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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