By all accounts, the intelligence world these days is less James Bond and more Bill Gates. But describing a top-secret job is as difficult as ever. Ask Guy Filippelli what, exactly, his projects for the Army and other intelligence organizations entail, and it takes a few false starts for him to get going. “We... how should I put it? I need to word this right. Give me a minute....”
His initial hesitation, however, eventually gives way to a few revelations: His company, Berico Technologies, develops software that speeds up the way information from the battlefield is processed. That software, in turn, makes it possible to sift through evidence, identify potential threats, and highlight key information—sometimes in a matter of seconds, a dramatic increase in efficiency.
Filippelli’s expertise in this age of tech-infused intelligence earned him a Bronze Star after serving with the Combined Joint Task Force-76 in Afghanistan, as well as a National Intelligence Medallion—the highest award given to nongovernment personnel in support of the US intelligence community—in 2008. It is all the more remarkable when you consider Filippelli is just 36 years old.
He has his father to thank for getting him in the business. Filippelli was deciding on the college of his choice when he saw his father—a man who had spent his life working for the railroads in Ohio and who could take apart a car and put it back together at age 15—light up at a West Point seminar. His decision was made. At the academy, Filippelli studied computer science and economics and afterward attended Oxford for two years to add philosophy and politics to his academic repertoire. “West Point reinforced my core values; Oxford changed my sights and lifted my horizon,” he says. Upon his return to the Army, Filippelli went to work in intelligence around the world, and in early 2006, he and Nick Hallam founded Berico. Shipped to Iraq later that year, Filippelli knew the tech landscape was in for a major change and saw an opportunity. So he and a team of engineers built software in Baghdad for the military, doing much of the work in a converted shipping container they called “the van.”
“The Army is an organization that needs intelligence to operate smarter,” says Filippelli. “I wanted to improve the way soldiers make decisions.” Berico acts as a translator of sorts, creating software for the field and helping the Army, the Department of Defense, and other national agencies make sense out of mountains of data. “Twenty years ago, the focus was fighting wars; 15 years ago, it was peacekeeping; 10 years ago, it was terrorism. Now we’re in the middle of an insurgency and rebuilding nations,” says Filippelli. “Every time the mission changes, the information changes.”
In five short years, business is booming, and he is creating more companies to handle the information flow. Yet Filippelli is most proud of what Berico has achieved on the front lines. “I believe we’ve made people’s lives better, and I know we’ve saved lives. As someone who has a good number of friends still serving in harm’s way every day, you cannot ask for more than that.”