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West Virginia innovators make Forbes 30 under 30 energy sector list

Release from Iconic Air:

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The innovators behind a West Virginia-based start-up company that is making waves in the global energy sector with a new emissions monitoring and reporting software technology that also has national defense applications has been recognized with the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 designation in the critical energy category.

Kyle Gillis and James Carnes founded Iconic Air in Morgantown, W.Va., during their senior year at West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering. Two years later, the company is one of the world’s fastest growing startups in the energy sector.

Kyle Gillis and James Carnes

In addition to securing green lights for pilot operations in three key oil and gas-producing regions for 2021, the company has been awarded a 15-month United States Air Force (USAF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to adapt the technology for U.S. Department of Defense applications.

Iconic Air is pioneering a new way of emissions monitoring and data reporting – a critical need because of evolving efforts to address climate change.

Carnes, Iconic Air’s chief technology officer, said the company is creating and implementing a data analytics software infrastructure that interfaces with methane and environmental monitoring sensors. The platform will equip the oil and gas industry with an effective way to achieve transparent, continuous, and automated processes for complying with higher standards related to climate change; Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements; and other evolving data demands. 

Gillis, who serves as the company CEO, explained that, “Early users have referred to the software as their ‘Environmental Hub’ because it combines leak detection, operations, and emissions targets use in data driven reports that help organizations stay on track for emissions reduction goals.”

“It’s just a matter of time before the energy industry is required to present continuous environmental data to keep operating,” he explained. “The Iconic Air platform will be a central piece in bridging the gap between operational excellence and environmental sustainability.”

Both innovators believe that over the next decade, Iconic Air will make a global impact across high emitting industries by helping companies achieve metrics that are in alignment with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to reduce the world’s dependency on global Greenhouse Gases.

Carnes said the Forbes recognition “is a major step forward for the company and offers validation that a startup company, born out of West Virginia, can compete at the highest levels.”

The Forbes 30 under 30 program is a set of lists that is issued annually by Forbes magazine. The lists recognize business and industry figures in select industries like energy, entertainment, social media, media, education, finance, sports, venture capital, art and enterprise technology. Forbes launched the project in 2011 and by 2016, the nominations for the list grew to more than 15,000.

In October, Gillis and Carnes were notified that the company was awarded a Phase I & Phase II USAF SBIR Grant to adapt their technology to keep Air Force personnel safe and healthy.

The $700,000 SBIR grant will be used to create an automated and scalable software architecture that will interface with modern environmental instrumentation data and allow the Air Force to make informed decisions relating to air quality at USAF facilities.

Gillis noted that the company may have never applied for the Air Force contact had it not been for West Virginia’s Small Business Innovation Research Matching Grant Program that offers state matching funds for companies winning federal SBIR awards.

“The assistance we received from the West Virginia Small Business Development Center’s In-Tech Program and TechConnect West Virginia’s FAST Grant Program was instrumental in helping us through the grant process,” he said. Iconic Air is a spin-out of the Vantage Ventures entrepreneur assistance program at WVU.

Gillis and Carnes grew up miles apart in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, but their paths would not cross until their junior year at WVU, where they graduated in 2019 with industrial engineering degrees.

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