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Ohio Valley Natives Carnes, Gillis Named to Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ List

Photos Provided – Wheeling native Kyle Gillis (left) and Weirton native James Carnes (right) were named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for energy with the work they have done with their young company, Iconic Air.

Two Ohio Valley natives who founded a company focusing on the global energy sector have been honored by Forbes as among the top rising young business people.

Weirton native James Carnes and Wheeling native Kyle Gillis founded Iconic Air 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, and the pair were named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” lists for energy.

Carnes, Iconic Air’s chief technology officer, 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 “30 Under 30” program is a set of lists issued annually by Forbes magazine. They 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.

The company already has secured green lights for pilot operations in three key oil- and gas-producing regions for 2021. It also was awarded a 15-month United States Air Force Small Business Innovation Research contract to adapt to adapt their technology to keep Air Force personnel safe and healthy. That grant is worth $700,000.

Iconic Air is pioneering a new way of emissions monitoring and data reporting. The company is creating and implementing a data analytics platform that works with methane and environmental monitoring sensors. That platform will help the oil and gas industry effectively achieve transparent, continuous and automated processes for complying with higher standards related to climate change, to environmental, social and governance reporting requirements and other data demands.

“Early users have referred to the software as their ‘Environmental Hub,'” Gillis, who serves as the company’s CEO, said, “because it combines leak detection, operations, and emissions targets used 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 continued. “The Iconic Air platform will be a central piece in bridging the gap between operational excellence and environmental sustainability.”

Iconic Air will adapt that technology for the Air Force so it can make informed decisions about air quality in its facilities.

Both Gillis and Carnes 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 dependence on global greenhouse gases.

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.


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