Morgantown software startup firm wins $700,000 Air Force contract

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Imagine starting a company with a friend in senior year of college and then finding out 18 months later that company has been selected for a $700,000 U.S. Air Force contact.

For two West Virginia University graduates, Kyle Gillis and James Carnes, they do not have to imagine that because that is their reality. The former is the chief executive officer, and the latter, the chief technology officer of Iconic Air. It is a software company based in Morgantown whose mission, in Gillis’ words, is to help the Air Force and the energy sector by using their platform, which is the future of emission detection.

I feel like it’s been a long time coming, honestly. James and I were seniors in college when we started this organization, and we set out to change the world, just like most people when they’re starting a company. But to be able to get so much — a big pat on the back from such a large organization, like the Air Force, I mean it means the whole world to us. It’s proof that we have a real technology here that will help change the world before we know it.

Kyle Gillis – CEO
Gillis (left) and Carnes (right)

The problem as things stand right now, Gillis said, is that there are many different tools for collecting data about things like methane leaks and the level of emissions at an airport, but there is no proper way to visualize and properly understand the overabundance of data sensors can report.

That is where Iconic Air comes in.

Their project aims to keep Air Force personnel safe and healthy as they work to protect and defend America. The $700,000 Small Business Innovation Research Contract will create an automated and scalable software architecture that will interface with modern environmental instrumentation data. The Air Force will draw insights and make informed decisions relating to air quality at their facilities.

“This is a major step forward for Iconic Air and offers validation that a startup company, born out of West Virginia University, can compete at the highest levels,” James Carnes, chief technology officer, said in a press release.

Gillis(left) and Carnes (right)

All their successes, Gillis said, can be traced back to WVU, and the foundation is built in them in terms of teaching the entrepreneurial spirit and the skills necessary to go out and create a company.

He said they both thank federal grant providers like the National Science Foundation for funding previous ideas and projects that inspired the creation of Iconic Air.

While it’s gratifying to think there is potential in Iconic because of the soundness of the founders’ education and their recent recognition, Gillis said it’s important to remember not to get ahead of themselves.

Only now can Iconic Air can safely say it has made the first of ten or so steps necessary to get to where it ultimately wants to be, the CEO said. He admits there were many ups and downs to get to this first step, but that is why he is aware that he and his Carnes cannot rest on their laurels.

“Over the next 18 months, we’re really excited to begin penetrating the oil and gas industry and helping them hit their environmental goals,” Gillis said. “All these new technologies are going on, their investors are going to be asking more from them than ever from an EHS, environmental health, and safety, standpoint and I think that we have the product that will perfectly bring their instrumentation and all of their efforts together to meet the goals that they’re trying to hit.”

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