James Carnes and his co-founder recently received the honor of being named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for their company Iconic Air. These young men began their entrepreneurial journey in 2018 as they won several business and technology competitions during their time at West Virginia University. This simple idea has now become a significant niche enterprise. 

Iconic Air is a West Virginia startup company pioneering a new way of leak detection monitoring and data reporting for the oil and gas industry. There are dozens of data collection services within this industry, but Iconic Air does it a little differently. Iconic Air takes the Forbes 30 Under 30data they collect from all different word regions, analyzes it and creates streamlined metrics all on a user-friendly platform. This platform is designed to help oil and gas companies uphold a higher standard of innovation and reach their emissions reduction goals. 

James and his co-founder met in college at WVU while they attended the engineering college. James’ passion started with building drones and coding, while his cofounder was more of the marketing and video guru, but they shared a deep love for learning. These two young, curious minds interact as a sort of “yin and yang” as they bring different skill sets to the table. James says that their success is primarily due to “keeping our heads down and building all the time.” 

The two founders launched their business entirely just after graduating and just before COVID-19 hit. Both men gave up good-paying engineering positions that they had been offered to dive into the start-up fully. Their company gained little traction before the pandemic came in full force. As a business owner, both young and new, this was quite a threat. Though the two young men lacked capital, they had no shortage of hard work. James and his partner continued to push through every day, working towards their goal until they finally started seeing some real growth.

Iconic Air has recently signed a large contract with the U.S. Air Force that will fund their venture into 2021. But how did such a young company land such a large contract? James says that using the plethora of resources within the state and have paid undivided attention to early users has proved to be an asset to their start-up. Networking and constant communication make this company both innovative and personal, keeping their product up to date from real feedback. 

James says that he and his cofounder are excited to watch their company grow in the next year. He is calling 2021 their “traction” year to set some ground and grow their team as the platform evolves to better suit the industry’s needs. He hopes that their platform will help the oil and gas industry set a new standard for clean air culture over time. As Iconic Air grows, so does the precedent for data collection and environmental health.

Listen to James’s full podcast episode here.


  • RECOMMENDED BOOK: The Founder’s Dilemma
  • PIECE OF ADVICE:If you ever want to talk about starting a business, we are more than happy to talk with folks; just look us up and reach out,” said James.