Location:
Phoenix, Arizona
Founded:
2007

Co-founder and CEO Mike Sullivan says manufacturing custom cooling systems for mission critical industries has his company on track to double its revenue in 2023.

Sullivan and Moe Salam — the company’s CTO — were both HVAC engineers when they met in Dubai back in 2007. A shared passion for evaporative cooling led them to collaborate on ways to improve the efficiencies of the systems they were working on – and Air2O was essentially born.

Photos Dean Henthorn

“We started by developing a product,” Sullivan recalls. “But as we evolved, we realized that our strength as engineers first and manufacturers second meant that we have a unique kind of insight into what we felt the HVAC industry needed. We’ve evolved into a custom HVAC solutions provider to many mission critical industries including data centers, semiconductor plants, lithium battery manufacturers, indoor agriculture and farming. All of these industries require specialist HVAC solutions that you can’t buy off the shelf.”

Though Air2O originally launched in California — and has offices in the U.K. and Middle East — Sullivan and Salam eventually relocated the company headquarters to Arizona because of the state’s notably business-friendly economic climate.

“There’s low cost of living, and it’s a wonderful place to start a business,” Sullivan says. “And the support I’ve had from the business community in Arizona, whether it’s the Arizona Commerce Authority or the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, has been wonderful. There’s no way we would have been able to gain the traction that we have without them. I came to Phoenix in 2017 and didn’t know one person. I got plugged into the Arizona Commerce Authority early on and their support and guidance has been instrumental.”

Today, Air2O operates out of a 50,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix in conjunction with four other facilities located in other countries. “We have a unique structure and setup,” Sullivan says, “that allows us to efficiently deliver these customized solutions. It’s important that we remain very nimble in our ability to build anything, and the whole manufacturing infrastructure is set up to support that.”

While many companies have struggled with disruption in their supply chains, Air2O has not. “I worked internationally for nearly 30 years,” Sullivan explains. “So, we’ve got a pretty good global reach and a global network to support the business. If one door closes in North America, I know who to contact in Europe, Asia, or South America. If we can’t get a component out of North America, we can buy it as far afield as South Korea, which we’re actually doing at the moment.”

Air2O counts some of the world’s biggest companies as clients — including the 2022 FIFA World Cup organizers and Southwest Airlines at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The custom cooling systems Air2O designs and manufactures deliver up to 70 percent energy savings over conventional cooling technologies, operate at extremely fine temperature and humidity tolerances, and are low maintenance, efficient, and sustainable.

“Data centers are a good example,” Sullivan says when asked how his clients are using Air2O systems. “Data centers generate huge amounts of heat. It doesn’t matter if the data center is in Arizona or Alaska, it needs cooling. So, we provide unique designs for our clients on that side.”

Players in the growing semiconductor industry can also benefit from Air2O solutions. “These production facilities require very close humidity and temperature control,” Sullivan continues. “They are very much like a laboratory, and are maintained to a very close tolerance in the environment, with filtration almost at operating theater standards.”

That said, lithium battery manufacturers currently make up the largest percentage of Air2O’s client roster. “They require extremely low humidity,” Sullivan adds. “Which again, requires specialist solutions, not things you can buy off the shelf. I always say if a client can buy a solution off the shelf, then we’re not the right company for them to work with. If they have a challenge or need a complex solution, that’s where we shine.”

Challenges: “Managing growth,” says Sullivan. “Managing that sensibly. We have a lot of wonderful opportunities, and I find it very difficult to say no. [Our challenge] is literally managing that growth and ensuring that we are able to provide the infrastructure to our teams that they need to deliver.”

Opportunities: Sullivan cites “tremendous growth within the mission critical industries” — both in the U.S. and abroad — as Air2O’s biggest opportunity. It’s one that has put the company on track to double its revenue this year, as well.

“Many of the countries around the world are taking hold of their critical infrastructure,” he continues. “That’s why there are the huge investments in semiconductor in the U.S. And in the Middle East, for example, a lot of the countries import 80 percent of their food. There’s big investment going into indoor agriculture to be self-reliant on that side.”

Needs: “Good people,” says Sullivan. “We will always have a need for good engineers, creative engineers, and people who like a challenge and want to join us on our journey. That’s our need today, and I’m sure it will be our need tomorrow and forevermore. I’m very fortunate that we’ve managed to pull together an extremely strong, diverse, and committed team so far. I’m very proud of that.”

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