Jason Kontromitras and Luke Chadwick, founders of HydroCo, are bringing a new energy to North Mississippi—literally. The Oxford-based hydrogen distributor has plans to build a hydrogen gas plant in Batesville to offer cleaner, domestic energy to the Southeast. 

Currently, HydroCo mainly targets distribution centers and warehouses to sell them hydrogen fuel used to power fuel cell forklifts.  

“When we get a new client, we perform an energy audit, then connect them with our partners in the industry to meet those needs more efficiently,” Kontomitras said.  

A Los Angeles native, Kontomitras grew up around the oil and gas industry. Hydrogen is a fairly new development, and the HydroCo team hopes to cement itself as a player in the early stages.  

“There aren’t a lot of hydrogen producers,” Kontomitras said. “We only have a few competitors, but they’re humongous. We’ve got to stay competitive in the marketplace and keep our ear to the rails to hear what’s coming next.” 

HydroCo took part in last year’s Venture Launch Weekend, where they received valuable advice and formed helpful connections. The business has caught on quickly, and the learning curve has been steep.

“It’s like going from playing Xbox to competing in the Olympics,” Kontomitras said. “Our industry is immature, though, and we get to grow with it.”

Venture Launch Weekend helped Kontomitras and Chadwick focus Hydroco’s scope into a workable model.

“During that event, we really got help tightening our business plan,” Chadwick said. “I feel so much more confident about it. The CIE has helped us structure everything from marketing to working with local government.” 

The advantages to hydrogen fuel are myriad. The globe-spanning supply chain of the oil industry makes it vulnerable to instability, which results in huge price swings here in the U.S. HydroCo’s suppliers all operate within 12 hours of Northeast Mississippi. A more local supply chain means more stability when it comes to pricing, plus, that money stays in the area.

“The butterfly effect is so real in oil,” Kontomitras said. “With hydrogen, we can produce everything in the U.S.”

Once HydroCo has completed its facility in Batesville, it will focus on breaking into the trucking industry, supplying hydrogen fuel cells for 18-wheelers. Kontomitras said HydroCo’s goal is to build a network of 300 fuel stations across the Southern U.S. 

“It’s exciting to create a roadmap for your business that brings the things you’ve studied into play,” Chadwick said. “It’s very validating. I’m from Dallas, but I have a lot of family in the area. We really want to be a part of North Mississippi’s development and growth.”

Do you have what it takes to be this year’s winner?