A company co-founded by two NC State alumni has discovered a way to age liquor in days rather than years. Steven Guido and Zachary Fearnside are both engineering graduates who have taken their entrepreneurial endeavors full-time since their time at NC State, becoming CEO and CTO of Aeva Labs, respectively. With no direct competitors, they’re the only company that can provide this process in-house at a distillery.
Normally, aging a product for years requires immense storage space and plenty of patience, but Aeva Labs provides a scalable solution to the time-restricted process of making liquor.
“We make equipment for distilleries that allows them to speed up the process of aging,” Guido said. “We’re able to do that process in a matter of days rather than years.”
The current utilization of their product by distilleries seems far from their initial inspiration of coffee production, but the bets that increased beverage production is in high demand are starting to pay off.
“We started out in coffee production,” Fearnside said. “We would go to Starbucks and realized they ran out of cold-brew coffee by 11 a.m. There has to be some kind of market if we can make cold-brew coffee instantly, not in a day. We started there, but we weren’t really passionate about what we were making, and we didn’t like the market either.”
Not hitting it off with the early application of their work, Guido said changing things up led to them targeting the distilling industry.
“We decided to see if this technology we created works in other fields, so we pivoted to the liquor industry and started doing testing with a local distillery,” Fearnside said.
While their team has produced early models of the product, it has yet to reach a finalized form. With goals of making it sleeker and standardized, the current duress of other business functions upon such a small team has limited their ability to update.
“We do all of our engineering, build and deployment all in-house, so it’s one team from top to bottom,” Guido said. “By the time a customer places an order, we’re the only point they interact with and we sell directly.”
The name “Aeva Labs” comes from the Latin word “aevum,” meaning everlasting time.
“We found that word and compared it to how distilleries view the amount of time their product sits in a barrel, because you really don’t know when it’s done or if it will be any time soon,” Guido said. “So we morphed the word around, and that’s what became the basis for the name.”
Talking about how time is experienced by those in the distilling industry, the company’s beginning was also a blind experience and they stressed how important it was to learn continuously.
“The months leading up to our first sale were horrible,” Guido said. “We had this cool concept and a prototype that worked awesomely, and we were making samples all the time, but nobody wanted to believe it. Nobody wanted to take a risk on it, and it was honestly just a grind to get that first customer. Building momentum is the hardest part, and it takes a lot to push that first domino.”
Both Guido and Fearnside said the success of the company has required full dedication from their small team. While both Guido and Fearnside are NC State graduates, most of their team has a connection to the university as well. Also, they continue to work with the entrepreneurship initiative on campus by participating in the Entrepreneurship Clinic, a mentorship program at HQ Raleigh highly recommended to students with an interest in the field.
“The actual talent and diversity out there from State is incredible,” Fearnside said. “It’s a great talent pipeline and we’re still looking to hire mechanical engineers and potentially sales development guys, and we’re happy to hire from State. A lot of our connections came from the NC State alumni network and they’re things you wouldn’t have expected.”
Students who are interested in chatting with the founders of Aeva Labs or learning more about them can visit their website here and can also participate in the mentor’s program through the Entrepreneurship Clinic.