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Apadana: Creating a Brighter Future Through Sustainable Lighting

Apadana CEO Ahmad Kian (pictured) founded the company with longtime friend and college classmate Ehssan Taghizadeh


Roughly 15 years ago, Ahmad Kian had a conversation with his daughter that changed his life.

At the time, his 7-year-old needed an answer.

“She asked me a deep and thought-provoking question: ‘What have you done for my future?’ I immediately thought she was talking about financial stability. But the more I talked with her, the more I realized she was really asking ‘What have you done for the future of our planet?’” said Kian.

The conversation persuaded Kian to leave his Fortune 100 job and focus on being a responsible steward of the environment.

“From that day it set me on a different course,” Kian said. “Every day I put my focus on the elimination of waste.”

Shortly thereafter, Kian came across LED lights, another transformative realization. The market was stabilizing and prices were coming down.  As he puts it, the “lightbulbs went on in my head.”

The discovery led Kian and his longtime friend and college classmate Ehssan Taghizadeh to found Apadana, a Golden Valley-based LED lighting company that focuses on providing sustainable energy solutions. Apadana has experienced tremendous growth since opening in 2013, outgrowing two previous locations in the West Metro and working with major clients around the Twin Cities.

“We Want to Shoot for the Moon”

Apadana offers LED installation, retrofits, control systems, and energy consultations. Apadana Solar Technologies was added when business partner John Ehresmann joined the team in 2017, expanding Apadana’s sustainability business into solar energy, energy storage, and electric vehicle chargers.

Apadana and Apadana Solar are foundational members of the Go Green Technologies consortium, a group of companies founded by Kian that work together to help deliver sustainable solutions to facility management.

Another member of the Go Green group, Clark Technology, is a Minneapolis-based firm that’s created a treatment mechanism that turns wastewater, including leachate, into reusable or even potable water. Leachate is water that is collected in landfills and acquires contaminant particles along the way.

Most current treatments for leachate include transporting it to a wastewater treatment plant for limited contaminant treatment.  Unfortunately, says Kian, “forever chemicals,” like PFAS, continue to be diluted and sent into surface and ground water sources.

Kian gets excited when he starts talking about wastewater treatment and the tools Clark Technology has developed, including a process that turns waste into energy.

He explained that Clark utilizes a patented process, along with patented bacteria, to convert any organic waste into a green biogas convertible to a pipeline-grade-quality gas or electrical power.

Kian says Clark has an answer for converting and diverting 95% of municipal solid waste that is landfilled into useable products and energy.  This includes the conversion of plastics, carpets, and tires into fuel oil or diesel fuel.  After he initially learned of LeachBuster® and Waste Diversion – two of Clark Technology’s solutions — he gained a renewed perspective regarding the country’s progress on eco-friendly alternatives.

“I felt for the first time that we are now moving from sustainability to ‘thrivability’,” said Kian. “When we go after sustainability, we are cutting ourselves short. We are saying good enough – good enough is not good enough; we want to shoot for the moon and beyond.”

Kian says there needs to be more education on renewable energy sources, especially solar.

Solar power was thought of as a non-option for cost-conscious businesses and individuals in the past. But recent price reductions have made it more affordable.

“There is a connotation that putting solar on (someone’s) roof is expensive. That was right 10 years ago. The price of solar systems has come down significantly,” said Kian.

A Gateway to the Future of Sustainability

Those not familiar with Apadana might have trouble saying its name. The correct pronunciation is ah-pa-donna.

Kian was born in Iran and came to the United States to study engineering at the University of Minnesota, as did Taghizadeh. The company’s name refers to the apadana inside the palace at Persepolis, in ancient Persia.

“Inside the palace there was a hall called Apadana hall. This hall faced the Silk Road, connecting east and west, and was viewed as a hallway to the future, or a gateway to the future,” said Kian. “We used that name (for the company) to symbolize a gateway to the future of sustainability, now thrivability.”

Some weren’t keen on the name right away, said Kian. But he wasn’t fazed.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘It’s too difficult to pronounce.’ But we thought that if we did a good enough job with clients and the company, people who care would learn how to pronounce it,” he said.

It’s safe to say the naming decision hasn’t been an issue. Kian says Apadana works with more than 1,500 clients and continues to grow. Looking ahead, his main concern is ensuring we preserve our natural resources.

“There is no planet ‘B’. We have to figure out a way, before it’s too late, to make this environment healthier for our future generations,” he said.

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