Fish Food and Foundry: How One UConn Startup Goes Global and Enables Others

“You should come with me.”

“I think Peter’s story is a great example of how ‘multinational corporation’ is no longer a label reserved only for established companies,” said Associate Professor of Business Administration and Entrepreneurship at UConn Business School. said Ryan Coles, principal scientist at Daigle Labs. is a start-up R&D lab born out of a desire to use organizational science research to spark tech entrepreneurship in Connecticut and improve the environmental sustainability and economic productivity of businesses around the world.

A sociologist, Coles has a so-called “quirky” reputation for research-based economic development cooperation with small businesses in the United States and abroad in countries such as Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, China, and Israel. , Mexico, Vietnam, Nepal. His travels have given him a unique understanding of how international businesses and industries of all kinds operate and grow, as well as vast networks within communities around the world. brought.

“In the past, ten years ago, companies have become internationalized over time,” Coles explains. “They will grow in their own city, state, country and eventually abroad. We may be internationalizing for some reason.”

“For Peter, he had to go international to survive because his local market didn’t have the customer segment he needed.”

A mutual friend introduced Goggins and Coles about two years ago and quickly became friends and collaborators. When Coles started his Daigle Labs at his UConn, Goggins joined him and soon began directing his concept of the new startup Coles had for the lab, The Foundry.

“I came up with the idea three years ago to bring my operational expertise to a science-based start-up and partner on technology transfer,” says Coles. “When Daigle Labs was founded last year, Peter became the program director at the lab. I was using Pisces Atlantic.”

As Coles and Goggins explored how to expand Pisces Atlantic through the foundry concept, they quickly realized that there was no medium-sized customer in the United States for products like commercial animal feed. His company could not jump from start-up scale to supplying large customers with nothing in between.

“Commodities are hard,” says Goggins. Goggins will compete with domestic farm giants such as Cargill and Darling for big customers. “No one starts a steel mill in a garage. Local enthusiasts, Mid-Atlantic guys, these trial sales, trying to mix and ship small custom batches and compete on price – that’s never going to happen.

What he needed was an intermediate customer. He is the one who will take him from the current production level of 1 ton per month to a production level of around 45 tons per month, rather than mass production like 5,000 tons. It is an exponential step beyond the startup level. But a manageable step – the long-awaited compromise.

And Coles had a network.

“Ryan was doing field research in Jordan,” says Goggins. It’s an emerging market, and my experience in emerging markets is that small manufacturing companies can offer a lot of value there.

“And he thought you must be able to sell a lot of fish food. You should come with me.

“Welcome to the Middle East, baby.”

Goggins had never been to Jordan before. He left Providence, flew to Germany, and headed for the capital, Amman. He had been awake for about 30 hours when he landed – just as Jordan’s national soccer team had also arrived at the airport.

“The whole airport was surrounded by fans and I was exhausted, trying to find a driver,” he said. Finally, I got into the car. We are driving across the desert highway faster than you believe. Then when I get to the hotel, there’s Ryan. He’s like, “Welcome to the Middle East, baby.” things happen here.

“And it was that speed all the way through,” Coles laughs.

Over the past 13 years, Coles’ research and economic development work has taken me to Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries countless times. As an organizational sociologist, he explores all aspects of society to try to understand how different groups come together and influence how they organize to achieve common goals.

“In places like the Levant – namely Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine – tribal institutions are still at the forefront, maintaining agricultural businesses as a sign of Bedouin identity.”

After working in Jordan for many years, Coles was adopted by an Arab family that owns one of the country’s largest farms. For him, offering Goggins a few acres or meeting with local farmers, distributors and importers was as easy as a phone call.

“I am a family and everything in the family is shared,” he says.

Upon arriving in Jordan, Goggins met Shurash Al-Oun, head of the Arab clan of Coles, and began touring the country.

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