Capitalising on six years of utilising EIC Launchpad services in Houston, Managing Director, Jim Bell, shares FoundOcean’s US export success story


Founded in 1966 and headquartered in the UK, FoundOcean provides specialist subsea and offshore cementing services to the global energy construction industries. The company’s primary business is mixing and pumping cement into offshore and subsea structures such as oil and gas platform foundations, wind turbine foundations and pipeline supports.

The journey

For Jim Bell, FoundOcean’s Managing Director, the company’s US export journey began ‘having captured a large share of a niche market in the UK and Europe with a small customer base’. He explains, ‘We decided to push further afield, to give us access to a larger market and a more diversified customer base to reduce risk and achieve growth.’

The business has in fact been exporting in a small way since the 1960s. ‘We were always ready to export,’ says Mr Bell. ‘The real question was why export wasn’t a core strategy. Readiness for one export market doesn’t mean readiness for all, so it was a matter of choosing the right market.

‘We viewed the US as having a similar business culture to the UK with purchasing decisions being based primarily on competence rather than networks,’ he explains. ‘Our CEO had previously worked for a US-based company in the offshore sector so had some familiarity with the market and business culture, and FoundOcean had already done various ad hoc contracts in the US during the previous 30 years. Market research also showed that there were sufficient project opportunities to justify market entry.’

Doing business in the US

The company started by taking the low-risk approach of locating a single sales engineer in the EIC offices in Houston, and budgeted for two years without revenue. But as FoundOcean’s business is so niche, ‘it wasn’t possible to recruit a sales engineer with the right knowledge locally, and we experienced challenges in securing the necessary employment visa for our expat employee,’ says Mr Bell.

Like the UK, the US benefits from ‘light-touch’ business regulation. Corporate tax is transparent and low, importing equipment is relatively hassle-free, and you are unlikely to experience significant problems getting paid, says Mr Bell. However, ‘you should allow plenty of time to secure visas if you need to bring expat workers into the US, and bear in mind that US state law is different from English/Scottish law so contractual documents can feel unfamiliar.’

Advice for new exporters

For businesses that want to export to the US, Mr Bell says the starting point must always be detailed market research to establish whether there is sufficient demand for the product or service you provide. ‘Only when you are confident of your market can you justify the effort and expense of working out how to do it and moving to implementation.’ Another key consideration, he says, ‘is how will you do business, if like FoundOcean you are a service company. Challenges like personnel, training and insurance are all worth investigating’.

Next stop

FoundOcean has been in the US since September 2013 and aims to continue to develop its international presence in the US energy market, with a keen focus on offshore wind.

Get help: Companies looking for support in doing business in North and Central America should contact Amanda Duhon, EIC Regional Manager Houston. Email:

Jim's Top Tip 

Customers in the US like to do business with companies that are local, so you must have a local presence. No matter how many US trade shows you attend, or how frequently you visit US customers, it will be difficult to convince someone to buy from you if your business card has a foreign address and phone number.

At a glance

Countries served
The Americas, APAC, Europe, India, the Middle East and West Africa, with offices, logistics facilities and partners in the UK, Houston, Dubai, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia

Export as a percentage of revenue (2018)
UK 41%, Europe 43%, US 10%, RoW 6%

EIC products used
EIC Launchpad Houston EIC delegation to Mexico UK pavilions EICDataStream