Sajan Pillai is the founder and chairman at McLaren Strategic Ventures which is a business accelerator that enables the business to reach its ultimate objectives. With his innovative ideas, he caters especially the start-ups, scale-ups, and investors to set, accelerate, and realize growth ambitions.
His vision through McLaren Strategic Ventures is to create unique ways of bringing capital, resources, access, and technology innovation to handcraft solutions. Through his Step IT Up America concept, he addressed the job crisis where the representation of women in the technology field is less than 0.5%.
Sajan, please tell us about McLaren Strategic Ventures and the services provided by the company?
McLaren Strategic Ventures is all about accelerating possibilities and beyond. We prioritize the tech sector and partner with startups, scale-ups, and investors to set, accelerate, and realize growth ambitions. By combining capital, operations, innovative business models, and next-generation technologies in unique ways. With a focused investor-operator mindset, we help all businesses race to a digital future. We empower startups, corporates, governments, and academia to bring technologies and solutions to the world, providing them with lightning-fast paths to capital, growth, profitability, liquidity, and success.
McLaren Strategic Ventures is a “business accelerator” focusing on tech startups. Can you explain what a business accelerator does and how it benefits businesses to work with you?
A “business accelerator” accelerates businesses. We provide a full range of highly trusted, personalized domain consulting and advisory guides, innovative technology distributed through globally acknowledged ecosystems.
We build unique value propositions, fiercely differentiated competitive advantages through technically feasible and economically viable digital solutions.
The benefits facilitate quick time to revenues, deeper margins, and an accelerated path to much higher and better-quality mindshare and market share with their clients. We hope to address digital’s most extensive societal needs, where we see a tremendous growth potential—democratizing digital for everyone, everywhere.
What direction is McLaren Strategic Ventures pursuing right now?
Today’s opportunities will not unravel by singular human resolve and action. It’ll need collective participation, voluntary exchange of goods and services with partners and alliances who continue to make focused investments.
McLaren SV focuses on alignment, intention and action. My focus is to create unique ways of bringing capital, resources, access, and technology innovation to handcraft solutions. These solutions keep humans and human welfare at the center of everything.
An ecosystem of partnerships solves for quality, speed, and scale. They generate higher reach, frequency, and yield in businesses. Ecosystems develop vertical-use cases, reusable IP, and scale possibilities most efficiently and effectively, solving the most profound challenges around climate change, pollution, security, education, unemployment, healthcare, financial wellbeing, unemployment, and human collaboration.
Co-creating solutions that solve current and future events through our partner’s collective resilience, creativity, focus, investments, and determination. The current, ongoing pandemic, its wide-ranging impact continues to unleash one of the worst economic, health, social, political, and financial crises, but it’s given rise to a new direction. Amid every crisis lies a great opportunity. History has proven that the issues in their times were unique, and there were bold leaders with unique partnerships and alliances who led the way, formed vital ecosystems, and overcame. The challenge isn’t the issue.
We’ll always be present with those in our living lives, and in the future, the challenge is our ability to see it and do something about it. We cannot solve the challenges of today and tomorrow by using the same tools and ways that we solved the challenges of the past. They have to be new, creative, sustainable solutions through new alliances to pass this curve and be ready for the next.
Sajan, as Chairman of the Diversity Committee of STEM, you introduced Step IT Up America. Please tell us about it.
Leading an IT Company, I believed that Technology is the new oil and is the epicenter of solving the job crisis. Step IT Up America evolved from the realization of a socio-economic divide where women are deprived of chances to get into more money-making technology jobs. Estimating that 70% of the new jobs in the US had heavy tech involvement, and the representation of women in these jobs has been less than 0.5%.
There had been a wide gap which had to be erased. We had a humble beginning, training, and hiring 100 women from 10 cities. And later, without any government support, we successfully led this program to train and hire 5,000 women technologists who would never have a chance to enter the tech segment. Political and industry leaders later endorsed this program.
Please tell us about your trajectory as a valued investor.
I have always been fascinated by innovative business ideas. Most of the time, the founder’s passion creates life changing ideas, but they need some handholding and guidance to take it to the next level. What we do is beyond just funding, but we create an ecosystem for the growth of the start-up and open doors to the global market. In 2021, we were able to close, and IPO valued at a $200 million. The SPAC has applied to list on the Nasdaq under MLAIU. This is one of the biggest achievements to date.
You have an impressive career history and level of achievement. Can you tell us how you have achieved and progressed so much and what motivates you?
Thank you! I spent the majority of my career building the growth and acquisition of UST Global. I grew the company from 20 employees to more than 25,000 employees. I led the global business to have business operations in the US, the UK, Spain, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Mexico, Australia, Poland, and Israel. The transformation from a CEO to a serial investor and tech mentor was no miracle. I am always on the lookout for promising technologies and ready to offer to mentor for molding them into successful business ideas; that is why we have created a platform where ideas are funded and gear them up for next-level growth. I am always optimistic about what I do. I trust my instincts and never back out from taking a calculated risk, and that is what keeps me going.
Following that, what quality do you think has helped you most throughout your career?
I have always adapted to change. I’ve seen the technology segment multiplying in the past two decades. It had been an era of instability and risk in the tech segment. A traditional approach to strategy, which assumes a relatively stable and predictable world, doesn’t work in an ever-changing scenario. Planning ahead of the following change and equipping myself and the team for that significant change has helped me the most throughout my career.
What is next for McLaren Strategic Ventures?
We will continue to focus on non-discretionary, mission-critical operations that address society’s most extensive needs where we see the growth potential. We will continue to solve the future of health and well-being through our investments in improving telemedicine, data science for healthcare management, and precision oncology through our focus on healthcare.
Investments in Big Data, AI/ML will provide a thoughtful way to ensure higher environmental intelligence, data warehousing, and financial payments, lowering costs, enhancing experiences safely, securely on time, every time.
Through our investments in Intelligent Automation, we’ll continue to strengthen conversational AI, testing, automating claims, and procurement for the largest banks, insurances, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing clients, enhancing the experience, and reducing unit economics leading to operational excellence. Through visual AI and machine learning, higher security, care, and accident prevention will strengthen the quality of life through a million digital eyes.
Our acquisitions will build on Doran Jones’s leadership as a technology leader in the Reg-Tech Space for capital markets and banks. We will soon announce a Joint Venture with a Big 10 firm in the space of Governance, Risk, and Compliance that will ensure the highest level of compliance on money and securing it, enabling it to work for humans than the other way round.
We are working on interesting F500 carve-outs in innovative JV structures that can make superior platforms available, scale ambitions, and make them available to the digital masses. We will continue working with one of the world’s largest Ed Tech and Automation platforms as they head towards a public offering. We will continue to focus on special purpose vehicles like SPACs that will provide liquidity, access to public markets for smaller firms under the guidance of experienced investor-operators. We’ve achieved all this in a year. Imagine what tomorrow, next year, decade holds! Stay tuned.
How are tech companies set to change the world following the COVID-19 pandemic?
Many digital companies have and continue to trounce incumbents by providing unprecedented access to goods and services, convenience, and very attractive unit economics. By leveraging inexpensive technologies like the internet and shared platforms, cloud technologies carried in our pockets, crowdsourced models, intelligent automation, powered by invisible circuits, we’ve pushed past the fourth industrial revolution and created the foundation for the fifth.
We usher in the fifth industrial revolution; tech companies will benefit from this radical shift. However, we must ensure that they manage this “opportunity” well, responsibly, ensuring everyone moves forward. With the pandemic, we are the tipping point of the most significant social transformations in human history, with fundamental change and consequences that will change what we trust, how we conduct and succeed in businesses. Social, cultural, trade, care, work, food, experience, health, finance will continuously improve as the pandemic gives digital adoption and a decade of progress in a few months. History has proven calamities like these have created irreparable harm and unintended consequences.
Digital shouldn’t mishandle the opportunity. We cannot change the past but should learn from it: the socio-economic, social, humanitarian crisis has destroyed much. Let’s hope the benefactors (tech companies) with a digital lead, lead with innovation, creativity, with responsibility. If they do, they’ll set out to change the world for the better. If they don’t, given the power of technology and what it currently has and holds, we may not get a second chance to recover.
Sajan, can you explain your tips for building a great company?
Most importantly, what you need is the drive to transform your dreams into thoughts and materialize your thoughts into a business idea.
A leader doesn’t need to be always in the frontline; sometimes you can lead from behind, offering complete support to your team in realizing your vision…
Choose your associates carefully to match the stature of your business and achieve market leadership through quality services/products.
Use effective channels of communication with all the company stakeholders and ensure transparency.
How is a day in your life?
I need to manage many daily tasks working with my team and associates in different time zones. Being organized helps me reduce stress and save time. My days are hectic, involving a lot of traveling and virtual meetings. However, still, I take time to think, evaluate, sometimes unlearn and relearn, which I believe increases my skill set and productivity. I rise early and try to keep fit at the gym, walking, or playing tennis; I am an avid reader and read at least three books a week. Meeting people and throwing ideas for a major part of the day. I have an excellent team to support me in my routine tasks which never let any work pile up, and we always have a plan B or a plan C even if plan A fails.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
It is not success or business growth that makes me happy. I’m more comfortable with the simplest things in life. Beyond being a Technology professional, I’m a nature lover who enjoys watching the sunrise and sunset every time with the same astonishment as if I’m watching it for the first time.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here?
“Only those who will risk going too far can find out how far one can go.” – Author T.S. Eliot. We are always capable of what we think we can do. I believe that you keep going as far as you can challenge yourself. After every milestone achievement, if you can challenge yourself for the next milestone after every milestone achievement, you’ll grow, or growth will be stagnant.
In his book Winning, former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch wrote, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” This quote is of very high relevance in a space where we operate.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
The traditional career mentality. We’ve been giving a lot of importance to making a career, graduating from a reputed school, and getting hired with decent remuneration. There are many other ways you can have a place of your own. In a rat race to attain this career dream, youth’s potential remains untapped only because they don’t follow their genuine passion.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We create a social impact with our business initiatives and investments, making life easier. We have our social enterprises focused on women empowerment and childcare. We would be glad to support more women-led initiatives and incubate promising companies with women in key positions.
We encourage aspiring young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and provide in-residence programs to avail our facilities and network and open doors to the global market for them.
Sajan Pallai has always been fascinated by innovative business ideas. He intends to provide the required handholding for the new founders and take them to the next level. He is not only an influencer but also a nature lover. His focus at McLaren Strategic Ventures is to continue non-discretionary, mission-critical operations that fulfill society’s needs where there is growth potential. His purpose at McLaren Strategic Ventures is to consider entrepreneurs first and they believe entrepreneurs change the world.