Mosaic Stories

    Day Veerlapati

    If you were to ask Day Veerlapati why immigrants make such great entrepreneurs, he would say it is because they are inherently risk-takers with an enormous capacity for creativity. Day, who is the founder and CEO of S2Tech, or Seven Seas Technologies, came to St. Louis from India in 1987 with his wife and two daughters. “I left everything. I had a good life, I had transportation, I had a home, nice salary, and nice relationships.   I left everything and came here. So when you are ready to lose everything and start over, that’s what I call risk taking.” This attitude has allowed Day to establish not only a successful IT consulting company, but also a nonprofit organization that funds the education of rural children living in India.

    Day began working in St. Louis as an emerging technologies researcher at Union Pacific Railroad Company, a role which would ultimately be a major catalyst in starting his own business. At Union Pacific, two things became clear to Day: the parallel between the connective and economic potential of railroads and fiber optic cables, and the benefits of being a self-employed entrepreneur rather than an employee. First, Day saw the history of railroads and how they contributed to the economic flourishing of the United States in the 19th century, both by connecting the resources of the west to the population of the east and by providing employment for so many people. In their ability to compress distances and seamlessly connect a global labor market with international businesses and resources, Day recognized the potential of fiber optic cable connectivity to have the same economic impact the railroads had created.

    It was also during this period that the “Year 2000” or “Y2K” problem was coming to a head. As the millennium approached, computer systems around the world needed to be adapted, and there were multitudes of people in countries like India who were poised help make that transition. This led Day to think, “All the businesses here are looking for people to fix the Y2K problem, and there are a ton of people in India that are so ready to do.” He figured, “Okay, well the Y2K needed a lot of people, and you need to use fiber optic cables to connect the people in India, and they could log in to the systems here and do the Y2K work. So, it’ll be easy solution.”

    In addition to revealing a burgeoning opportunity in the tech field, Day’s experience at Union Pacific also opened his eyes to the reality of being an employee rather than an employer: less freedom and no control over job security. “What is the life difference between and employee and an entrepreneur?” Day asks. “I think it gives me more flexibility, being in business, and also I could shape my career and life the way I like to have rather than dependent on something.” Because some of Day’s colleagues at Union Pacific had lost their jobs with the company, he realized that he was already taking an inherent risk working for someone else. Going into business for himself seemed comparable to the risk he was already taking as an employee, but with the added benefit of greater freedom.

    It was because of these factors that, in 1997, S2Tech was born. The business’s first opportunity was with the state of Missouri, adapting its computer systems to become Y2K compliant. This was the company’s focus until 1999 when Day’s frequent visits to Jefferson City opened up the opportunity to work with the state’s Medicaid systems. Now, the company deals exclusively with Medicaid-related IT consulting services and provides systems support in processing claims in several states. Due to the large size of the Medicaid program in combination with the relatively small IT usage, Day found that there is a lot of opportunity in this particular field. Altogether, S2Tech is currently active in ten different states and has supported Medicaid systems in 35. The name S2Tech is a compression of “Seven Seas Technologies” which alludes to the connection of the east and the west through fiber optic cables across the ocean.

    S2Tech faced a number of challenges getting off the ground at first, but Day overcame each obstacle with a sense of ingenuity and perseverance. Notably, when he attempted to secure office space for his fledgling business, he was turned down due to the fact that his company provided a service and had no use for warehouse space, docks, or drive bays. So, Day converted the spare bedroom in his house to an office space. Securing funds for necessary costs such as marketing also initially proved difficult, so Day enlisted the help of his two daughters: “We used to have a white board … and they used to give ideas, and they were very creative because they are so not into the weeds of the business. So they used to give out of the box ideas, and those really helped.”  

    Now that his business has been successfully established in St. Louis, Day is looking towards future opportunities to better the Medicaid system through IT. “We take care of the most vulnerable population,” he says, but “the way we are taking care of these folks is not right. We are spending a lot of money, the [health] outcomes are not great. So I’d like to … build these analytical tools that will help both the beneficiaries and also the government, in terms of improving the final health care outcomes.” Day hopes to achieve this by utilizing IT in order to make the Medicaid program more holistic. “Unfortunately in the U.S., it’s very siloed. So you have finance, you have HR, you have business development, you have manufacturing -- all siloed. They don’t think together. But one thing that helped me, that Indian upbringing is thinking holistically. They’re all connected. You know, what I do impacts my family, my employment, everything … That’s the one thing I bring to them, is a holistic thinking.”

    Another important project that Day is hoping to expand is Fortune Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that he was able to establish as a result of being a self-employed entrepreneur. Through this organization, Day and his employees “adopt” school-aged children from rural towns in India who meet the criteria for academic merit and financial need. Fortune Fund pays for the adoptees’ schooling up through undergraduate school, and each student is paired up with an S2Tech employee for mentoring. Currently, the program helps about 150 students in rural India. Through this venture, Day hopes not only to improve the individual lives of the participating students, but to help bridge the financial and educational gap that exists between rural and urban India. On an even broader scale, Day argues that this is also a crucial step in strengthening the integrity of India’s democracy as a whole. Even further, Day hopes to extend his nonprofit’s work to rural Missouri as well. In doing so, he hopes to show rural, low-income students that “they can think outside the box, or think big, whatever [their] natural interests, skills, and desires they have, they can achieve.” 

    As a result of his experiences, Day wants to encourage immigrants to become entrepreneurs because, “for them, starting a business is very natural. I think that they should think about starting more businesses because they are already inherently risk-taking people.” He emphasizes creativity, both in identifying business opportunities and in utilization of the resources around you. “I think that for the immigrants,” he says, “the message to them is: take the same risk taking attitude, find the problems, or challenges, or hurdles, and try to solve them using your unlimited creative capacity.”

    Ultimately, Day encourages entrepreneurship because “you are in charge, and you get more satisfaction with your life, and you chart your own course rather than depend on some external factors you can’t control.”