Member Profile: Sanjeev Sardana

Founder and CEO, BluePointe Capital; General Partner,  BluePointe Ventures

Sanjeev Sardana founded Bluepointe Capital in the Bay Area in 2006 to offer full-suite wealth management services for entrepreneurs, VC and private equity professionals, executives, and family offices. Bluepointe Capital is an SEC-registered, fee-only advisory firm that manages more than $650 million in assets.

A veteran of Wall Street and boom-to-bust cycles, Sanjeev says that when there’s blood on the street and everyone is running for the hills, that’s the time to invest in overlooked sectors.

Ahead of BluePointe’s panel discussion of venture capital, emerging tech trends in AI, and nuances of QSBS on June 20, Sanjeev shares his expert insights around preserving and building personal wealth, and spotting the opportunities presented by periods of economic uncertainty.

Why did you decide to found Bluepointe Capital in the Bay Area?

I worked for brokerage firms and firms on Wall Street in the 1990s, including Salomon Brothers, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) and Credit Suisse, before moving to SF in 1998 after earning my MBA to be part of the internet boom.

There’s an inherent conflict of interest working for Wall Street firms and being in wealth management: you have to choose whether you want to objectively advise the client or sell products to clients through the platform you’re working for. I wanted to remove all those conflicts and started Bluepointe Capital in 2006 as an intimate, independent wealth management company, and then BluePointe Ventures in 2014 as general partner with my brother Sandeep, who makes the key decisions there. When working with wealth management firms such as BluePointe Capital you can be assured of complete transparency because we are only paid by our clients–we’re not selling products, we’re selling advice.

What distinguishes BluePointe Capital and BluePointe Ventures to other companies in your sectors?

We specialize in working with tech executives and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs shoulder a lot of risk because they typically want to invest in other tech companies. Our job on the fiduciary side is, in part, to save them from themselves and present stronger options to risky startups or single stocks that are popular in their immediate circles.

You’ve weathered a few boom and bust cycles in the Bay Area: the internet boom until the 2002 downturn; bull markets until the 2008 economic crisis.  How did  your experiences during those periods inform your business practices today?

There are always learnings from each cycle–one is that they bring opportunities. In the worlds of wealth management and investment, you have to take a contrarian approach. When everybody is running for the hills and there’s blood on the street, that’s when it’s time to put money down. Buying low is a straightforward proposition but telling a client to invest in markets that are down by 30 percent isn’t easy: people are more comfortable planning to buy when things are at the top than when they are at the bottom.

There are always highs and lows, but markets should take care of themselves as long as you have a diversified portfolio. That’s our challenge as financial advisors: to keep calm, stay disciplined, and follow the process.

It seems like lots of people are rushing to buy Microsoft stock following its acquisition of Open AI: ChatGPT is everywhere. Do you have any advice for warning signs to look out for?

Anybody who has either too much leverage or too much concentrated stock has a risky position. Affluent young professionals working from home in 2022 put their money in Tesla, Google and Microsoft stocks. That’s not a sufficient degree of diversification. Outlooks are not rosy all of the time: the market can dip and trigger a margin call. We didn’t invest in crypto because we know more people will lose money than the number of people seeing a good return, and I think the same thing is going to happen with AI. 

The hard thing about bubbles is that you don’t know you’re in one until it pops. It’s definitely not easy, but you’ve got to follow the contrarian approach. If everybody’s gunning for one thing, it’s advisable to stay away, unless you’re able to identify innovation with a product-market fit very early on.

What sectors or companies are worth paying attention to right now?

It’s worth looking at the clouds gathering around real estate now that interest rates have gone up dramatically. A lot of companies are having a hard time holding on to real estate and for groups that are excessively leveraged, those borrowing costs are going to continue to increase and loans are coming due in the next two to three years. Owners of real estate will not be able to refinance, and in my opinion there’s going to be lots of opportunity to invest in distressed debt. 

BluePointe Capital was one of the first companies to lease space at CANOPY Menlo Park. Why did you decide to locate here, and what kind of membership do you have?

We had a beautifully appointed 3,000square-foot designer office prior to the pandemic, and as we adopted a hybrid model with each worker required to come in at least one day a  week, we wanted a space of exceptional quality in a premium location, equipped with premium furnishings and amenities. We needed access to a kitchen and conference rooms, but we didn’t need to pay for them 24/7.  We also wanted to be near Palo Alto and Menlo Park–this area is on the rise and becoming much more of a hub for wealth management and venture capital. 

Now, I have a four-person and a one-person Private Office for my eight staff, who are based between Marin, Oakland, Lafayette and the San Francisco peninsula. We also have two employees who regularly work at CANOPY’s San Francisco locations on a hot desk basis as it’s much closer to where they live.

There’s a strong community feeling and my staff and I have connected with more people here than we have in years. It turns out one of our portfolio companies, Allocate,which provides access to investments with top tier venture funds, is also here. We decided to co-host a webinar in April, and an in-person event at CANOPY on June 20. These kinds of decisions happen when you are right there in front of people.  

Has it been hard to explain to your clients why you have an office within a coworking space? 

There’s been a paradigm shift. COVID and access to remote tools has trained people to think more sustainably about time and travel–instead of spending two hours going back and forth, we can have a Zoom call, which frees up more time to spend on the business. Before the pandemic, if I told a client I had an office in co-working space, they would have questions around whether it was temporary, and by extension whether my company–which they were trusting with their money–was temporary.  A big office with lots of staff used to signal security and success, but now we no longer have that pressure. 

What are your favorite podcasts?

“How I built this,” by Guy Raz is probably one of the most popular podcasts in history. The reason I like it is because he interviews some of the most iconic entrepreneurs in the world. and they talk about some of the challenges they have faced and how they overcame those challenges to eventually become successful. Everyone has challenges of course, and the way we learn is by understanding what other entrepreneurs found out. 

I guess my most favorite podcast was about Tala, a smartphone app-based company which helps the world’s two million unbanked people gain access to seed funds, hosted by CEO and Founder Shivani Siroya. You don’t have to run a tech company to be an entrepreneur: you could be selling cassava in Ghana or making tiles–or providing micro loans of $50, $100 or $1000 to people that do. Tala has disbursed $3 billion in loans to date, and I think about the number of lives that have been changed. At some point we also have to think about our purpose in life and how we get to the bottom of the pyramid and help people there?  

What is one destination you never get tired of traveling to? 

We live in Northern California and Napa is one destination I never get tired of going to. Every free weekend I’ll make the drive there with my wife, stopping to eat at a new place in SF and looking to discover new wineries. I love nature, wine and science and Napa offers all three!

How do you keep fit?

I could be better for sure. I used to play tennis three or four times a week, but I switched over to pickleball now and I love the sport and play at the Bay Club several times a week.  

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Remember people on your way up because you will meet the same people on your way down. Technology is a great equalizer: you don’t need privilege or a lot of money to start an idea or a product if you believe in yourself and if you’re willing to take a risk. You might be on top today, but your business could be disrupted tomorrow. If you’re kind to people, when you need help, they’ll be good to you.

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BluePointe Capital’s focus is to deliver exceptional service to successful entrepreneurs and business professionals. Please send Sanjeev a message if you’d like to join his team for this month’s conference call:  sanjeev@bluepointecapital.com