Sunmeet Jolly of GROTU: “Investing During The Pandemic; What Should I Do With My Money Considering All of the Volatility and Uncertainty Today”
Invest in yourself! Invent something! Build a company, product or become a specialist in a field. Founder’s equity in a business, or Patent holder’s royalty rights can be the best investment of time and money, and most Billionaires make their 1st money that way.
As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sunmeet Jolly.
Sunmeet Jolly is Founder & CEO of the GROTU app, and an investor in diversified asset classes that include angel investments in 37 pre-IPO technology startups. He has been a part of technology industry for 20+ years, living and working in Silicon Valley (San Francisco Bay Area) since Year 2000. He is an Electronics & Communication Engineer from NIT Kurukshetra, studied Masters in International Business at Delhi University, and has 240000+ Facebook followers for his company 101 Islands LLC.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?
I’ve been investing for 20 years as an individual investor in Stocks, Options, Real Estate, Gold, Crypto currencies and got inclined towards Angel investing in pre-IPO technology startups since 2016. I’m an early stage investor in 37 startups with a promising portfolio including Heliogen, Knightscope and NowRX.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I’ve lived an exciting life, traveling to 45 islands in 28 countries so far. But in my angel investing career, the most exciting news I received was from Heliogen. In late 2017, at a Seedinvest hosted breakfast in San Francisco, I heard Bill Gross, the legendary entrepreneur who founded Idealab technology incubator. He presented to us an investment opportunity in Edisun Microgrids which was building technologies to make solar power cheaper than fossil fuels, and generate heat from sun’s energy to save the world from climate crisis. I made my highest investment so far, in that company. Recently, around Thanksgiving 2019, Edisun Microgrids, now renamed as Heliogen was covered in 4000+ publications for achieving breakthrough in solar heat generation and announced investments by legendary Bill Gates, and other Billionaires including Steve Case and Patrick Soon-Shiong and received interest from thousands of customers worldwide. Even Former President Obama wrote about it in his Year in Hope publication! Now that was music to my angel investor ears! The lesson to take away from this is to diversify. My angel investments are spread across technology sectors including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Solar Technology, Virtual Reality (VR), Software Platforms (SAAS), Fintech, Health-tech, Consumer apps, Internet of Things (IOT) and more giving me good exposure to leading sectors of technology and limiting downside risk.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m Founder and Inventor of GROTU mobile app, which is a project I’ve been working on for many years. GROTU was wireframed by me in 2017, and a provisional patent filed with USPTO later that year. In 2019, I got US patent granted for the app and have international patents in progress. GROTU brings together a collection of integrated software tools in a convenient mobile application to help Friends and Family groups in planning travel and events better. Chat apps do not organize or calculate upon data, while GROTU takes a modular approach helping people in Group Travel Surveys, Potluck Planning, Event RSVP, Group Expense splitting, Photo albums in cloud with organized chat. More tools will be added in future.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people that have helped me in the journey, including my wife, mentors, teams that I work with, friends, family, people in my social network, public figures, books I’ve read, blogs I follow etc. that it’s impossible to name a single person. I must however thank Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s show Mad Money who works hard for his followers to help them evaluate companies and dissects key happenings in the business world every weekday. Also, I thank the Silicon Valley Venture Capital community with so many events throughout the year where you can listen to and meet experts in VC investing.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The world economy has done very well this time and Governments can provide money to stimulate the affected sectors. Once rapid testing is available and medical facilities can handle the large number of cases using an ample supply of ventilators and medicine, economies will start opening up and try to restore a sense of normalcy. The world will be safest when a vaccine can be produced in large enough quantities to be administered to the whole world. That can take time and it’s good to follow directions of CDC and local governments till then, and keep taking precautions like wearing masks, social distancing and frequently washing hands.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?
I would say keep investing the regular sum as you are now buying the asset cheaper than you were in January 2020. You need this money in retirement, not now, so if the fund is selling cheaper because of crisis, you are getting more value for your money.
Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?
Be diversified, and invest in a low-cost index fund if you can’t pick stocks, or cannot handle high risk. If you want to take more risk for higher rewards, you can pick a sector you understand well and study its fundamentals and valuation multiples to invest in individual high-quality stocks (example — JP Morgan or Wells Fargo in banking, or Microsoft or Google in Technology). If you want extremely high risk, high reward outcome, then you can pick up beaten-down sectors that have come down 80% or more (like Oil, Travel) but my advice is always to not put all eggs in one basket. And have some hard assets like Gold and Real estate in your portfolio.
Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?
I like Energy right now and have picked up some beaten down stocks and ETFs. I also picked up retail (Macy’s) as I feel it’s going to be back up soon.
Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?
I’ve always found Gold to be a safe haven and also bought some cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin that is limited in supply and a global brand. And real estate (primary residence) in good cities gradually goes up in value.
If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long term investment what would you advise them to do with it?
I would ask them to invest it in a low cost S&P Index fund.
Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- Don’t rent, Buy your primary residence — I’ve invested in real estate in safe, high growth cities and enjoyed 100% to 300% appreciation in values. It makes more sense now, when interest rates around world are cheap.
- Have a diversified portfolio or invest in a low cost S&P index fund on a regular basis from your paycheck in 401K or IRA
- Invest 10% of your net worth in high risk, high reward Technology Startups (Angel Investing) targeting 10X to 1000X returns, if and when you hit a jackpot
- Stay away from buying Options by paying premium. These directional bets are good for heavily involved traders who keep a pulse of every move in market, not for regular people.
- Invest in yourself! Invent something! Build a company, product or become a specialist in a field. Founder’s equity in a business, or Patent holder’s royalty rights can be the best investment of time and money, and most Billionaires make their 1st money that way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Just Do It” — Don’t overthink. Start on a path and things will line up. Only risk in life is to not take risks.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe humanity deserves the basics for all. Clean Water, Sanitation, Food, Basic shelter, Immunization, Education should be available to every human being on Earth. Every country in the world should foster social entrepreneurship that can provide these basics to their citizens.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!