In 1998, Sanjeev Sardana joined the San Francisco office of DLJ as a junior member of the wealth management division. A little more than a decade earlier, he had emigrated from New Delhi at age 17. Sardana neither came from wealth nor knew anyone in Northern California. Nor did he really understand the difference between software and hardware. But he arrived with a few compensatory advantages.

First off, he wasn't afraid to make a cold call and wage a polite, but relentless, campaign. That's how he had persuaded his boss to give him a job in the firm's sought-after California office in the first place. Second, he knew that nearby Silicon Valley was home to other Indian immigrants. Overall, he estimated that as many as 30% of startups there were begun by Indians.

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