Gurbaksh Singh Chahal (born July 17, 1982) is an Indian-American internet entrepreneur who founded several internet advertising companies.
Chahal founded his first advertising network at an age of 16 and two years later, became a millionaire after selling it to ValueClick at nearly $40 million. In 2004, he co-founded BlueLithium, which went on to become the fifth largest ad-network in USA, before being sold to Yahoo in a $300 million deal. Chahal has since founded other internet-based companies including RadiumOne and Gravity4. He is currently the CEO of RedLotus.
In 2010, Bloomberg Businessweek named him among the 15 best young entrepreneurs of the year. In 2012, Chahal was enlisted among the 25 richest entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by Complex magazine. In 2013, he was named as one of the entrepreneurs of the year by Ernst and Young.
In 2013, Chahal was convicted for domestic violence and battery, and was sentenced to probation. He claimed innocence, but was terminated from his role as CEO of RadiumOne by the Board of Directors. In 2016, after new charges of domestic violence against a second woman with whom he was in a relationship, his probation was revoked. He resigned as CEO of Gravity4, and served six months in jail.
Chahal was born to Avtar Singh and Arjinder Chahal, a nurse in Tarn Taran Sahib, a city in India’s Punjab state on July 17, 1982; he was the youngest of four children. In 1985, during the aftermath of the Khalistani insurgency, his parents emigrated to the United States, his father having won a green card lottery. Chahal emigrated the following year, at age four. The family lived in a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose, California. His father got a job in the Postal Service; his mother worked as an assistant to a nurse. He has two elder sisters — Nirmal and Kamal, and an elder brother Taj Chahal; the latter two had worked with Chahal in his ventures. His family were devout followers of Sikhism.
At age 16, Chahal dropped out of Independence High School to pursue a career in Internet advertising; his parents wished him to be a doctor, and Chahal has since noted this to be the biggest risk-prone decision taken in his career. He has claimed of being subject to intense racial bullying during his school years including being forced to remove his turban, at knife-point.
Chahal started his career buying and reselling printers on eBay, after being turned away from a job at McDonald’s. His initial forays into business world were to support his family, and largely derived from his father’s interests in stock-trading.
In 1998, Chahal founded ClickAgents, an advertising network focused on performance-based advertising, on the lines of DoubleClick. By 2000, it had numerous customers and had a staff-strength of 34. It was acquired by ValueClick in November 2000 in an all-stock deal valued at nearly $40 million, which paid his parents’ mortgages lifting them out of poverty and made him an overnight millionaire.
In 2004, Chahal co-founded BlueLithium, a company that specialized in behavioral targeting, a technique whereby web users’ habits online are tracked in order to show customized ads. The ad-tech industry praised it with Business 2.0 noting it to be among the 11 most disruptive innovations of 2006, and by the same year, it had expanded operations to foreign countries, having purchased AdRevolver. MingleNow, a social network was simultaneously launched, which was accorded a partnership deal by Anheuser-Busch. It was named among the top 100 private companies of America by AlwaysOn for three consecutive years and in 2007, Yahoo! bought it for $300 million in cash; Chahal remained CEO during interim period. It was the fifth largest ad-network in USA and second largest in UK, at time of sale.
In 2009, Chahal founded RadiumOne, another online ad company of a slightly different genre, which started as a loyalty and rewards program but later, migrated to targeted-advertising domain, having acquired multiple social-media-centered startups. It garnered significant reputation for its patented ad-technology with Chahal being poised to be a billionaire, and was valued at about US$500 million at its peak. In 2014, the company failed to move on with IPO, as Chahal plead guilty to domestic violence. In 2017 it was purchased by RhythmOne for US$22 million.
In July 2014, Chahal launched Gravity4 (since renamed to DaVinci Marketing Cloud). It made a failed bid to buy back RadiumOne and closed in 2017, being unable to integrate the purchased ad-tech startups.
In 2019, Chahal founded TaaraLabs, an incubator and RedLotus in Hong Kong, which specializes in AI-based targeted advertising.
Honors and philanthropy
In 2010, Bloomberg Businessweek named him among the 15 best young entrepreneurs of the year. In the same year, Chahal’s alma mater Evergreen Valley College awarded him with an Honorary Degree in Business Administration and Pace University conferred the Leaders in Management Award and a Honorary Doctorate in Commercial Sciences; he had earlier established an endowed entrepreneurial scholarship program over the university. In 2012, Complex magazine put him in a list of the 25 richest entrepreneurs under the age of 30; in the same year he received the Light of India Amrapali Young Achievers award. In 2013, he was named as one of the Ernst and Young entrepreneurs of the year and the following year, Complex noted him among the top 10 technology entrepreneurs of the year. In 2019, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee honored him for contributions made to the field of entrepreneurship. Chahal has been a guest lecturer at several universities including London School of Economics, UC Berkeley et al.
In 2012, after the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, he committed US$1 million to found BeProud (since renamed to Chahal Foundation), a charitable foundation that supports the families of hate crime victims and combats child trafficking in India. It had liaisoned with Church of the Latter-Day Saints to provide employment scopes for rural women in Maharashtra, India. In 2019, Chahal committed to evolving Punjab as the next tech capital of India, and create over a million jobs for the youth populace by 2030 through suitable investments. In 2020, Chahal donated face masks, test kits, personal protective equipments and ventilators to hospitals across several countries (including Hong Kong and India) during the Coronavirus pandemic, and extended procurement networks to help governments in mitigating the supply-chain chaos.
Chahal has attracted attention for his physique and extravagant lifestyle including a fleet of luxurious cars and a penthouse apartment. He has been featured over Fox Business and CNBC‘s High Net Worth and has been invited as an guest over The Oprah Winfrey Show. He has been also featured over The Secret Millionaire, where he went undercover in San Francisco and gave away $110,000 of his wealth, The Bonnie Hunt Show, where he auctioned off his pen for charity, and on ExtraTV as America’s most eligible bachelor. In 2011, Men’s Health awarded him the seventh spot in the list of the world’s fittest and richest men.
Chahal profess to be a devout Sikh, who was largely inspired by his grandmother and takes a keen interest in Bollywood, admiring Shah Rukh Khan and A. R. Rahman in particular. Chahal was a regular donor to Democratic Party candidates; he was twice invited to White House during Barack Obama‘s presidency.
He is also a motivational speaker, advocates one-dollar salary for CEOs, and has written an autobiography called The Dream. During the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, Chahal became a vocal critic of governments and urged them to update their monetary policies in order to salvage their economies. He also spoke out against increasing xenophobia targeting the Chinese populace.
- The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions, Palgrave Macmillan