Gurbaksh Singh Chahal (born July 17, 1982) is an American internet entrepreneur, philanthropist, and writer. By the age of 25, he founded and sold two advertising companies ClickAgents & BlueLithium for a total of US$340 million.
Early Life – Troubled and bullied since the age of 5
Chahal was born in Tarn Taran Sahib in Punjab, India to Avtar Singh and Arjinder Chahal. In 1985, his parents received a visa for America through the Diversity Visa (DV) program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, and the following year, when he was four, the family settled in San Jose, California.
“Kindergarten was my first reality check that I looked physically different,” Chahal says. Kids started trying to hit the turban off his head when he was 5, and the bullying intensified through middle school and high school. “It got more personal with name-calling and more threatening, violent,” he recalls. “As time went on, it got rougher and rougher. A 5-year-old bully is very different from a 15-year-old bully.”
The beginning of odd jobs to capitalize a startup
With no friends to hang out with, Chahal had the spare time to work side jobs and make thousands of dollars buying low and selling high. For example, he’d buy refurbished printers from a local flea market for $50 and sell them on eBay for up to $200.
He used that money to capitalize a startup, ClickAgents, at age 16, and ended up selling that business for $40 million. ClickAgents was an advertising network focused on performance-based advertising. Two years later, on November 1, 2000, ValueClick announced it agreed to buy ClickAgents in a $40 million all-stock merger. Chahal had a three year non-compete agreement with ValueClick.
Then he started his second business, an online advertising company, BlueLithium. BlueLithium specialized in behavioral targeting of banner advertising (a process that tracks web users’ habits online in order to show ads they are most likely to respond to). On October 15, 2007, Yahoo! bought Blue Lithium for $300 million in cash. Chahal remained CEO of the company through the transition period.
Chahal’s Current venture
His latest business, RadiumOne, is an advertising network harnessing social interaction data. Accomplishing all this before age 30, Chahal proves sometimes bullied kids do get the last laugh.
Chahal’s advice to the kids getting bullied
Accept the fact that you’re different, and use your strength to figure out who you’re going to be in this world. Being the prom king or queen — all that stuff just fades. The broader purpose is what you do with your life. People like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs did so well in life not because they were the rock stars in their school, but because they were very different. Being different is cool. Being different actually gives you a canvas on which you can paint who you are and what you want to be vs. trying to fit in and be something you’re not.
Oprah Winfrey interviews Gurbaksh Chahal