The (Multi) Millionaire Drop-Out: Gurbaksh Chahal and his Golden Startup Touch

How does a 16-year-old kid from India drop out of his California high school, start three businesses, become a millionaire many times over and write a book about it all before the age of 30?


Gurbaksh Chahal, the man behind this extraordinary story, will tell you his success has everything to do with the love for his family, his serious focus, and his biggest business asset, the people at the fabric of his companies.




Let’s take a look at Gurbaksh’s journey from 4-year-old Indian emigrant to one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the startup world.


The Bullied Boy Has the Last Laugh

Gurbaksh loved Twinkies growing up. He also wore a patka (traditional head covering for Sikh children) to school. This resulted in a chubby kid standing out and being cruelly bullied by his California classmates.


He was different, yes, but determined. And with the support and love from his family, especially his grandmother whom he credits for creating the comfort that allowed him to feel confident, Gurbaksh dropped out of school at 16 to pursue his love.



No, not Twinkies. It was his new found infatuation for the Internet and business that inspired him to take hold of his own destiny.


Starting Up, Selling Out

With the playground bullies behind him, Gurbaksh was focused on the big leagues ahead.

This lead him to the world of online advertising, and, fascinated by the “concept of a click”, he started his first company ClickAgents. Less than two years later he sold it for an easy $40 Million.


With his focus still strong, he started his second company, BlueLithium, an online advertising network, in 2004. Three years later Yahoo bought it for a cool $300 million.


You would think a 29-year-old who can almost see the half a billion dollars horizon would quit while he was way ahead. Nope. Gurbaksh’s latest venture, RadiumOne, an ad network which leverages social data on the Web, proves his serious drive to grow businesses (and have them bought for big bucks) has not failed him yet.



So, how do we get in on this fierce focus secret?


Gurbaksh says…


Don’t focus on your loses, focus on what you need to win

There are always going to be failures and loses in business, we all know this. Gurbaksh says not to think of a loss as the end of the world, but use it as fuel to focus on how you are going to work towards winning. And, he stressed, always have a Plan B.

Focus on Executing your Ideas

Gurbaksh makes an excellent point about business models and processes and how they can be replicated, but that: “The speed of execution is dynamic within you and can never be copied”.


Bottom line: Take your idea, (quickly) figure out the pieces to build it, go to market and believe in it. This is your greatest advantage as an entrepreneur.


Focus on What’s Important

For Gurbaksh, that’s family. Being inspired by his grandmother and being able to make his parents proud through his business successes have been true driving forces for him. And, nurturing his 120 employees, whom he calls his greatest business assets.


So, a high school drop-out from India turned entrepreneur multi-millionaire…hmm, maybe the “Stay in School” slogan should read: “Stay in School, unless you’re very clever, ambitious and focused and want to start your own company and sell it for millions and live happily ever after.” I think that has a nicer ring to it.


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