Silicon Valley CEO’s Meteoric Rise Ends in Prison Sentence

Gurbaksh Chahal (Michael Buckner / Getty for Fox)
Michael Buckner / Getty for Fox

Many people in the Silicon Valley online marketing ethosphere have called Gurbaksh Chahal a tech genius, but instead of continuing to jet around the planet as a the CEO of Gravity4, Chanal may be engaged full-time in a 12 month stint in prison.

Indian-American Gurbaksh Singh Chahal is a Silicon Valley entrepreneurial legend:

  • He dropped out of high school at age 16 to be a fulltime Silicon Valley entrepreneur for his ClickAgents advertising network start-up. By age 18, he merged with ValueClick and pocketed $22 million in an all-stock deal.
  • As soon as his non-compete expired, Chanal started BlueLithium. The company, which claimed to be developing the next generation of ad networks, won Always On’s coveted Top Innovator of the Year in 2005. At age 25, he sold it to Yahoo in 2007 for $300 million.
  • As soon as his BlueLitium non-compete expired, he founded RadiumOne in 2009 to pioneer what Chanal called disruptive adtech software that focused on creating a new category of real-time advertising.

But Chanal’s ballistic rise ended in August 2013 when he was arrested and indicted on 47 counts by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office for domestic violence battery. Prosecutors alleged Chahal “hit and kicked” his girlfriend 117 times over a 30-minute period. The DA’s office introduced Chahal’s extensive video security system tapes that recorded the violence that took place in two of the apartment’s bedroom.

Chahal pleaded not guilty to the charges and posted $1 million bail. But in April 2014 he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor in a deal to avoid a felony conviction and long prison term. The publicity resulted in intense public criticism of RadiumOne. With Chahal refusing to surrender his CEO role, the company’s board of directors terminated Chanal.

Chanal was back in 90 days later by founding a new company called Gravity4 in July 2014. The company boomed on the release of a new software tool to facilitate purchases of online advertising. With over 400 employees and offices in New York, Chicago, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Ireland, Brazil, China, Denmark, Canada, Romania, Australia, Columbia, Mexico, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bermuda, Spain, and Sweden, Gravity4 holds one of eight direct seats on Facebook’s Ad Exchange.

But Chanal and his company was sued in April 2015 for gender discrimination and harassment by a former female employee from Gravity4. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in May 2016 sought to revoke Chahal’s probation after he was alleged to have repeatedly kicked his Korean girlfriend in the leg during an argument and threatened to report her to immigration authorities if she said anything.

Chahal was forced to turn over his CEO position at Gravity4 to his sister Kamal Kaur in late July, after San Francisco Judge Tracie Brown ruled that there was enough evidence in the Gravity4 case to revoke Chahal’s probation.

Judge Brown granted Cahnal’s attorney James Lassart a temporary stay on the sentence pending an appeal until August 12, according to Bloomberg News. But Chanal was forced to surrender his passport. blog reported that Kamal Kaur’s bio on Gravity4’s website may have inappropriately listed her as a co-founder of BlueLithium. According to their investigation, the Yahoo sale only lists Krishna Subramanian as the other co-founder of BlueLithium. Kaur’s personal bio obtained by TecCrunch reveals that she recently worked as the general manager of Samsung’s Smart TV platform.

In response, Chahal’s attorney James Lassart told TechCrunch:

Ms. Kaur was promoted from EVP to become Chairwoman & CEO of Gravity4 on July 26, 2016, after Mr. Chahal stepped down on his own initiative. Ms. Kaur is a very well-respected person in the online advertising industry, and will be focusing on the continued growth of Gravity4’s international presence in 20 countries, while Mr. Chahal redirects his attention and focuses on the appeal of this matter. On behalf of Mr. Chahal and considering that this matter is still before the court, I am constrained to comment on the decision in this matter other than to say that a meritorious appeal is imminent.



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