As a businessman man, Indian-American Gurbaksh Chahal has experienced immense success. By the age of 25, the San Jose, California, native had successfully founded, run and sold two companies — the first for $40 million in 2000 and the second to Yahoo! for $300 million in 2007 — all after starting an entrepreneurial career at the age of 16 in 1998, the year he dropped out of high school.
These days, Chahal gets to enjoy one of the many fruits of his labor in the relaxed environment of his high-rise apartment in downtown San Francisco. But the business life of the man who says he was tormented by bullies wasn’t always about luxury, especially in the earliest of his entrepreneurial days.
“When you’re starting off, get ready to get beaten up and slammed,” Chahal told Entrepreneur.com deputy editor Teri Evans at his home last year. “I thought people would help me. I thought because I was Indian, the Indian entrepreneurs would help. I thought because I had a business that was making money, people would want to know about it. That doesn’t work.”
Chahal’s words paint the picture of a man who was forced into learning the idea of being self-made, and so do his recent successes. According to TechCrunch, Chahal’s current enterprise, online advertising platform RadiumOne, is said to be generating nearly $100 million in yearly revenue while the company was valued at over $500 million in March 2012.
As the fortune of his company indicates, Chahal, quite simply, knows what he’s doing. It’s a knack that he says came to him once he realized that being a good salesman is all about focusing on the customer.
“I think the dynamic that changed for me was realizing that if you change the table around and you make people realize that there’s something in it for them or the perception that there’s something in it for them, the conversation changes,” he told Evans.
If recent stories are to be believed, Chahal might need to put those same business methods to use once more– this time to convince the general public to invest in his venture. The tech mogul has been in the news lately as speculation grows surrounding the future of RadiumOne, with rumors that an IPO might be imminent, a move which would open up shares of the company for sale on the stock market.
And while Chahal has always and (likely) will always face great competition in the world of online advertising, and in the tech community as a whole, as he moves forward with RadiumOne, the 31-year-old says that opposition doesn’t serve as a reason to be intimated, but rather as a source of proof that success can be reached as long as newer enterprises look to change.
“I’ve lived 14 years on the internet where I’ve seen AOL be the 800-pound gorilla, then Yahoo! be the 800-pound gorilla, then Google become the 800-pound gorilla, and now it’s Apple and it’s Facebook,” Chahal said. “So that’s so many different gorillas in a 14-year-old span. What that really tells you is that there’s so much opportunity, if you just refine what people are doing.”
The key, however, in tackling great competition is not to attempt to go toe-to-toe with them, the entrepreneur says, but instead to focus on an aspect in which they are lacking, exploiting it for your own success.
“The difference is that it’s not like you want to come up and say I want to create a better Facebook. That’s probably not the right way to do it,” Chahal said.
“What you can say is there’s probably a feature within Facebook that they’re not looking at so great, but I’m looking at it and that’s going to be my niche. That’s how you overcome competition. You figure out their weaknesses and you use a better way to go ahead and refine that by creating a better business out of it.”
Gurbaksh Chahal is also the founder of BeProud, a foundation that is driven by one simple goal: ending hate. To visit BeProud’s official site, click here.