Attention, Please

How one man's company caught Yahoo's eye.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the April 2008 issue of . Subscribe »

Here's a biography guaranteed to make you feel like a sloth. Gurbaksh Chahal dropped out of school at 16 to found the online ad network ClickAgents. Two years later, he sold it to ValueClick for $40 million in stock. Once his noncompete ran out, he started BlueLithium, a global online ad network that focuses on behavioral targeting. Last year, Yahoo acquired that business, which then had 175 employees and nine offices, for $300 million.

Chahal's parents are Indian immigrants who struggled financially for years, but his family is well taken care of now. Chahal's current net worth is more than $100 million, he says. And he's only 25.

We talked with Chahal, who lives in San Francisco, about the deal with Yahoo and what he plans to do next. (Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

Entrepreneur: What about BlueLithium appealed to a buyer like Yahoo?

Gurbaksh Chahal: It came down to the fact that we had an asset. That asset was a great behavioral technology, and we were the fastest-growing and youngest of all the companies out there [in our industry]. We were nimble and had a great team. We created a name in the marketplace in three and a half years. We were one of the top networks.

Entrepreneur: How did you attract Yahoo's attention?

Chahal: A couple years ago, Oprah went to Montecito, saw a house and fell in love with it. It wasn't for sale, so she ended up paying above market value for it-several times over the price-because it was something she really, really wanted. That's an analogy for selling a company. You want to be the house that everybody wants that's not for sale.

I saw the market consolidating. I couldn't put a "for sale" sign out there, so I had to do it unconventionally. The way I did it was to make sure people realized I wasn't for sale. It made them realize that they needed me. They heard from different sources in different ways what BlueLithium was. That attracted them to my company rather than me going [to them].

Entrepreneur: What made you choose Yahoo over other suitors?

Chahal: It came down to economics and realizing that by putting both of our assets together, we'd become the largest global ad network overnight. There were other bidders, [but] I needed to make sure my employees were secure. This was a big deal for them.

Entrepreneur: How did it feel to have your company bought by Yahoo?

Chahal: It was great that I was able to be a repeat entrepreneur. Creating something from scratch and seeing it grow is really the drive and the ambition for an entrepreneur. It's like a little baby, and you're seeing it grow.

Entrepreneur: What's next? I've heard William Morris has signed to be your agent, and you're working on a couple of reality TV shows and a memoir.

Chahal: I have a three-year noncompete. I'm taking the next couple of years to explore my talent in a completely different industry and embrace what I've accomplished. I kind of forgot that I'm only 25. This is my way of living my life to the fullest for the three-year break I have.

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