Gurbaksh Chahal, the 26-year-old wunderkind behind ad network BlueLithium and discount shopping site gWallet, appeared last week on Fox’s new series “Secret Millionaire.” The idea is this: Every week, one of the show’s wealthy participants is plunked down in an impoverished neighborhood. For a week, they disguise their affluence, live on minimum wage and engage with those around them. At the end, they choose one of their new acquaintances to win more than $100,000 out of their own pockets.
Chahal’s episode showed him both helping out at a soup kitchen and dining among fellow homeless patrons. He also volunteered at a homeless shelter, where he made connections with several women who he says touched him with their desire to be good mothers. Ultimately, he split $110,000 of his own money between the kitchen, shelter and three women in need.
For Chahal — who refers to himself as G (and his $7 million San Francisco bachelor pad the G-spot, believe it or not) — show biz is nothing new. After selling BlueLithium to Yahoo for $300 million, the slickly-handsome mogul has been propelled into Silicon Valley’s gliterati, making appearances on Oprah, Current TV and the CNBC show “High Net Worth.”
According to media reports, Chahal will usually be the first to tell you all this himself. Known for his ostentatious lifestyle, complete with white Bentley and entry-way rug branded with a massive “G,” he has kept his good fortune anything but secret. In his book “The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions,” released earlier this year, he describes paying off his parents’ San Jose home, and cycling through Lamborghinis and Ferraris before arriving at the current car.
He may be materialistic (and that may be an understatement), but it would be short-sighted to dismiss Chahal as just another stuffed shirt. He did overcome fairly steep odds to get where he is today, growing up the son of Indian immigrants, for a time in the projects of East San Jose. Teased through school for wearing a turban, he turned his mind to computers, founding his first company, ad network ClickAgents, at age 16. The $40 million sale of that venture helped seed BlueLithium.
More telling is his blog post on his experience on “Secret Millionaire,” which seems to have had the intended effect:
Surprisingly enough, this ended up becoming one of the best experiences of my life… Perhaps, this was god’s way of reminding me that no matter how successul I become — to never forget where I came from… I also realized deep down inside, even though I am only 26 — that philanthropy is going to be a big part of my future. This show also goes beyond money. The gifting, while it was monetary — the emotional impact was far greater.
In addition to gWallet, a site that connects users with shopping deals and discounts, and whatever philanthropic projects he may be eyeing, Chahal is in talks with “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett about other reality show ideas.