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Startup CEO Chahal fired for domestic violence incident

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Self-described “die hard entrepreneur” Gurbaksh Chahal, founder of two online advertising startups and recently CEO and chair of soon-to-list digital marketing outfit RadiumOne, has been fired after becoming the subject of intense pressure from online activists after being fined for domestic violence.

This chapter in Chahal's story starts on August 9th in 2013, when he “was charged for 47 felonies in a frivolous lawsuit”, as he writes here. The felonies related to a domestic violence incident that Chahal describes as follows on his blog:

“The situation that resulted in my legal case began when I discovered that my girlfriend was having unprotected sex for money with other people. (She testified to this in her interviews with the cops.) I make no excuse for losing my temper. When I discovered this fact and confronted my girlfriend, we had a normal argument. She called 9-11 after I told her I was going to contact her father regarding her activities. And yes, I lost my temper. I understand, accept full responsibility and sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart for that. But I didn’t hit her 117 times, injure her, or cause any trauma as the UCSF medical reports clearly document.”

The 117 figure comes from assessment of a video of the incident, captured on cameras installed in Chahal's home. Chahal's defence, as detailed in this The San Francisco Business Timesreport, was able to prevent the video being used as evidence because it was obtained without a proper warrant.

Without the video evidence, making the case against him became harder and he was eventually fined $US500 and accepted two lesser charges of misdemeanours.

“I accepted that plea, because after a lot of soul searching I believed I was acting in the best interest of my company, my employees, my customers, my family, my friends and my investors,” Chahal has blogged.

But the entrepreneur has also had some more controversial things to say.

At the conclusion of the first passage we quoted above, Chahal added “This was all overblown drama because it generates huge volumes of page views for the media given what I have accomplished in the valley.”

In the same post he wrote the following:

“Celebrities in sports, entertainment and business, and high net worth individuals in general are all potential targets. It was only a matter of time when I would fall prey.”

Founders and the startups they create are often above criticism in Silicon Valley, but the blogosphere and social media have erupted with anti-Chahal sentiment because his fight over admissibility of the video evidence doesn't chime with his other statements about abhorring violence. Nor do the passages above read well or hint at any contrition.

Clamour about Chahal eventually grew so loud that the RadiumOne Board asked him to step down. He refused and the board dismissed him.

Chahal has fired back, writing that he is innocent and only took the misdemeanour plea because the Board suggested it was the path of least resistance.

“This week, social media became the court of public opinion and decided to grow a life of its own,” Chahal wrote. “Similar to the Mozilla CEO debacle, each day-by-day it got worse. People can’t look at the facts in 140 characters so they start to believe all of the falsified exaggerated allegations. They can only choose to hate. Prominent social media bloggers such as Kara Swisher turned this into a social issue. That ended up making things viral … “.

His most recent post concludes as follows:

“Is this what real entrepreneurism is about? Is this what venture capitalism is about? Not to forget, in my last startup I made these same individuals over 800% on their investment? Whatever happened to real ethics? What happened integrity? Whatever happened supporting your CEO during the tough times knowing the truth? Or is just a fabrication of today’s society of greed at all costs.”

We've almost certainly not heard the last of this. ®

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