Carol Walcoff wears fringe, cowboy hats and boots.
But she also wears Washingtonian suits.
As chief executive of the Fairfax-based country-music Web site CountryCool.com, she's navigating two very different worlds: Nashville and Northern Virginia.
She's made friends and found advisers in both areas.
Today Walcoff plans to announce the clearest buy-in yet: The company's first round of outside investment will come from both a Fairfax high-tech venture fund and a Nashville media empire.
The symbolism is more important than the size of the deal--just $2 million. But the money is from the Next Generation Fund and Gaylord Entertainment, the company that owns the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Television International and the Opryland Hotel.
"It's wedding the entertainment community with the tech community," says Walcoff. "If those two communities are willing to invest, then we're on the right track."
Still, there are many, many other country-music Web sites. And CountryCool.com is a small, 25-person company, expecting about $500,000 in revenue this year.
But CountryCool.com recently beat out its biggest competitor, Country.com, which is owned by CBS, to be the official Webcaster of the Country Music Awards next week, even though the award show itself will air on CBS.
Besides Webcasts, the site features chats with stars, news about concerts and events, and contests such as "Fastest Ears in the West," where country fans try to guess the singer and name of a song after hearing a brief clip. There's also a "down-home" advice columnist named Hazel.
To strengthen the Nashville connection, CountryCool.com opened an office in Tennessee, sharing space with the magazine Music Row.
One way CountryCool.com is building a relationship with the music industry is by selling the results of questionnaires on the site, which ask readers what they think about new songs, to record labels for about $10,000.
On the tech side, CountryCool.com has signed a deal to have its content featured on Yahoo and is negotiating a deal with America Online Inc. of Dulles, says Walcoff, where typing in keywords "country" or "country music" will take you to content on the site.
Next up, CountryCool.com will be scouting for a larger round of investment, probably $12 million to $15 million, Walcoff says. The company is looking to file for an initial public offering around the first of the year, she says.
Country has long been a part of Walcoff's family. Her husband, Jim Dixon, plays the guitar and mandolin and is a cousin of musician June Carter. When Walcoff recently decided to devote 100 percent of her time to CountryCool.com, Dixon took the reins of the couple's Fairfax systems integration firm called Walcoff that focuses on the federal government market, where hardly anyone wears fringe.
The irreverent online investing site Motley Fool looks to be a few steps closer to an initial public offering.
Many have been surprised that the Alexandria company hasn't cashed in on the IPO gold rush while companies with less name recognition and lower revenue have jumped in.
But yesterday the Fools said they have raised a healthy round of venture financing, $26.5 million from Maveron LLC of Seattle (the fund founded by Starbucks Coffee Co.'s chief executive, Howard Schultz) and Mayfield Fund of Menlo Park, Calif.
And co-founding brothers Tom and David Gardner have also hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find a new chief executive to run the firm, according to spokesman Chris Hill. A hefty round of venture funding and a new CEO are both traditional moves right before a company files for an IPO.
How do start-up companies with few recruiting resources find smart, young, relatively cheap new workers, otherwise known as graduating college students?
Michael Walden wondered that too, and he heard enough small firms complain about not being able to find the right new hires.
"We felt there wasn't an avenue for these talented kids to take advantage of the start-up boom around here," adds Walden.
So this week Walden is launching a new company, OnCampusRecruiter.com, in Arlington. Walden on Sunday dispatched three recreational vehicles on an 11-day, 25-college tour, from Duke to Penn State, to find students interested in technology jobs in the Washington area. The staffers, armed with more than 4,000 OnCampusRecruiter.com T-shirts, will recruit students who agree to have their names entered in an online job bank.
"We're canvassing the campuses," says Walden. He hopes to have around 5,000 students enlisted by the end of the week.
Walden plans to make money on this endeavor by charging area companies $5,000 to $8,000 a year for access to the site.
To keep the grass-roots effort going, Walden says he'll hire 50 or so college students to sign their classmates up. In a similar arrangement to Varsitybooks.com, the Washington online college textbook store, Walden says he'll give his student reps equity stakes in the privately held company.
It's America Online proxy time, which means, through the document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, we get a peek at how much money the top execs made last year at the world's largest online services company.
In AOL's fiscal 1999, which ended June 30, chief executive Steve Case took in a $575,000 annual salary plus a $1 million bonus, compared with an annual salary of $426,667 last year and a $750,000 bonus. Think he deserved more? Don't feel too sorry for Case. He also made $115.5 million by exercising 2.4 million options.
AOL President Bob Pittman actually makes a higher annual salary than Case: $591,667 in 1999, plus a $1 million bonus. Pittman also received $80,000 for a housing allowance. The former MTV co-creator also made $21.7 million from exercising 504,000 options.
Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TechThursday columnist Shannon Henry will host a live Web chat today at 1 p.m. with Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, who resigned last week as America Online's chief technology officer. To participate, go to www.washingtonpost.com.