The fine folks at Abbey Road Studios in London swear by Chord amplifiers. But the only place you can buy them is at CoolAudio.com. And that's just how Raj Bhatia, founder of the Silicon Alley (New York City) audio-video e-tailer, likes it.
Actually, that's how Bhatia, 34, got popular American brands, like Phillips, to sign on-by getting Euro-brands U.S. recognition in exchange for exclusive contracts. Before CoolAudio's late-October launch last year, "American brands were kicking me out of their offices," he says. But now the site, already hailed for its exclusive and name-brand selection and variety of customer services, has earned $7 million in sales and expects $15 million by year-end. Add the long-time audiophile Bhatia, who, prior to CoolAudio, founded a New York real estate fund, co-founded a $30 million hedge fund and served as chairman and CEO at hi-fi audio equipment manufacturer Carver Corp. He can now revel in telling former doubters "maybe." Since CoolAudio proposed to merge with Harvey Electronics late last year, the site may soon own 80 percent of the Lyndhurst, New Jersey-based high-end home entertainment retailer, and may also be able to utilize its reputation and East Coast showrooms, giving customers an alternative to online shopping.
It's obvious Bhatia has a head for business, but the former "micromanager" has learned plenty since CoolAudio's 1998 founding-especially from president Marco Protano, 38, who came on board three months into start-up. Little things like delegation skills and "how to leave your ego on the sidelines" are becoming innate. But blessing himself with "me time" is still a hurdle. "I can't turn it off at 6 p.m.," says the midnight e-mail marketer. "I tried taking a vacation without a cell phone, and I was more stressed then ever." We hope you'll soon be able to take it down a notch, Raj.