Contributor: Elaine Wherry


Elaine Wherry, chocolate maker and startup founder


Profile edited by Michael J. Coren

Photo courtesy of E. Wherry
Last update: Oct. 30, 2019


Elaine Wherry is working to make culture more creative and humane. Her chocolate company donated a reward to our original Kickstarter when we launched The New Modality. Here's a bit more about her.

What’s your quick bio?

I grew up on a goat farm in Willard, Missouri. My father sold wood stoves and my mother was a nurse. It was violin that brought me to Stanford University, though instead of majoring in music, I took a detour to major in Symbolic Systems (HCI) instead. After graduating, I managed a Usability & Design team at Synaptics and started working on a startup, Meebo, as the head of our product and front-engineering teams, eventually serving as co-founder and CXO. We launched in 2005 and were acquired by Google in 2012.

After 2012, I took a sabbatical to work on an (unfinished) graphic novel, contributed to the Wall Street Journal's Accelerator series, and advised other startups. In 2015, I teamed up with my husband to bring a chocolate factory to San Francisco. You can find Dandelion Chocolate on Valencia Street, on 16th Street, in the Ferry Building, and in five locations in Japan.


“I would love to see an adult 4-H Club in San Francisco where volunteers would offer multi-week courses with like-minded learning-oriented individuals.”


What are some of your own favorite past projects?  Why do you feel great about them?

After my last startup, all I wanted to do was work on a long-term, independent creative project — something that didn't require team alignment or key metrics. I spent two years teaching myself how to draw. I started with stick figures, progressed to mitten hands, and finally created a 300-page full-color graphic novel that one day will be out in the world.

What’s a specific project that you’re excited about right now?

Creating more professional opportunities for blue-collar, non-tech workers in San Francisco.

What is a cultural phenomenon, experiment, or moment that has inspired you in the past?

This is probably a longer discussion, but a moment in US history that fundamentally changed me was when Supreme Court Justice Kennedy cast the landmark vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Up until that moment, I assumed that culture changed incrementally, perhaps in decades or centuries. This was the biggest progressive shift I'd ever witnessed in our country, and what I thought would take at least another fifty years, happened almost overnight.

What's a relatively small, highly achievable dream of a better world that you sometimes think about but haven't done yet?

I grew up in a rural town with an active 4-H club. [Editor's Note: 4-H is an American nonprofit network that creates hands-on learning and education programs for youth.] 4-H parents would volunteer to teach a subject for 4-6 weeks (e.g. cooking, art, chickens) and children would meet at that family's house for regular lessons. My mother taught dog obedience each Saturday and the other 4-H'rs would bring their dogs to our front yard to practice sit, stay, and come. My father taught photography and I learned how to make a pinhole cameras and to develop prints in a darkroom.
Even with limited means in our community, I learned a lot by seeing the workrooms, kitchens, and hobbies of neighboring adults. Today, I wish I had never graduated from 4-H. I would love to see an adult 4-H in San Francisco where volunteers would offer multi-week courses with like-minded learning-oriented individuals.
Also, pop-up miniature golf courses where each course is designed by an artist in abandoned parking garages :)
What's your favorite thing about The New Modality? 
Intelligent, inquisitive people rethinking our culture.

Transparency Notes


This profile was edited by Michael J. Coren. Michael is a journalist focused on business, technology, and science — especially climate science — living in San Francisco. More about him at his NewMo profile