New Modality Catalyst:
Elaine Wherry, chocolate maker and startup founder
Elaine Wherry is working to make culture more creative and humane, and she is also one of our New Modality Catalysts. 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?
What’s a specific project that you’re excited about right now?
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?
New Modality Catalysts
The New Modality is about experiments in culture — and the people who do those experiments. NewMo Catalysts are people who do things we admire and want to celebrate. They also help us stay accountable to our values. To learn more about NewMo Catalysts (or nominate someone to be a Catalyst), check out the Catalyst FAQ.
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
The information in our Catalyst profiles usually comes directly from the subjects, and we usually don't fact-check them. You can learn more about The New Modality's fact-checking and epistemological ideas by reading the page about our process for truth and transparency.