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Cathy has a long history of innovation in both wine and media. She is co-founder of Enolytics (2016) a new data analysis tech startup for the wine industry, the founder of Harvard Alumni in Wine and Food (2009), and the founder of 365daysofwine.com (2006) and Red White Boston (2008), a digital media company for the wine industry.
Cathy’s writing has appeared in both general-interest and wine industry publications including the Harvard Business Review network, The Atlantic, Decanter, Food52.com (where she was the “Wine, Unfussed” columnist), DailyBeast, The Boston Globe and more. Cathy also has worked the floor of some of the finest dining establishments from knocking on the kitchen door at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to Apicius in Paris to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas.
She knows her food, her wine, and her academia. She holds master’s degrees from Harvard in both Design and Journalism. Before that, she received a master’s degree in comparative literature from the City University of New York Graduate Center and an undergraduate degree from Bucknell University.
We spoke with Cathy recently about her latest venture, Enolytics, which hopes to bring big data and more importantly analytical insight into the tradition bound wine business.
Do you consider yourself an innovator?
I do! Sometimes innovating is about a product or service, and sometimes it’s about combining things that already exist in new and different ways. In every case, I think innovating is this incredibly dynamic dance between humility about what you don’t know, and brave belief in what’s possible. There’s a sweet spot somewhere in between.
What’s your vision for Enolytics?
Holy moly. Enolytics surprises me every day. Yes, we have a vision to piece together the puzzle of wine consumer behavior and sentiment to create a picture that’s never been seen before. And yes, we have a vision to expand our network of data partners and embrace non-wine sources as well. Those are our guiding lights. But the amazing thing since we launched is the creative back-and-forth with big thinkers from within and without the wine industry, who start conversations with something like, “Why don’t we…” or “Do you think it’s possible to…” Those tend to be game-changers. Or, at the very least, they add a little wabi-sabi to our best-laid plans!
Is there a mission, model or idea from another industry you have learned from or applied to Enolytics?
Most definitely. The ace up Enolytics’ sleeve is, for sure, our team of data scientists who have among them 50+ years of experience. The thing is that their experience is in the healthcare space. Which means that a) their standards for working with data are very high, and b) they are extremely up-to-date on the technology, which enables them to be forward-thinking as well.
How do you educate the wine industry on the roi of “big data”?
Quite a large portion of my time is dedicated to education and I embrace that. We’re trying to do something different here, and naturally there are doubters and skeptics. But sometimes they’re the ones asking the questions that push us hardest, and they’re definitely the ones most demanding of proof of concept. The further we get along this path, the more “proofs” we’ll have which will (here’s hoping!) make the education part go a little more smoothly and maybe even a little faster.
What are the characteristics of those who are your first adopters?
They understand something of the potential of big data. Maybe they’ve worked with it in the past in some other industry, or maybe they’ve seen it in action in their personal lives. EIther way, they know that they don’t know and they’re curious to learn more and put the learnings to good use. Being an early adopter doesn’t need to involve a big risk, but it does mean having enough temerity to raise your hand. For which we’ll be eternally grateful.
Enolytics can go a lot of ways, from new categories of research to partnerships outside the industry to unexpected sources of revenue. For as much as we’re “head down” in the work, we also need to be “eyes up” to stay alert to opportunities. I feel strongly that what we thought Enolytics was at the start is not what Enolytics will actually be two years from now. It’s that dynamic.
Where do you find inspiration?
I meditate, which for me is key for clarity, which opens the space for fresh thinking (i.e., inspiration) to nudge its way in. Some of my favorite moments of inspiration happened when I wasn’t looking, when they’ve kind of snuck up on me, like when I was out for a run or feeding my children or in downward facing dog on the yoga mat. Even though I may have “tilled the soil” by preparing, through research or related reading or brainstorming, my heart still skips a beat when The Inspiration blooms.
What’s the one super power you would like?
Perfectly executed compassion.