John Durham, CEO of Catalyst SF “Market Capitalist” and “Cork Dork”
Susan Bratton

Episode 17 - John Durham, CEO of Catalyst SF “Market Capitalist” and “Cork Dork”

Hear Susan dig a little deeper into this amazing man. Like a delicious brownie, perfect nuts and chocolate bits you can savor their discussions range from John's early years leading Winstar Interactive, one of the most well-known rep firms in the online ad space to his big biz dev moments at Carat where he landed 30 deals to his latest venture, Catalyst SF - a market capital company. The conversation ranges from Shanghai where the 5th century meets the 21st century, to the various uses for shipping containers include a "dude's lair" of straw and bale to his collection of African Tribal Masks from Gabon and the Ivory Coast to a discussion of "The Great Books of John Durham." You learn, you'll be entertained and you'll get some sage advice from a man who seems always to have everyone's best interest at heart. Tune in to get inside the life and love of John Durham.



John Durham, CEO of Catalyst SF "Market Capitalist" and "Cork Dork"

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Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. And on today’s show, you are going to get to meet, or learn more about, one of the most amazing men in our industry: John Durham. Recently announced as the new CEO and managing general partner of Catalyst, San Francisco: a new company that he’s formed with Cory Tripletti. We are going to talk to John about everything from Shanghai to African tribal art to brain science to American civilization; his penchant for spawning marriages; what “marketing capital” means, and whether or not we have “jitter fingers” . . .

John Durham: Why is it that agencies think getting new business is any different than going out and pitching an ad sales, (or) going out and selling insurance. Think about the plans, and if you approach why there’s a client looking to do business with someone, hopefully you bring them the right people, the right process, and the right passion. I think a lot of new business-people just care about ‘winning’ in business, and the reality is, it’s just as much about keeping it.

Susan: You actually have a reputation in the industry for making matches. I didn’t know this: you’ve spawned six marriages, maybe seven with Cory. . .

John: As you get older, I think you get mildly amused or mildly disappointed. I was in awe every day; twenty million people, and building is high-technology, and still like the third or fifth century meeting the twenty-second because I don’t think they have time to stop and review.

Susan: Welcome, John!

John: Thank you, Susan.

Susan: It’s nice to have you on the show. I can not believe that this is the first time I’ve had you on; you’re an absolute fixture, adored by all, and so I’m glad to have you here, and learn more about you today, as I’m sure, everyone listening is.

John: (laughing) Thank you very much, I’m very glad to be here!

Susan: Oh. So I was reading your horoscope today, I noticed - I was looking at your Facebook page, and I was reading your horoscope, and I have to read it for you today. Okay, well, you’re a Cancer; you were born July 7, and: “You’re in a more thoughtful mood today, and may want to take a chunk of time off from your daily routines, to consider your top-level goals, and philosophy: at work, at home, or in life as a whole.”

So, I just wanted to let you know, over this next half-hour, that’s what we’re doing!

John: Excellent! (Susan laughs) Great timing, I’ve been thinking about that today, and didn’t even know it!

Susan: Is that right? What were you thinking about?

John: I was thinking about, when you start a new company – if you sit down and design your goals, about thirty days in to it – you know, this morning I looked at my x again, “Are we still thinking the right kind of way?” How ironic, I didn’t even get a chance to look at the horoscope. How ironic that it was doing that.

Susan: Now, do you take any stock in astrology?

John: You know, I didn’t, but as I’ve gotten older and I believe the confluence of things, sometimes there is some method to madness; so I gotta believe that there is some – a little of that does happen.

Susan: I’ve recently read a book called “Enyagrams,” which is kind of like beyond horoscopes – horoscopes tell you what you are, enyagrams – they kind of tell you what you don’t do well, and where you need to improve, to improve your life. You know, what your fatal flaws are, not just the horoscope stuff! (laughs)

John: Well, I’ll have to get that book-link from you. Obviously, I like to read –

Susan: I know you do

John: -and that’s something I will read.

Susan: That’s one of the things I want to talk to you about later: You are a big book aficionado, so I want to find out what you’re reading. Before we do that, I really want to make sure that people know who you are; because Catalyst, SF is a really new company, and I want to talk about that. But you started out in 1998 with Winstar Interactive, really launching one of the very first interactive rep firms in the online media industry. You went from there to – let’s see if I get this right off the top of my head – did you go from there to Pericles, and then to Cara and then to Jumpstart?

John: You got it! And I started out just before that at Mapquest.

Susan: -At Mapquest.

John: So my entrée in to the web was through Mapquest. And I had come out of television, and felt like, “Boy, digital is very cool!” And so, left, went to Mapquest, knew nothing about geography – except I knew the fifty capitals, and knew how to read a map – or at least I thought I did. And started selling banner advertising for Mapquest, and – I couldn’t imagine looking back. It was one of the most exciting times, it was truly a start-up company – I was a very early employee – and got in to it and loved it. And then moved on – I believe very much in the ad business and went in to the rep side and managed Winstar which was for me a lot of fun because it was about growing brands and we built a good company.

Susan: Well –

John: ..and we survived the meltdown, which not a lot of rep firms can say they did.

Susan: That is very true, and one of the things that I’ve always wondered is, how you define the difference between a rep firm and an ad network?

John: (well) A rep firm, in the traditional way, is it sells specific properties. The differentiating point for Winstar is that we would sell you not in a network, we sold to you exclusively; we never had more than eighteen properties, we had nine offices. So, when we took a property on, we sold everything about it, we didn’t sell it with other sites that we had. So, our salespeople would go in and really reflect – “This is Oprah-dot-com, this is Dr. Phil, this is Better Homes & Gardens,” we didn’t bundle them together.

The differentiating point of a network is that they will sell against demography, or inventory, or behaviors – we don’t do that, we just sold against specifics – old-style rep firm from that model.

Susan: I kind of think about Burst, with Jarvis Coffin maybe still being like that. Is he, and are there others?

John: He comes the closest to still being pure. He had a network where he would aggregate remnant inventory, for sites that he wasn’t able to sell site-specific. So he had both models going. Today, he’s really gone more and more back to site-specific because there’s very few people doing it. Gorillanation and Burst are probably the two that are still doing it the best; and blue-lithium has taken on some properties of an exclusive nature, but they’re still primarily an ad network.

Susan: Well, thanks for mentioning blue-lithium, they are a sponsor – I love that! (laughs)

John: I think they’re really – I think Tim Malman and the group of people he has really done a great job – of course I’m a bit selfish; he worked for me at Winstar, ran my sales for me, so obviously I’m very proud of what he’s done.

Susan: Yeah. I met him through you, you pitched him for a speaker’s slot at Adtech; probably one where you couldn’t come and present because I was always asking you to present (laughs) probably at every show! You’re such a good moderator, you’re like the Oprah of the interactive media industry!

John: I thought that was a lot easier! I guess like getting people to talk and it was a lot more fun and I always thought that people moderating it, as a rule, you know, you really are good because you get a lot of people to open up – some of these panels sometimes, you know, name, rank and serial number. People want to sit there and learn and be engaged. It was fun.

Susan: That’s great. Are you still doing that?

John: When I get asked. You know, I haven’t been lately, I’ve just been so involved with Jumpstart, and obviously the start-up, but I like to do it.

Susan: Well, you were on the board of Jumpstart, and then you decided to take a job there..-

John: It was really funny there, it was a great situation. I ran into the guys at Jumpstart, they were in the Winstar building when we opened, and we ran into each other on like the second or third day in operation, and they told me what they were doing, and I said, “Oh my gosh! That’s so fascinating, because autos are such a tough sell.’ One thing led to another, and we got to know the CEO, Mitch very well, and sit in on board meetings. And Susan, it was a wonderful situation, my experience at Cara working for Sarah Fey, it was just one of the highlights, and I know that Isobar is a sponsor, and I can’t say enough about my experience at Isobar, Aegis and Cara. Sarah Fey is just a rock-star of a person to work for.

Susan: And doing so well now! I mean runnin’ the world! –

John: I mean now, even more. I wouldn’t have left if Mitch said, “We’ve got a great opportunity (you know the inside, what’s going on). You understand the rep business very well, and you know everybody here.” It was like one of those moments where you say, “Gosh, do I have it in me?” It was so exciting to be a part of that.

Susan: Well, you are at the roll-up companies of Aegis, Isobar, Cara, Freestyle, Ammo probably at that time, who knows what else! You brought in thirty pieces of business for them – you weren’t there that long. So, I can imagine that that was a pretty impressive number. Can you give any advice – we have a lot agency people that listen – any new-business-development advice, like, “What was the one thing that you think you did, that made that such a successful experience for you?”

John: That’s interesting because I remember one time – Sarah asked me that same question – and what is it that you do? Why is it that agencies think getting new business is any different than going out and pitching an ad sale, or going out and selling insurance. Do you think about the clients, and if you always approach why there’s a client looking to do business with someone. It’s – hopefully – that you bring them the right people, the right process, and the right passion. And I’ve sort of operated on that assumption – Who are the people that we’re wanting to do business with – did they fit with us and we fit with them? And the fun thing for me was, “Gee, and then you have that fourth and prospecting, most agencies think they’ll sit back and let the phones ring, which I’ve never really understood, or they wait for that idiotic group of people to call the consultants who go out and send out twenty RFPs to agencies, and say I’ll bid, and I think that’s a horrific way of doing business. You know, you go out there and you prospect, and you find exciting people, and I had it easy, all I had to do was open the meeting, and then close and ask for the order, because people at Cara get to do business-pitching were just phenomenal. Everywhere in the country, each office for me was so much fun, because they brought the best of what the company was, and anybody who was any good, knew that “Hey, we got the business, how did we keep it?” I thought about, how did we win the business, and how did we keep it? And I think a lot of new business-people care about winning the business. The reality is, it’s as much about keeping it. And it’s a real tough environment right now

Susan: What did you think was the most exciting win that you had at Cara?

John: Wow. A big win for me that I just enjoyed watching the awe of Cara’s power was Eddie Bauer. Because, it was literally from creative and media and strategy. It was – we took the best team, and we literally immersed ourselves in the brand, in the store, and we came up with one hell of a presentation! Everything about it - not only the content, but the presentation itself. You know, they wanted cement – God, I hate this phrase – “Out-of-the-box-thinking.” We had out-of-the-store ideas! Some of which they went with, some of which were just way out there. But what it really proves is that just imagination and excitement, and thought, about something was great. And it was a big win, and for Cara San Francisco office who had not won anything in a while. That was a lot of fun.

Susan: The completely unlimited potential for imagination is probably one of the most evocative parts of new business pitches. And now, at Catalyst, San Francisco, you call yourselves “The Marketing Capitalist Company.” How are you doing new business pitches there, and what do they look like?

John: Well, what Cory and I kicked about on and off for a couple of years, and it came from conversations at Cara, was that a lot of the Venture Capital firms in the valley are really good about recommending lawyers, and recommending CPAs and bankers. But when it comes to marketing services companies, a lot of them really didn’t have a level of comfort; they would say, “Hey, go to a good B, or go to an agency dot-com, or go somewhere..” Well, that may or may not have been the right choice. And in talking to many VCs, what we felt we know about Venture Capital, we know about funding. Well, marketing capital is about providing marketing inertia to get something going, the right kind of tools and services that you need. And so what Cory and I have fashioned is a company that primarily working with start-ups to help develop strategy. And then find them right marketing capital tools: do they need an ad agency? do they need a design firm? do they need a guerilla PR? a street firm? So in a way, it’s a little bit of match-making, driven by significant strategy.

Susan: Well, I want to go in two tangents here right now: I want to talk about Jitterfingers, but when you said, match-making, I can’t resist: You actually have a reputation in the industry, for making matches! I didn’t know this, you’ve spawned six marriages, maybe seven, with Cory?

John: Yes. It’s ironic. One of my MBA students at USF, I got her in the business - she was really good – got her in the business at organic, and brought her over to Freestyle, and she sold for me. Really great, so she and Cory start dating which is just so ironic, now they’re engaged. And at Winstar, six different net-people at Winstar, at different events, ended up getting married.

Susan: Well, it’s funny too. I had no idea that you had this legacy. I was wracking my brain this morning trying to remember – I tried to fix you up with one of my girlfriends’ once!

John: Absolutely. We emailed back and forth, all of a sudden I went back on the Jumpstart thing and the rest of this I’m trying to get sold.

Susan: You know, it’s funny. You are the perfect guy to fix up with somebody - I mean handsome, intelligent, heart of gold, fabulous hobbies, balanced. I have to start thinking about this again! Are you dating anybody? –

John: Let me tell you - !

Susan: (laughs)

John: - you are as good as anybody, and gosh you’ve got me blushing now!

Susan: (still laughing) And are you dating anybody right now?

John: Right now, my only hobbie is work, and getting back in – I took some time this summer to relax, and now I’m getting back my balance, getting back my life. So I’ve been thinking about, you know, “What is that next generation for me?” So, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it.

Susan: Nice! Well, that’s an open opportunity for me and any other person who knows you to think about the perfect match.

John: You know you got me thinking about ..xx

Susan: Oh! There’s nothing that would make us happier, than to introduce someone we love to you, because you’re so fabulous!

John: Thank you.

Susan: (laughs) So, let’s go back to the marketing capital now, we’ve had that little segue.

Jitter-fingers is one of the companies that you represent, as well as a company called Zooed. I checked them both out: and it seems like one of the things you’re focused on is helping early-stage companies get some market appeal. Is that true?

John: Very much so. You know, as I’ve said, “There are a lot of times they’re very good about getting the advice they need, to work with. And sometimes strategy they need – what is the better strategy; a lot of times, most of these guys act tactful when tactics are great. Figuring out what the strategy is; so we’ve determined that there is a really legitimate business here, and so far it’s paid off. Both of these are companies that are focused on an interesting marketplace, and we’re helping draw the strategy, and gone out and found execution partners, and implement it. One of us want to build another agency because we think one of the interesting things for us is finding best-of-the-breed marketing service companies that’s in business. . . That’s how we’re thinking.

Susan: I’ve always done that, just tangentially, in the consulting that I’ve done over the years, people have come to me and said, “Hey, how do I get this thing out in the market? Who do I talk to?” I have a real roster of unbelievable talent that I deliver people to all the time, and I know exactly how much fun that is. When you identify someone, like, the best copywrighter, the most creative copywrighter in the whole world is a guy name Mike Yoffee from Bigmouth. He writes –

John: I’ve heard his name before!

Susan: -the most beautiful copy! Gut-wrenching, evocative – I mean I don’t have the words to describe it, but he does! And whenever anybody would ask me, I say, “Go call Mike, he’s the one. He will write whatever you need.” And it will be something so unique that no one could ever come up with it. And if you start to develop a whole stable of those people, you can do unbelievable work!

John: It really is amazing. And one of the things while I was at Callas SF – and the name Callas SF had already been taken which we knew it would be – is the fact that there is so much incredible talent from Salinas all the way up to Santa Rosa. A lot of it is harnessed as  x Bs and xxneys and whatever that latest re-iteration is. There is a lot of people who just like balance and working independently, and they like to work free. And there is just so much talent here! Like, “Hey! Who loves to work on projects?” It’s healthier, and if you can figure out how to make that balance work, then I think it’s the right way of doing it!”

Susan: Well, absolutely. Especially in the internet economy. If you’re not doing it, you should have a damn good reason why! (laughing) Hey listen, we’re going to take a quick break to thank our sponsors. And when we come back, I want to talk to you about tribal art, and the key to joy. So, stay tuned. I’m your host Susan Bratton, and you’re listening to John Durham who is now with Catalyst, San Francisco, but soon to be, I’m sure, Catalyst, The World! We’ll be right back…

Susan: We’re back. And you’re getting to know John Durham of Catalyst, San Francisco, formerly of – all kinds of companies, including Jumpstart Automotive, Cara, Winstar, and more.

So, John, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about something I saw on your Facebook profile. I noticed that you’re in a significant number of groups on Facebook – everything from The Ideas Group, to the Tech Crunch Forty, to the Air Travel Warriors, to the SF Wine Geeks. What is it about joining those groups that you like, are you a joiner, a “clubby” guy, what is it?

John: No. It’s interesting people. Some people have signed up that I like, and they’ll say, “Hey, you ought to get in to this.” And I always think that you can learn something interesting; I’m a wine geek and that group happens to be several of my wine buddies, and we all sit there and, the cork-dorks, we exchange different tasting things. Sometimes it’s easier for them to post in a group setting. Air travel I got in because I was reading on somebody’s Facebook who had asked me to become a member and I went, “God, this is really fascinating!” Seeing all these warrior’s stories, and I started laughing saying these are priceless, because you have traveled as much as anybody, so you understand that sympathy you get from being a road-warrior. (agrees) I don’t really join a lot of them; it seems like I have, but the ones I’ve joined I’ve really learned ideas or, somebody said you should really get in to this, a lot of great thinking. So I tend to do it to read some of the posts, and some of the thinking. I view most of it as blogging for me.

Susan: Nice. And I’ve noticed that you recently went to Shanghai. Was that your first visit?

John: It was my first visit to Shanghai in over fifteen years.

Susan: Mm. Oh my God. It must have blown you away!

John: As you get older, I think you get mildly amused or mildly disappointed; I was in awe every day, twenty million people, and buildings as high, technology, and yet it’s like the third or fifth century meeting the twenty-second because I don’t think they had time to stop. They just grew: pollution – I made a comment: pollution and traffic that I thought was tough in L.A., I’ll never complain about. But it was fascinating for me. Everyone’s entrepreneurial. I’ve met so many entrepreneurial communists that I was blown away by.

Susan: And what was your reason you went to Shanghai?

John: I’m on the board of a company called Waterfront Contender Leasing; and we had our global meeting there, and we had a global board meeting. We alternate between Asia and Europe, and this year it happened to be in Shanghai, which is a lot of fun.

Susan: I recently went to a party – my friend Janus McNiven’s house – he own’s Buck’s Restaurant in Woodside. It’s the big VC hangout, and he’s a marvelous soul, he’s so unique. I had him on DishyMix once, as well. And I really hit it off with his neighbor. And his neighbor was telling me about how he uses those big containers, those big shipping containers – they look like the back of a Mack truck. And he built this workshop and playshop on his property with straw and bale construction blended with those big containers. And I said, “Glen, I have to see this! You gotta take me over to your house!” So we jump in his car, and he drives over the hill, out in the woods, to his house. And this dude had the best set-up! He had this massive workshop with all these unbelievable tools! And five or six of those big containers turned into rooms in storage. And then, on top of that, he built a seven-thousand square-foot playroom! With pool tables and TVs, and all the stuff that guys love, and they go in there and smoke their cigars and hang out and I’m sure they’re cork-dorks too! It was the coolest construction because it was all pretty much found materials!

John: It’s amazing. Containers, like everything, are looking for a new life. Someone’s always trying to re-invent themselves, and there are a lot of those people who’ve built those containers and built modular offices. In construction situations, so it’s become a very big business.

Susan: Well, I can completely imagine that. And they’re very appealing. It’s just something about the way they’re constructed that makes you want to have some! (laughs) And stack them!

John: I remember that!

Susan: (laughing) Now, another thing that I know about you is that you’re interested in African tribal art; are you a collector?

John: Yes I am. I collect masks from Gabon, Congo and the Ivory Coast. I’ve got about probably thirty.

Susan: And are they hanging up all over your house?

John: Well, I actually have them on a wall. I had custom stands built for each of them. I have a history - a little bit on the origin of them. And I have a friend who runs a store in Half Moon Bay; and when he goes and he buys a lot of African tribal art, and I collect through him as well.

Susan: And what is it about those masks that resonates with you?

John: You know, Susan, I sort of expected that question, and I don’t know! It’s like the first time you go to an art museum, and you saw, the Mona Lisa, or you see a piece of art, the first time – I don’t know, maybe twenty-five years ago – I went to the Metropolitan in New York, and I went walking and saw some oceanic art. And it just blew me away! It was something about the mask, the color, the detail, the use of wood and stone; and then I started reading about them, and just really got in to it slowly, and it was just fascinating!

Susan: yeah. The geometry of the work is very appealing from a really base level as a human, don’t you think?

John: Absolutely. And Picasso, and a lot of the French artists were totally intrigued by the oceanic art and African art. Some of their work reflected it. And, ironically, I tend to gravitate – you know I got one or two – and then it really accelerated a couple years ago when I had the chance to go to South Africa. And was in stores in Cape Town, and couldn’t believe some of the additional stuff I was seeing. It hardly ever makes it over here, because some of the stones aren’t allowed to leave Africa.

Susan: Oh, I’m sure; there’s a lot of native materials. And I’m trying to imagine your house, you live in San Francisco

John: Live in a flat; same flat, it’s a two-unit building. It’s a flat; very comfortable; very happy. And my living room has one wall of books, and then one wall of masks that have been built on custom, and I guess bookcases are shelving. And the display, everything is predicated on that. The house is all designed to be casual reading.

Susan: Nice. Well, if I didn’t take that segue, and once again, there, I’m at a path in the road. (gushing)Should we talk about liquor, should we talk about books? I don’t know. Let’s talk about books, and then let’s come back and talk about liquor! (laughs)

John: Fair enough.

Susan: So, one of the things I noticed about you recently – I blogged about the fact that I love that Red Baron’s hat from iMedia - had put up some book recommendations on bookmedia. And you were one of the people who had written a book list for him.

John: That actually started several months ago. We were talking, and he goes, “You know, I bought some books.” As a teacher sometimes I try to make recommendations I read some really good stuff in our business, there’s so much out there. And he goes, “Well you ought to make a list of your favorite books.” And I said, “Well, alright, I’ll do that.” I started thinking, “God, that’s a lot harder than I thought.” And I guess I spent about a month, you know, “What are some really good advertising and marketing books that I think everyone should read.” And so I did and he wrote back and said, “Now  you should think about ones they should read!” and I said “I couldn’t do that! There are so many.” But these are the ones that I like that I read. And as soon as I submitted the list, then one book comes out and it just blew me away – Emotionomics. And so that would have been the additional book I would have added on there. But it was a lot of fun going back and re-living books. I’ve thought about through the years that I’ve read; dog-eared for me. I encourage people who work for me, and my students, to read because I think it just gives you some great thought.

Susan: Now the Emotionomics book – that’s with Dan Hill. Now I’ve interviewed Dan Hill, he runs a company called Sensory Logic, and he’s into the science of the brain; which of course advertisers are always fascinated about. What is it about Emotionomics that is the most appealing to you?

John: You know, I’m not talking to someone who doesn’t understand this as well as anybody: People don’t buy products, they buy benefits. And benefits are all about emotion. And I think people who try to take our business from a science perspective, sometimes get lost. Well, what he’s done is brought a scientific approach to emotion. And while I know that sounds contradictory, oxymoronic, and nuts and everything, it is fascinating how colors play; how different colors appeal; and it just resonated, “My God this is really right. There really is logic in emotion.” There really is some science in how we can emotionally appeal to people, to buy, to inspire, and to do things –

Susan: It’s almost dangerous information

John: It really is. The book – I’ve read it twice and I actually had to go out and buy another copy of it because the one I had I was noting it, it was so written up, “I said My god – the first one I was tearing out pages and sending them to people, saying you’ve got to read this. Go buy the book. Go buy the book.

Susan: Well, and he’s very eloquent in describing human behavior, and what he’s learned in all of this brain science; this sensory research.

John: Well, I sent it out to academic friends, and I said, look I don’t like recommending textbooks (but) this is the best money spent. And I tell - buy it audio, buy it in a book, buy it wherever. This book is phenomenal.

Susan: Well, that brings me to one of my sponsors, which is Audiblepodcasts-dot-com. Anybody who wants to buy some of these books that John is recommending, you can support me and my sponsor with DishyMix, by going to audiblepodcasts-dot-com-slash-dishy. And if you sign up for their book-of-the-month club, they have something called the Audible Listeners’ Program. For fifteen bucks a month, you get at least one, if not multiple downloads from Audible, and you can listen to them on your iPod, just like you listen to dishymix. A lot of times that’s what I’ve begun to do is to listen to books on tape rather than reading them because, frankly – mostly I listen to them on airplanes – I get tired of carrying everything around!!(laughs) The iPod is great for that!

John: I have too, and it’s still hard for me to let go; but books like Bill Clinton’s Autobiography I bought on tape. And it was one of those plane rides across the country. Fascinating, because here was Bill Clinton describing his life, and you can picture the words; one of the hardest jobs in our business is being a radio copywrighter because you have to bring words to visuals quickly. (agrees) I think books on tape just really bring them alive very much.

Susan: Nice. Well I want to go back to the wine and the cork-dorks and the champagne

John: Oh, I’m a big cork dork!

Susan: And so, one of the quotes that you have on your Facebook profile is that Cru is the champagne that God gives his angels when they’ve been especially good!

John: I saw that in an ad and I loved it! Because I’m a Cru-gy; champagne is my favorite.

Susan: Really! Champagne is your favorite!

John: Absolutely. Champagne I collect, I could drink for the rest of my life. Well you’re either a Dom Perignon fan, or you’re a Cru fan. And both are very different styles.

Susan:  -What about if you like Perrier Jouet? That’s my favorite!

John: You start naming them, and Oh my god, I had that! And it’s wonderful! I like Cru a lot, and I’ve actually been over there and drank in the cellars with Remy Cru, and – I like champagne! I saw that quote: Those friends of mine know that when I drink champagne – and I like Perrier Jouet, I like Dom Perignon, I like Salon – they know that I’m a big Cru fan, and so I don’t know who it was, I think it was Jason Krebs from Condi-Net, said look there’s this ad getting ready to come out, and he said, theres a great line. He sent me a copy of the ad, and I said that’s gotta go in the Facebook page! That’s just too damn good a quote! He knows it. And I truly believe that.

Susan: So tell me what your hot tip is for maybe your new favorite vineyard in Napa, Sonoma – do you probably get up there reasonably often?

John: Madera and Howe Mountain.

Susan: Oh well who doesn’t lov- Oh, so you like those big fruity reds? If you’re a Howe Mountain –

John: Not necessarily. Ironically I’m a big burgundy fan.

Susan: Okay

John: Hardcore burgundy. But a couple people that you know, Scott McLaren, Steven Comfort and we went to this auction and tasting to benefit – I’m really not a heavy heavy red I tend to like Burgundies quite a bit out of Sonoma, primarily, and French Pinot. But we went to this and okay whatever, tried the Cab and Holy mackerel this Ladera vineyards, small vineyards, just blew me away.

Susan: Alright, we’re going to have to try that. And what is the varietal, is it Zin?

John: It’s a Cab

Susan: Love a Cab

John: Howe Mountain Cab, true classic. Howe Mountain. I said, “Well maybe I’ve given up on Cab.” But I really like it, it’s my secret stash right now.

Susan: Nice. And what about your favorite Sonoma Pinots?

John: Wow. Where do I go? Freeman.

Susan: Hmmmmm

John: Freeman Freeman Freeman

Susan: Mm-hmmm. I haven’t even heard of that.

John: Ken Freeman used to be the BB guy at CNet.

Susan: No way!

John: Yeah. And his wife, he got out very early then he went and became an M&A guy.  And he was a Pinot guy. And he bought a small vineyard up in Sonoma and just rocks. Rochiolli.

Susan: I love Rochiolli! Williams-Sonem! Mmmm!

John: All big time. And Gary Farrell.

Susan: Farrell – beautiful

John: Those are consistent for me. I probably have a lot of that and it’s what I enjoy.

Susan: Love it too. And if you were going to recommend one burgundy we could afford, that’s drinking well right now, what would you recommend?

John: Sanford

Susan: Sanford? Santa Barbara?

John: Twenty – twenty-one dollars. I actually think the real challenge which to me would be fun, is finding great ones under fifteen, twenty dollars. I love going to Trader Joe’s. I know it’s not a sponsor!

Susan: That’s okay! (laughing)

John: Because it would be a great audience. They got really wines for fifteen, twenty-five dollars – blow you away.

Susan: I remember the last time I was at Sanford down in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Santa Maria Valley, somewhere in there, they were serving wild boar sausage, from the boars they shot off the vineyards.

John: Oh, wow.

Susan: Oohhhh my Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-d was that go-o-od!!! I like a free-range boar! (laughing) – With my Pinot!

John: I’m going to have that visual!

Susan: Me with a hot dog! I love it! I love it! Well, okay, so, we are out of time, and I want to leave our listeners with just something fun, not that everything we haven’t talked about already has been terrific! But I’d like to know what the key to joy in your life is, John. And from that maybe we’ll be able to identify one for ourselves.

John: You know, I think you gotta wake up every day saying what’s going to happen? And I don’t look back and say what did happen. And for me, that perspective and that actually came from – I got sick a few years ago and something happened and I thought God! I’m very glad to be alive. I know as cheesy as that sounds, a lot of people may say that. But I actually wake up getting very excited – so when I wake up, I just jump out of bed, and say what is going to happen today. Something is going to be fun, versus, Oh my god, what did happen? It doesn’t mean I don’t go back and reflect, because I happen to like history a lot. But I actually think it’s about leaning forward. And I keep that perspective in my work, I very much like risk. I get bored easy, I think that’s why I’m willing to try new things. And I’m not afraid that it’s not going to work out because I know the only thing that doesn’t work out is you don’t wake up one day.

Susan: Mm-hmmm

John: Well, I have that perspective and I think that keeps me happy. And I’m willing to try new wines, you know, I love to travel, I love to do all sorts of stuff. Nothing scares me. So that’s my perspective.

Susan: Nice. Well I am so happy that we had some time to spend with you. What I’m leaving this interview feeling is that we barely scratched the surface of who you are.

John: Oh, I’m just a dumb old country boy.

Susan: Yeah. Right. That’s not going to pass here. Nobody believes that. But it was a nice try.  So maybe you can come back for a John Durham redux sometime so we can dig a little deeper.

John: Anytime for you; and don’t – you’re as good as they come in this business.

Susan: Thank you, John! Well, you have gotten to know a little bit about the richness of John Durham who is starting a new company called Catalyst, San Francisco. If you’re looking for some great ideas and some great talent, he might be the guy to call. And thanks for tuning in today to Dishymix, it was really a nice opportunity to spend some time with you! Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Susan: I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and I hope we’ll hear you tuning in again next week! Have a great day.


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