Startup of the Month features SEA alum venture

In 1986, Christy Serrato was a founding fellow for the nonprofit Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy. More than 30 years later, after decades working in Silicon Valley, she moved back to the Capital Region and became the academy’s newest program director. With her experience in solution marketing and business development in IT security, Serrato believed she could give back and help guide aspiring business owners.

But she did more than that during one of her first sessions.

While teaching a group how to engage the audience during a business presentation, Serrato used an off-the-cuff example about how wine and food, when paired well, can create a memorable dining experience.

“The audience reacted to it,” Serrato recalls. “I had no intention of making this a business at the time. Sometimes it’s a spontaneous moment and you’re just trying to be of service to someone.”

Despite eclipsing $70 billion in value in 2018, the U.S. wine industry is made up mostly of small- to mid-sized, family-owned wineries that haven’t yet tapped into the marketing power of digital tools, she says. But Serrato believes her Davis-based startup, PairAnything, is a bridge between the organic, age-old world of wine culture and the technology of today. The platform in the works helps wineries connect with customers beyond the tasting room by guiding customers on wine and food pairings.

The PairAnything leadership team comprises of SEA alumni: Christy Serrato, Samantha Contreras, Alejandro Raygoza and Dr. Brenna Kiniry

The PairAnything leadership team comprises of SEA alumni: Christy Serrato, Samantha Contreras, Alejandro Raygoza and Dr. Brenna Kiniry

PairAnything won the $10,000 Food + Agriculture Sector Award at the 2019 Big Bang Business Competition at UC Davis. Bill Davies, director at Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga, was a judge at the 2018 Big Bang competition and has seen Serrato’s pitch evolve. He admires Serrato’s diligence and the business model for PairAnything, which taps into a global trend of collecting data and analytics to improve customer service and satisfaction.

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