Clara Shih, CEO, Hearsay Social

The news that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg would step down from the Starbucks board was nearly eclipsed by the announcement that Clara Shih, then 29, was elected in her stead. Between this, the day-to-day operations of running her Sequoia-backed enterprise social media company, and publishing the best-selling book “The Facebook Era,” Shih is considered one of America’s most promising, young technology leaders.

VentureBeat: What was your greatest challenge in the first six months of starting Hearsay Social?

Clara Shih: Convincing everyone from investors to customers to people we were trying to hire that social business was real and going to be transformative.

VentureBeat: You’ve worked at tech giants like Google and Salesforce, but starting a company poses a new set of challenges. Who are your mentors?
Shih: The most influential mentors in my career have been Sheryl Sandberg, George Hu [chief operating officer of Salesforce.com], and Ariel Kelman [chief marketing officer of Amazon Web Services].

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VentureBeat: Do you have a piece of advice to share to young entrepreneurs?
Shih: Always put your customers first.