Why Clara Shih joined the Starbucks board.
Coffee chain Starbucks (GOOG) today announced the addition of Clara Shih to its board of directors, in a move that adds both youth and social media know-how. Shih is the 29 year-old co-founder and CEO of Hearsay Social, a San Francisco-based developer of an SaaS dashboard that helps companies manage their social media platforms.
I spoke with Shih earlier today, and what follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Fortune: Why are you joining the Starbucks board?
Shih: I’ve been a huge fan of Starbucks for a long time and when they approached me I was thrilled not only because it’s such an admired brand, but also because of how much it has invested in social media. I said yes because two years ago we started Hearsay Social to establish a new era of enterprise software around what we believed was a new business imperative, and this board appointment is a validation of that dream.
That sort of sounds like you’re hoping this board seat will be a PR boon for Hearsay. Accurate?
No, that’s not why I’m doing it. I just mean that this is my first public board appointment, and it is a validation of the importance of the type of work Hearsay is doing. There may or may not be PR benefits to Hearsay, but they weren’t part of my decision-making process.
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg plans to step down from the Starbucks board next year. Do you view yourself as the designated “social media” replacement?
I’m a huge fan of Sheryl’s personally and worked with her in the past at Google (GOOG), but I don’t see myself as her replacement.
Start-up CEOs aren’t known for having much free time. Did you have any concerns that the board seat would become a time burden?
It is something I’ve thought a lot about. I’ve gotten better over time at saying ‘no’ to things, but when this opportunity came up I knew it was one I couldn’t turn down. Not since starting Hearsay Social have I felt this excited about an opportunity.
Are you interested in taking other public board seats?
It’s hard to say in a general sense, except that I do think there need to be more women and young people on public boards.
Any worries that Hearsay Social might now have trouble getting business from a Starbucks competitor?
It hasn’t really crossed my mind. Obviously I’ll have to recuse myself on any Starbucks board business that involves Hearsay Social, and I assume any other world-class organization would respect that separation.
Do you get some sort of special card now that gives you free coffee?
Not that anyone’s told me about yet.