Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Clara Shih is a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and bestselling author. She is founder and CEO of Hearsay Social, an enterprise software company whose predictive omnichannel marketing platform helps financial advisors engage clients across digital channels while complying with industry regulations. 

A pioneer in the social media industry, Clara developed Faceforce, the first social business application, in 2007 and subsequently authored the New York Times-featured bestseller, The Facebook Era (Addison-Wesley, 2011). Her newest book, The Social Business Imperative (Pearson/Prentice Hall), was released in April 2016.

Shih has been named one of Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs,” Fast Company’s “Most Influential People in Technology,” BusinessWeek’s “Top Young Entrepreneurs,” and both Fortune’s and Ad Age’s “40 Under 40.” She was also named a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum. 

She is a member of the Starbucks board of directors and previously served in a variety of technical, product, and marketing roles at Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce.com. 

You can follow her on Twitter: @clarashih

She will be live on Jul 26 starting 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    about 3 years ago #

    Hey Clara! I have to admit, I have not read your book "The Facebook Era", but I am still curious about your thoughts on where you see social media going in the future? It seems as though the "Facebook Era" is turning into a "Snapchat Era", which may turn into something else entirely in the future.

    Do you foresee this constant change becoming the norm for social media? Or will Facebook continue it's reign as top-dog?

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      When I wrote The Facebook Era back in 2008, it was intended to be a provocative statement about the massive role and future of social networking.
      We obviously live in a different world today. It's no longer controversial nor provocative to proclaim that we live in a social and mobile world.

      To your point, constant change is definitely the new normal for social media and all tech. Specifically re: Facebook, I'm still very bullish. They have stayed hungry and humble, and are constantly reinventing themselves, whether it's through acquisition (Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, even the attempted acquisition of Snapchat all brilliant in hindsight) or organically, most recently exemplified by the decision to break out Messenger into its own app.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        about 3 years ago #

        If you had to make a prediction, do you think Facebook as we know it will still exist in 10 years? If not, what form(s) do you think it might take (and why)?

  • AA

    Aldin A

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara,

    Great to have you here!

    1)How do you prioritize your time as a ceo? What functions of the business do you focus on and how much time do you spend on each function?

    2)What are the things early stage startups should focus on to increase their chance of not only surviving, but thriving?

    3)What are the subtle (and not so obvious) things you see early stage companies screwing up on that they really can't afford to screw up, and how do they fix them?

    4)What challenges did you face as you scaled the business, and how did you overcome them?

    Thanks

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      Thanks for having me!

      1) Great question–time prioritization is both the most difficult and most important thing to manage, especially as a startup founder. How I spend my time has changed dramatically over time as Hearsay has grown and the set of challenges and opportunities we face has evolved. I divide my time into three major buckets: sales / customers (top customer exec relationships, major deals, deals in new markets such as Asia where we are less known), thought leadership (eg, my first book The Facebook Era and new book Social Business Imperative), and our people (my co-founder or I still interview every employee in the final round).

      2) The right team (chemistry, skill set match, passion / commitment) working on the right problem (sufficiently large market, sufficiently effective solution). Sounds simple but these are each really hard to achieve.

      3) Chasing shiny objects. The best startup advice I ever received was from an early Hearsay investor, Thomas Layton. He said the hardest thing about startups isn't figuring out what to do; it's figuring out what NOT to do. The great thing about startups is anything is possible and everything is a green field. The hard thing about startups is that eventually you need to focus on ONE thing so that you can align your limited time, resources, and runway toward making as much progress as possible against that one thing.

      4) There are infinite challenges to scaling a business–hiring the right people, retaining them, achieving product-market fit, standing out against the noise, acquiring customers, retaining them, dealing with the inevitable emotional ups and downs inherent in any startup. The most important thing is having a team that collectively has or can develop the skills and resilience to overcome each of these areas.

      2 Share
  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara, thanks so much for doing this AMA with us. Very excited to read your answers!

    I'm really curious how you joined the Starbucks board of directors. I've got to imagine that it's very different from the startup world. By now I'm sure it's pretty routine, but what was the first board meeting like?

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      Sean, thanks so much for having me and for being an early inspiration for me as we were getting Hearsay off the ground!

      I was recruited to the Starbucks board by Spencer Stuart (most Fortune 500 boards use specialized board recruiters to source candidates and manage the process). In many ways, you are right that Starbucks is a different world–much larger and more established, totally different industry. My first board meeting was full of retail and CPG terms, metrics, and practices which were totally foreign to me. But two similarities have surprised me–first, the degree to which Starbucks truly sees itself also as a tech company, and second, the people component. Regardless of a company's stage and size, great leaders who can attract, inspire, and engage employees determine the success of the organization.

      3 Share
  • RB

    Ry B

    about 3 years ago #

    Hey Clara,

    Thanks for doing this!!

    1)Can you talk about the top skills that you think a founder needs to have, to succeed?

    2)How do you go about empowering employees? What does empowerment look like at Hearsay Social?
    And how do you make them take on that ownership mentality (even without having an equity distribution plan)?

    3) What do you think are the top skills/traits that a manager needs to have to bring out the best in their employees?

    Thanks

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      You bet!
      1) Relentless determination and focus, the ability to sell (pitch VCs, candidates, customers), and coding skills help a lot too.
      2) We start by hiring empowered, proactive people who think like owners. An empowered work environment does not work with employees who need tons of structure and need to be told what to do. From there, we do our very best to articulate a crystal-clear company vision, which we translate into quarterly OKRs at the company, then department level. We tell our people what the goals or problems are and they are empowered to figure out the solution, knowing of course that they can at any time ask anyone in the company for help.
      3) Ability to clearly articulate team goals and hold people accountable without micromanaging them, and an interest and ability to coach and grow people in their careers.

      2 Share
      • AA

        Aldin A

        about 3 years ago #

        Re 2: what are important qualities for people to have that are self starters and are just people who get stuff done?

        Thanks

  • SA

    Shaker A

    about 3 years ago #

    Great to have you on Clara!

    1) Can you please talk a little about how you look at competition, specifically when your going up against bigger, and better funded competitors? How does that affect your strategic plan, if it does at all?

    2)What's the best advice you've ever gotten? What are some invaluable lessons you've learned the hard way, by making the mistakes and and correcting after?

    3)What's some resources you've used to learn (books, podcasts, etc)?

    Thanks

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      1) As Peter Thiel has done a good job articulating, you should always strive to build a monopoly. As a startup, this means starting small and focusing on dominating a niche, then building on that foundation. At Hearsay, we did this by focusing solely on social selling for financial advisors. In seemed contrarian to "limit" our market but it turns out financial services is absolutely massive. Once we emerged as the clear leader there, we expanded our product set, continuing to exclusively serve the financial services industry.
      http://www.inc.com/zoe-henry/peter-thiel-how-to-build-a-monopoly.html

      2) Importance of focus; covered above.

      3) Mentors and advisors, books, friends, the startup community have all been really helpful to me.

      • AL

        Adam Lazzara

        about 3 years ago #

        Much respect for you sticking to a single niche and building out that foundation, if we all only followed that path...

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    about 3 years ago #

    Hey Clara,

    Amazing to have you join us for an AMA.

    A couple of questions from me!

    1) Given your broad experience across multiple sectors for technical marketing and product roles - what were the takeaways that you've seen from the best outfits that seamlessly connect product to technical marketing?

    2) How have you seen social change the way financial service customers are able to reach and engage with their potential customers? Do you see this experience and the marketing of financials services and other large enterprise clients ever mirroring more informal B2C companies?

    3) How important do you think it is for millennials trying to get into the work place that they should bring social influence and following with them as another notch on the cv?

    Can't wait to hear your answers.

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      Thanks! Great to be here.
      1) It is incredibly important to get your engineers and PMs out in the field, spending time with customers and learning about the daily workflows of the people who will be using your product.

      Enterprise software adds a layer of complexity because generally the people buying your product aren't the ones who use it. At Hearsay, we've had to ensure our product reflects not only what's being asked for in sales cycles but more importantly what financial advisors really need and will use.

      2) Yes, large enterprise organizations like banks and insurance companies are slowly (but surely!) adapting to today's social, mobile customer. It's taken them longer to do so because of regulation, bureaucracy, and risk-averse cultures, but they know they have no choice. Many are now taking the bull by the horns and have executed some truly remarkable campaigns.

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara!

    Thanks for your time today.

    What key learnings did you take away from your time at Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce that you've applied to running Hearsay Social?

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      From Microsoft, I learned about the product development cycle and about great teams. From Google, I learned to think big and to optimize for customer delight rather than short-term revenue. From Salesforce, I learned the importance of understanding your customer's business inside and out, how to appear bigger than you are, and how to mobilize people across a large organization to get things done.

  • MM

    martín medina

    about 3 years ago #

    Clara,

    Great seeing authors doing AMAs here on GH, I love reading and actually run a book blog where I read a variety of books on different topics including marketing and growth.

    One thing I noticed is especially when it comes to traditional books it can be difficult to keep the information recent and by the time a book is published the information provided may be dated. How do you make sure to keep everything fresh and relevant and do you provide supplemental material online?

    Thanks!

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      I really learned that lesson with my first book, The Facebook Era. In my newest book, Social Business Imperative (www.socialbizimperative.com), I've tried to write about recurring themes and concepts rather than specific technologies and features.

  • SI

    Sarosha Imtiaz

    about 3 years ago #

    Hey Clara! My question is similar to Logan's and unfortunately I didn't get a chance to read your book "The Facebook Era". I was wondering what your opinion is on the future of chat bots introduced by FB? How seamless would a shopping experience be via FB?

    There has also been rumors about Snapchat allowing users to buy items from featured stories. If this update was to occur, would this result in them losing customers to avoid an ad-like experience?

    Love to hear your input!
    Thanks.

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      In my new book that just came out (www.socialbizimperative.com), I actually devote an entire chapter to discussing mobile messaging apps such as FB Messenger and Snapchat.

      The challenge for any ad-supported consumer app is the constant tradeoff between revenue and user experience. I'm pretty confident that Snapchat will be able to strike the right balance, as Instagram recently began to do.

  • SJ

    Saksham Jain

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara,

    I am actively looking into the potential that Augmented Reality has for marketing.
    Many experts see PokemonGo as having the potential to drive audience for brick&mortar stores. Will it become a great marketing platform or do you think its just another game?

    Thanks!

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      I believe AR will be huge for driving foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Not sure if it will necessarily happen within Pokémon GO, but they definitely proved out that consumers are ready for AR.

  • GM

    Gennie Mcinnis

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara,

    Great to have you on this board!

    What is the toughest thing about being a tech entrepreneur?

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara - so cool to have you on!

    What pattern did you spot that no one else did that showed you the need for a product like Hearsay Social?
    How did you go about getting early traction for the product and what metric told you that you had hit product-market fit?

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      Thanks! We had two critical aha moments. First was noticing that the data within social media feeds contain critical sales trigger events. We built some light NLP to detect these triggers to help salespeople "hear" the important (from a business perspective) updates in their networks, and then we built a smart content library to help them "say" the right thing to the right client at the right time. The second moment was realizing that regulation prevented the entire financial industry from using Facebook. We decided to look into the laws and used compliance as our way to get early traction. Unlike other industries we initially sold into, such as real estate and automotive, financial services companies all had a sense of urgency to put a solution like Hearsay in place because without it, they were in breach of the law.

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara! Thanks for being here. Here's my question:

    What is it about social that (most) people still don't get?

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      My new book Social Business Imperative is about the gap that still exists between most large companies and what we take for granted in Silicon Valley. What most large companies still don't get is that social strategy has become too important and too strategic to completely delegate. Most delegate social to an intern or social media marketing team, think they have it covered, and go back to running their core business as usual. And then they wonder why social media isn't as transformational as they had heard.

      Today, CEOs, management teams, and boards must personally grasp these changing technologies and own the social and digital strategies for their companies. This is the only way for these organizations to truly transform their business models and customer engagement models for the future.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara!

    Thanks for doing this AMA! What do you wish you knew about fundraising (be it seed, Series A, Series B, Series C or all of the above) when you were in the midst of it that you know now?

    Thanks so much,
    John

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      It always longer and harder than you think it will b e, and it isn't done until the money is wired!

  • GJ

    Guilherme Justino

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara! I am glad for this opportunity. My question is: How do you think that social media can play an important role to sell high-tech products, such as renewable energy systems? And how could one identify potential customers for these products on social media? Thanks for the attention.

  • PD

    Pranav Divakar

    about 3 years ago #

    Hi Clara! Thanks for doing the AMA here!

    Would love to hear some productivity tips!

    How do you plan your day while having so many different things to do?

  • LC

    Liz Cozzaglio

    about 3 years ago #

    Loved this post your wrote last year: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lessons-from-new-mom-tech-3-months-post-launch-clara-shih. What other insights and learnings have you had about parenthood, life, work and beyond since you wrote this?

    • CS

      Clara Shih

      about 3 years ago #

      1) I've learned that focus and prioritization these days is even more important given I have even less time now.
      2) It's about quality, not quantity. I go on the road a lot for Hearsay, and when I'm home I make sure to be 100% present with my family.
      3) Like starting a company, starting a family is about trade-offs and sacrifices. I don't go out or work out as much as I used to because it's not realistic right now, but this is a trade-off that I choose.

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
99
99