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Coffee talk with the newest Starbucks board member

December 14, 2011: 6:13 PM ET

Why Clara Shih joined the Starbucks board.

Coffee chain Starbucks (SBUX) 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.

Read Fortune's profile of Clara Shih from earlier this year

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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