The Innovators

10 Up and Coming Leaders to Watch

The Innovators


Innovators push the boundaries of the known world. They're change agents who are relentless in making things happen and bringing ideas to execution.

Clara Shih, Hearsay Social
Photo (C) Leah Fasten

Real Values

Clara Shih, Hearsay Social

Check your attitude at the door when you come to work at Hearsay Social. "We want team players," says Clara Shih, co-founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based social business platform. "As a startup, we're resource-constrained. Every day counts. The only way to iterate quickly and stay three steps ahead of the big companies is working together. There's no room for politics, empire building or ego."

Shih contends that successful leadership hinges on the individuals who serve alongside the leaders, and advocates that companies aggressively seek out talented, creative prospects who bring to the table skills and qualities beyond direct professional experience. The Hearsay Social staff includes former government officials, onetime insurance agents, a medical doctor and even a veteran of an Egyptian cruise ship.Shih established 5-year-old Hearsay Social on three core principles. One, customers come first; two, company before self; and three, rapid execution. "Leadership starts with values. You must define the vision and mission of your company, its place in the world and how you'll get there," she says.

"Our business lends itself to being more creative about the kinds of people we can bring on," Shih says. "There's a common sense of purpose around what we build and how we run the company that unites us. But the attributes that make Hearsay employees the best in the Valley--or the best in the world--make them attractive anywhere."

Shih's philosophies have helped Hearsay Social raise $51 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, NEA and executives from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google.

"As an entrepreneur, you face a dire sense of urgency to turn a profit before running out of money. But you can go too far that way and hire prima-donna engineers who turn the culture toxic," Shih warns. "There's also the other extreme, where you have great values and a great culture, but no viable business. Many times, those two ideals are at odds, but they don't have to be. You can run a very successful business through a lens of humanity and strong values." --J.A.

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This article was originally published in the March 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 10 Up and Coming Leaders.

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