The critical skill set for leading a startup effectively

Problem solving and decision making are daily activities for startup leaders. This skillset is highly valued by investors and stakeholders and is directly related to innovation and firm performance. Ultimately, success of a startup comes down to a series of decisions made by the leadership.

Defining Problem-Solving & Decision-Making

As mentioned in our first installment of the Eight Pillars of Entrepreneurship blog series, we will delve into high-performance in each of the pillars that form the foundation of performance in startups. Our last three blogs focused on the Vision & Strategy Pillar and Executions & Operations Pillar, and the Self-Discipline…

Startup Spotlight

Raising Labor Standards

At Blackhawke, we come into contact with countless entrepreneurs that are building impressive companies that we believe are on their way to make significant impact on society. In this regular feature, we invite startup founders and founder teams to share their story and tell us more about their company. In this article, Dr. Nikki Blacksmith spoke to Aaron Seyedian, Founder of Well-Paid Maids, based in Washington, DC.

Well-Paid Maids is a living-wage home cleaning service that aims to propel its employees out of poverty, raise labor standards and prevailing wages, and generate and promote a successful model for living-wage start-ups.


The Why, What, & How

Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Unsplash

Nikki Blacksmith, Ph.D. & Mo McCusker, Ph.D.

You’ve heard the horror stories. Elizabeth Holmes: $700 million in venture capital wasted on a scam. Adam Neumann: Billions of dollars in venture capital invested on a defiant founder who created an extravagant lifestyle while his startup saw profit loss. Investing in startup founders is risky business.

While those may be extreme examples of what can go wrong with a venture capital investment, pouring money into a startup just to see founders scramble and ultimately fail is not uncommon. In fact, the leadership team is the #1 reason startups fail. In the case…

Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

By Nikki Blacksmith, Ph.D. & Mo McCusker, Ph.D.

Let’s start with some reported numbers:

1.28%: Chance that a VC-backed startup is the next unicorn

75%: Amount of startups that fail to provide a return on investment

70%: Amount of startup investments resulting in a lower ROI than the stock market

10%: Amount of startups that are actually lucrative investments

Clearly, investors, the odds are against you when trying to land a winning startup. We don’t say this to be super pessimistic, but rather objectify what you likely already know: The investor and startup market is extremely competitive and high stakes…

The Eight Pillars of Entrepreneurship

The Secret to Managing the Entrepreneurial Life

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

One of the most alluring aspects of the entrepreneurial life is the autonomy (read: freedom from your incompetent boss). However, it’s also one of the most trying aspects. You’re the one in charge now. And that comes with a heck of a lot of responsibility.

Defining Self-Discipline & Intensity

As mentioned in our first installment of the Eight Pillars of Entrepreneurship blog series, we will delve into high-performance in each of the pillars that form the foundation of performance in startups. Our last two blogs focused on the Vision & Strategy Pillar and Executions & Operations Pillar. …


How One Founder Embarked on a Journey to Educate & Empower Women

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

By Nikki Blacksmith, Ph.D. & Mo McCusker, Ph.D.

The path to entrepreneurship is so often romanticized in the media, and rightfully so- there is a lot to love: autonomy, creative freedom, realizing your life dream, and -the best part for me- choosing your teammates. But the entrepreneurial path is also very often unpaved, rocky and steep, and like the founder themselves, unique. But it’s just that — the idiosyncratic, colorful experience- that is the very essence of entrepreneurship.

For this reason, we at Blackhawke, aim to illuminate the diversity of the entrepreneurial journey by sharing stories that uncover human-aspects of…

While the entrepreneur lifestyle can certainly bring you an exciting social life and a beach-side office, the reality is that much of the work is quite mundane. Many tedious but necessary tasks have to get done, and there has to be someone on the team “who will take the unsexy, detail-oriented work seriously.”

Nothing will work unless you do. — Maya Angelou

Entrepreneur and Medium writer, Gillian Sisley explains that aspiring entrepreneurs often get an unrealistic perception of the startup life from articles that over-glamorize the journey. Sisley points out that most articles about the entrepreneurial life focus on the…

What if we could use our minds to power prosthetics? What if we could track our fitness with body measurements simply by looking in a mirror? What if we could upload skillsets to our brain and learn a whole topic in minutes?

These are the kinds of questions that fuel entrepreneurial vision.

Defining Vision & Strategy

Strong visions and strategies are so critical not only because they provide a roadmap for companies but also because they give employees an intrinsic sense of meaning and purpose for their work that inspires and motivates them.

A vision is an ever-evolving mental conceptualization…


What science tells us about entrepreneurial performance

Nikki Blacksmith, Ph.D. and Maureen McCusker, Ph.D.

If you want to be one of the few elite startups that not only survive but thrive, there is one powerful question you need to consider:

How can my team reach peak performance?

This is likely something you ask yourself daily. And that’s likely because the answer to it is overwhelmingly complex. But complex doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be difficult to understand. We, at Blackhawke Behavior Science, have spent decades studying high-performing teams, and while our science has shown us that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some compelling patterns.

Still, personality plays a significant role in startup success

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

For decades, researchers and business people have tried to identify a single representative personality profile of an entrepreneur. Those efforts have fallen flat. Why?

Well, imagine if there was a personality profile that defined “the entrepreneur.” All the infamous entrepreneurs we know — Bezos, Gates, Jobs, Musk, Zuckerberg — would be alike. And that couldn’t be further from reality.

“[Entrepreneurship] is not a personality trait; in thirty years I have seen people of the most diverse personalities and temperaments perform well in entrepreneurial challenges.” — Peter Drucker

Don’t dismiss personality just yet, though.

Personality is highly related to entrepreneurial success…

Nikki Blacksmith, Ph.D.

Industrial-organizational psychologist. Adjunct Professor at Kogod Business School at American University and Co-founder/CEO of Blackhawke Behaviour Science.

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