thompson1James D. Thompson, PhD, is coauthor of “The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook” and co-founder and director of the Wharton Social Entrepreneurship Program.

His current research is focused on social entrepreneurship, future market growth, and investment under conditions of high uncertainty. He teaches in Wharton Executive Education programs and works with management teams around the world to design and execute entrepreneurially-minded organic growth strategies that increase the value of their firms. He, along with Ian MacMillan presents a Coursera MOOC on social entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining the academic world, James was a divisional director of a public company, responsible for new market development, brand marketing and development, and business unit turnarounds. He currently serves on the executive board of a venture capital–funded technology and entertainment company in Philadelphia.

James holds a PhD from The Federal Swiss Institute of Technology (EPFL) and is published in the Harvard Business Review, Journal of Management, Long Range Planning, Management Science, Organization Science, and the Research-Technology Management Journal. He is a recipient of Best Paper Awards in the Entrepreneurship Division of the U.S. Academy of Management, the Innovation category of the European Business School, and the 2013 Gerald E. Hills Award (AMA EMSIG) of the American Marketing Association.


Penn Social Policy & Practice
Fall: NPLD 582, NGOs and International Development

Wharton Management Department
1.MGMT 810, Social Entrepreneurship
2.MGMT 892, Collaborative Innovation Program

2014-2016: Social Entrepreneurship



  • Gruber, M., MacMillan, I. C., & Thompson, J. D. (2013). Escaping the prior
    knowledge corridor: What shapes the number and variety of market
    opportunities identified before market entry of technology start-ups? Organization
    Science, 24
    (1), 280-300.
  • Gruber, M., MacMillan, I. C., & Thompson, J. D. (2012). From Minds to Markets:
    How Human Capital Endowments Shape Market Opportunity Identification of
    Technology Start-Ups. Journal of Management, 38(5), 1421-1449.
  • Thompson, J.D., I.C. MacMillan, 2010. Making Social Ventures Work. Harvard Business
    Review, 09/2010, pp. 66 – 73.
  • Thompson, J. D. and I. C. MacMillan (2010). “Business Models: Creating New
    Markets and Societal Wealth.” Long Range Planning 43(2-3): 291-307.
  • Gruber, M., MacMillan, I. C., & Thompson, J. D. (2008). Look before You Leap:
    Market Opportunity Identification in Emerging Technology Firms. Management
    Science, 54
    (9), 1652-1665.
  • MacMillan I. C., van Putten A., McGrath R., Thompson J.D. 2006. Convincing your CFO:
    Using Real Options Discipline for Highly Uncertain Technology Investments.
    Research-Technology Management: Industrial Research Institute.

Books/ Book Chapters

  • Ian C. Macmillan, James D. Thompson, The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Wharton Digital Press, 2013
  • Perrini, F., et al: The new social entrepreneurship: what awaits social entrepreneurial ventures? Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006

Recent Awards

  • 2013: Best Paper. American Marketing Association. Entrepreneurial Marketing Special Interest Group (AMA EMSIG). Gerald E. Hills Award
  • 2009: Best Paper. Academy of Management (Entrepreneurship)
  • 2009: Best Paper. European Business School (Innovation)