2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: J. Daniel Kim, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Congrats to J. Daniel Kim of The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania for being named a 2023 Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor.

Daniel Kim

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“He is honestly phenomenal! I couldn’t be more appreciative of all his time and dedication into making his entrepreneurship course one of the best courses I’ve taken as both a Wharton undergrad and MBA. He is a testament to the very best Wharton has to offer from a teaching standpoint and I’m yet to meet another professor who is so effective at engaging students both based on in-person and canvas posts. He evidently invests so much of his time in ensuring an exceptional teaching experience from taking the time to read and share feedback on each of our reading responses and pushing us to think critically instead of just telling us. The final class was a telling reflection of this as he engaged us to “summarize” key course concepts instead of just covering them yourself.”Rehan Ayrton

Daniel Kim, 34, is an assistant professor of management at The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Kim teaches MBA and Ph.D. courses on entrepreneurship and innovation. 

His research examines the role of entrepreneurship in our economy and the drivers of startup performance. His research has been published in various top-tier academic journals such as Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, and American Economic Review, as well as featured in media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Financial Times. 

He is the winner of the Strategic Management Society’s Best Paper Prize as well as the Academy of Management’s Best Entrepreneurship Paper Award. His teaching has numerously been recognized with the MBA Teaching Excellence Award at Wharton.


At current institution since what year? 2019

Education: PhD, MIT.  AB, Dartmouth College

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Entrepreneurship


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… In 2011, I worked with Prof. Paul Gompers at HBS on a research study on venture capital investors. In this process, we also met with entrepreneurs who were being funded by these investors. I was immediately impressed by how these entrepreneurs made an impact by commercializing novel ideas and creating jobs.

But I became deeply puzzled by how, in contrast to other industries that have more standardized practices (say, valuation methods in investment banking), every entrepreneur seemed to have their own idiosyncratic approach to starting and scaling their ventures. At the same time, we were seeing extreme variations in startup performance outcomes where the majority outright failed while a small share went on to become massively successful. I wondered what the data, rather than a handful of cherry-picked anecdotes, would show. So I set out to find out whether there is a systematic approach for effective entrepreneurship, which could help many aspiring and existing entrepreneurs reach their full potential, by becoming a business school professor.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? In a nutshell, my research has shown that people really matter in entrepreneurship. In terms of founders, contrary to the popular belief that the best entrepreneurs are college dropouts and people in their 20s, we found that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged and not young. Just like how practice makes us better at many things in life, prior experience and domain expertise accumulated over time explain why older founders tend to outperform their younger counterparts. Moreover, we also found many (successful) entrepreneurs in the US are foreign-born, and in the aggregate, immigrants substantially contribute to our economy by starting new companies and creating well-paying jobs.

My more recent work has examined early joiners—these non-founding individuals who choose to work for a startup. It turns out that these first few hires have a significant long-term impact on their nascent employers by helping define and shape the workplace. While founders often hastily hire close friends who happen to need a job, the upshot is that founders should instead be extremely careful and intentional when selecting which individuals to onboard as the few initial hires, whose influence on the organization will likely outlive their tenure.

If I weren’t a business school professor… Venture investor.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I try to bring a lot of energy and preparation into the classroom. For instance, I study the profiles of each student (e.g., prior work and schooling) so that during our classroom discussions, when needed, I can turn to a specific student whose unique and relevant experience can shine and move our conversation forward. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Zoom!?

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I was surprised to learn that our job requires us to engage with so many different audiences. It really is a privilege that, in the same week, we can present our research to other academics, teach classes to our MBA students, advise Ph.D. students, and speak to the media on relevant timely issues. It is challenging to tailor our message to each audience (shortly after I started this job, I once prepared a 10-minute explanation of my paper’s novel econometric methodology—only to find out that my live TV interview was slotted for 60 seconds), while staying true to our core based on research-backed evidence and personal values.

Professor I most admire and why: Joel Levine, a professor at Dartmouth teaching sociology using mathematical models, is not only brilliant, but also passionate about teaching and mentoring students. I often think about my invaluable experience with him as a guide when I engage with my students at Wharton.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I learn something new every time I teach and engage with my Wharton MBAs, whose domain expertise and perspectives are amazingly deep and diverse. It is not uncommon that I walk away from the classroom with a new research question inspired by the discussion.

What is most challenging? Entrepreneurship is a fast-moving world with many new trends—often needle-moving, other times flashy but transient (think: crypto in 2020; SPACs in 2021; funding boom in 2022; fund downturn in 2023). Reconciling these issues with our existing theoretical understanding and empirical evidence—and then updating our priors when needed—is therefore extremely important and timely, but not easy.

In a word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious.

In a word, describe your least favorite type of student: Complacent.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… My students are often surprised to find out mid-course that I, rather than my TA, read each of their daily homework submissions—which I then use to “warm-call” through the class. So I think students would describe my grading as meticulous and demanding, but fair.


What are your hobbies? Basketball (go Celtics!), golf, video games, road trips.

How will you spend your summer? Conference travels to Sevilla, Boston, & DC, research with wonderful collaborators, and hanging out with our newborn son.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Boston and Seoul

Favorite book(s):  Some recent favorites: The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Family Firm by Emily Oster

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? The Beautiful Mind. It portrays both the beauty and vanity of the pursuit of ambition and then reminds us of the most meaningful things in life.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? A mix of hip-hop, jazz, Christian hymns, and EDM.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… placing less emphasis on post-MBA placement outcomes and more on students’ career progression over time. The truth is that, while students may feel a need to land the “perfect job” coming out of their MBA, most will have transitioned to a different employer five years after graduation. With rising job mobility rates and longevity, careers are increasingly becoming a collection of multiple experiences. I would like to see us—as educators—help our students think about and pursue a cumulatively meaningful career.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… treating their employees with dignity and investing in their livelihood. It is easy for any organization to claim that people are its greatest asset, but real, intentional (albeit costly) efforts to empower and elevate employees can ultimately evolve into a long-term competitive advantage for the firm.

I’m grateful for… All my family (especially my amazing wife), lifelong friends, superstar colleagues and dissertation advisors, God for all his provisions, and terrific students who keep me going.




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