SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah announced the creation of the Joan and Tim Fenton Founders Fund, aimed at supporting startup companies formed by business students or others within the university network. 

The fund was made possible through a $5 million investment given to the school by Joan and Tim Fenton. 

“We’re grateful for the support from the Joan and Tim Fenton Family Foundation,” said Taylor Randall, University of Utah President and former dean of the David Eccles School of Business. “This fund will help our student startups gain stronger footing in the marketplace, and I look forward to seeing this fund grow and increase its support of University of Utah students and their entrepreneurial endeavors. With the creation of this fund, the University further strengthens its entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is arguably the strongest in the nation.” 

Because the initial $5 million was an investment rather than a donation, the plan is to generate returns over time that will be reinvested to further the Fund’s growth so that it can support even more start-ups in the future. 

“We believe this could become a new model in business education, and it is a very significant addition to the startup ecosystem we’re building at the university,” said Paul Brown, the James Lee Sorenson Presidential Endowed Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Eccles School, who will oversee the Founders Fund. “While the Fund will initially be aimed at entrepreneurs in the University of Utah ecosystem, we’ll consider a variety of startups for investment.”

Students working in the school’s Sorenson Impact Center will be involved in researching and recommending startup companies regarded as worthy of consideration as recipients. 

The Fenton family has a strong entrepreneurial background themselves. Both Tim and Joan Fenton, along with four of their seven children and one granddaughter are all alumni of the University of Utah. 

Tim Fenton has over 35 years of experience in real estate development, construction management and executive management, including the development of several high-profile residential and commercial areas throughout Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. 

Joan Fenton, recognized as one of Utah’s most influential women by the Boy Scouts of America, has been an active member of her community for over three decades. She has been known to sit in on the boards of different organizations ranging from the Hale Center Theater and Art Works for Kids to the Sorenson Legacy Foundation. Additionally, she has been honored for her service at Southern Utah University. 

“The vision, determination and entrepreneurial drive among the students at the University of Utah is remarkable, and we look forward to helping them bring their ideas to life through the support of this new and innovative fund. There really isn’t anything quite like this in the country in the way the fund will benefit students, the university and the foundation, and we are thrilled to be able to make it come to life,” said Tim Fenton.