$500,000 donation plus $500,000 matching challenge gift brings university startup seed fund one step closer to impact

March 7, 2024

The Thomas R. Brown Family Private Foundation has made the donation to the Wildcat Philanthropic Seed Fund, a resource to help startups commercialize innovations stemming from UArizona research and innovation.

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The Thomas R. Brown Family Private Foundation has made a gift of $500,000 to the Wildcat Philanthropic Seed Fund. In addition to this gift, as more contributions to the fund are received, the Brown Foundation will match those new contributions up to $500,000. In total, this represents a potential $1.5 million impact on innovation in Southern Arizona. 

Created and administered by Tech Launch Arizona, the commercialization arm of the University of Arizona functioning under the Office of Research, Innovation, and Impact, the fund will help university startups commercialize ideas and innovation stemming from the work of faculty, staff, and students. The fund will also provide opportunities for students to gain experience in new venture investing and entrepreneurship, planting the seeds to inspire and enable them as they move into their careers. 

“The Brown Foundations are the legacy of Burr-Brown Corporation, which gained early commercial success because of engineering expertise at the university,” said Sarah Smallhouse, president of the Thomas R. Brown Foundations. "Without the talented faculty and graduates that worked with the company, the Burr-Brown success story would not have been possible. We enthusiastically support Tech Launch Arizona in establishing this fund as it will facilitate the success of early-stage innovation companies, leading to prosperity for our community and more advanced products for mankind. We hope for more Burr-Brown stories in the future.” 

According to Doug Hockstad, associate vice president for TLA, investments will begin when the fund reaches $2 million, but the ultimate goal is to grow it to $5 million. 

“With the support of the ecosystem and generous donors, we’ll not only meet the Brown Foundation’s generous challenge, but that will bring us to the point where we’ll be able to begin making investments in these early-stage startups,” said Hockstad. “That said, it’s the perfect time for donors interested in contributing to the health of our entrepreneurial ecosystem and student experiences to make a huge impact.”

Created in January 2024, the Wildcat Philanthropic Seed Fund is based on a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor who wanted to support ecosystem growth, early-stage university startups, and student engagement. It is designed as an evergreen funding source to help young companies get through the "valley of death," the period soon after a new venture launches when the risk of failure is high due to lack of financial support. Contributions to the Wildcat Philanthropic Seed Fund are tax-deductible, and proceeds from positive events such as acquisitions will be reinvested to grow the fund so it can continue to make future investments. 

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Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications