CLF Gifts $5 million to Duke University

The Charles Lafitte Foundation (CLF) recently gifted Duke University $5 million dollars to be allocated towards multiple divisions including the Trinity School, Office of the Administration, and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens Fund.

A portion of the grant includes a $1 million founding gift to the Duke Incubation Endowment Fund from their personal foundation, the Charles Lafitte Foundation (CLF).

About the Incubation Fund

The Duke Incubation Fund (the “Fund”) was formed to support idea-stage projects at Duke University with potential commercial prospects. The Fund will make a number of awards each year to support novel ideas, applied research, potential products, nascent services and creative projects that if successful, will lead to new opportunities in the market. To receive funding, projects must demonstrate a potential path to subsequent financial support, new company formation, licensing, not-for-profit partnering or other channels to enable translation. The Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, which administers the Fund, is interested in innovative projects that could lead to new products or services that will have a positive impact on society.

“There’s a moment in the innovation cycle when you think you might have something, but you’re not quite sure,” said Kip Frey, interim director of Duke I&E. “If you just had the resources to run one experiment or test one market, it could give you the beginnings of an answer. But often, no one is willing to invest in this moment because of the uncertainty of a financial return.”

“We are thrilled that visionary donors have stepped up to found the Duke Incubation Fund, understanding that investment in early-stage research and testing bolsters and expands our entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

– Kip Frey, interim director of Duke I&E

The Citron’s, through their foundation, have chosen to be these donors. Their founding gift will enable dozens of grants over the initial four-year period of the Duke Incubation Fund. Their involvement is personal as it closely coincides with the mission statement that guides their personal foundation. CLF supports innovative and effective ways of helping people help themselves and others around them to achieve healthy, satisfying and enriched lives.

Innovative ideas are the building blocks to growth, but without the proper research and support most of these innovations never have the opportunity to succeed,” says Jeffrey Citron, founder of CLF and a longtime philanthropist and founder of high-speed Internet and broadband device company Vonage. Entrepreneurship has always been a passion of mine and a leading force behind our family foundation, the Charles Lafitte Foundation. Innovation and change were essential elements considered when Suzanne and I created the mission of CLF, which is to support innovative and effective ways of helping people to help themselves and others around them to achieve a better life. Partnering with the University to establish the Duke Incubation Endowment Fund ensures that CLF can continue achieving this mission in perpetuity.”

The Duke Incubation Fund will invest more than $500,000 each year across 10 to 20 projects. Award applications will be evaluated by an independent committee of experienced early-stage investors, and may be renewed in compelling circumstances. Initial grants are expected to average $20,000.

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