Frequently Asked Questions

1: What does CRFE stand for?

CRFE stands for Charlotte Regional Fund for Entrepreneurship, a charitable fund aimed at strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Charlotte, NC. In order to reduce overhead and infrastructure costs, CRFE was created as a fund managed by Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) and made up of an independent board of directors and an advisory committee. Contributions to the Fund are eligible for tax benefits to the donor through FFTC’s status as a public charity. Board members are appointed by the Mayor of Charlotte, City Manager of Charlotte, FFTC and the board chair.

2: What is the goal of CRFE?

Provide funding to nonprofit organizations and other initiatives that support the high growth entrepreneurship community by supporting increased innovation, improving development of high growth entrepreneurs and ultimately increasing job creation.

3: How was the CRFE formed?

In October 2012, local investor and business man Paul Solitario, a member of the Charlotte Entrepreneurial Alliance, challenged the Charlotte City Council to contribute funds under a public private matching scenario to help entrepreneurial and innovation companies grow. One month later, the Council adopted a five-point plan of which one major point was to partner with Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC), the private sector and local institutions to establish the CRFE to develop local high growth entrepreneurial organizations, events and programs. As a result, funding was allocated to conduct a study that would make recommendations on the current state of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and what type of ecosystem activities were important for “filling the gaps” in Charlotte’s regional infrastructure.

4: What did the entrepreneurial study entail?

The City of Charlotte and FFTC sponsored a baseline examination of the Charlotte region ecosystem. That study helped clarify what the needs of the community are and what the focus areas of the CRFE’s funding should be. It included an asset map of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, best practices in ecosystem development in other cities, a look at the region’s industry clusters and the impact they have on entrepreneurial development and recommendations for administering grants that address ecosystem weaknesses. Using the study’s recommendations, the CRFE was born as a fund in 2013 and housed at Foundation For The Carolinas.

5: Why invest in CRFE?

The CRFE is focused on promoting the formation and growth of high growth and innovation-driven entrepreneurs. Research shows that startups and high growth firms account for about 70 percent of firm-level gross job creation in a typical year. It is imperative for the Charlotte region to provide an environment conducive to growth of these firms if we want fast-expanding, innovative job creation. In addition, CRFE is:

  • Solely focused on funding entrepreneurship. CRFE is the only entrepreneurial fund that has received the financial backing of the City of Charlotte and a billion dollar grant making organization, the Foundation For The Carolinas. No other organization has previously had the ability to fundraise and support entrepreneurial programs like CRFE can.
  • Determined to build capacity with the entrepreneurship ecosystem. While there are a number of nonprofit service providers that offer various forms of programming, mentorship and support of entrepreneurs, CRFE is the only organization focused on building strength across the region with an eye on filling the gaps between providers and scaling successful initiatives.
  • Acts as a catalyst for innovative programming. With a broad charter to fill in the gaps within the regional infrastructure, CRFE has the unique ability to help sponsor new forms of programming and support that the region might not get otherwise. This gives the Charlotte region flexibility to act on emerging models to offer entrepreneurs more current and relevant assistance than other communities potentially can.

6: Who is eligible to apply for funds?

The CRFE has adopted 10 opportunity areas that align with five key improvement areas that are eligible for funding. Service providers to the entrepreneurial and innovation community can submit proposals that will be evaluated based on how well they deliver programs that strengthen the ecosystem in these five issue areas.

7: What are the five issue areas?

Build entrepreneurial culture; enhance ecosystem connections; improve visibility for Charlotte with entrepreneurs, funders and media; build technical skills; develop a capital continuum. 

8: How is CRFE different?

Public-private partnerships for building entrepreneurial ecosystem capacity are a new approach in the high growth entrepreneurship sector. While only a handful of such initiatives exist across the country, there are several elements that make the Charlotte region’s approach different:

  • Charlotte is one of the first regional markets in the US to make public-private investments in entrepreneurial infrastructure.
  • CRFE funding is available to nonprofits and entrepreneur support organizations, not for giving investment funding to individual companies. Through this approach, the CRFE hopes to create an entire system that will impact all firms along their development path so that their needs are met throughout the cycle bringing more longevity and greater chance of becoming scalable.
  • Successful regional entrepreneurs, not big company donors, founded the board.
  • A mix of founders of high growth companies, investors and business executives is leading fundraising.
  • Grants are available across the 16-county region, not just within the City of Charlotte, strengthening the region’s infrastructure. NC counties include: Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union. SC counties include: York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield.
  • CRFE allows the public sector and private sector to learn from each other and more efficiently deploy investment dollars in a way that creates leverage and added value for the community.

9: How does one donate and become involved with CRFE?

Download and submit the Pledge Form or contact Eli Kahn at Foundation For The Carolinas at 704-973-4542 or on our contact page.