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Be Comfortable with Ambiguity, without Triggering Anxiety

A Slice on Will Price, Serial Investor and Founder of Next Frontier Capital

Will Price grew up in Germany, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Taiwan and Hong Kong all before he went to college. After college, he worked in Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although Price spent the larger part of his early life traveling, he would ultimately end up back in the U.S nestled in… Montana. So after traveling the world, why choose Bozeman, Montana? The answer was easy for Price, his dad’s family had been there since the 1850s and the Montana heritage was important to him. His ties to the front range would ultimately lend a hand in the founding of Next Frontier Capital.

Next Frontier Capital has grown over the last decade and now manages about $140 million to date. Price serves as managing partner at Next Frontier Capital, bringing years of experience as a venture capitalist and a two-time CEO of startups. Prior to founding Next Frontier Capital, he spent time in the Bay Area working for Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, the first software-focused VC firm in the ’80s. Here, his most notable investment was MuleSoft, which would end up selling to Salesforce for $6 billion. Price’s last job before his final move to Montana was as CEO of Flight, an optimization ad tech company that sold to Snapchat.

At Next Frontier Capital, the focus is on investments in Montana, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho and a few others. Aside from Price’s sons being professional skiers, Montana was the best choice for him based on his mission. “Next Frontier was started with a mission to invest in companies of impact, utility and value in Montana specifically. The reason we picked Montana was a couple things: Bozeman and Missoula would be like Boulder, they were going to attract high-quality people that were looking to start companies. In 2014, there was really no capital available to entrepreneurs in Montana, and if you compare that to Utah for example, for every $100 per person that Utah was getting, Montana was getting about $1. It was very underfunded, and entrepreneurs often complained that it was difficult to attract capital and be taken seriously in Montana.”

Realizing the lack of capital was stifling economic development in the area, Next Frontier Capital implemented its business model. As a regional investor, the goal for Price was not to immediately make money, but rather to facilitate the growth of early-stage companies, and help them obtain revenue. With all the wheels in motion, and as Price and Next Frontier Capital started to experience success, it was early on that he had to fight an internal struggle. “As an investor, you’re trained to be very thesis-driven, basically, ‘we’re gonna make this investment because logically, x plus y equals z.’ You become convinced that you can predict the future in some sense.”

Price went on to describe that it was only once he became an entrepreneur that he learned x plus y did not necessarily equal z. He realized that there’s ambiguity in the job, and pivots occur all the time: you can even end up a full 90 or 180 degrees away from where you thought you were going. He went on to say that oftentimes as you’re figuring things out, there are periods of time between these pivots that can last for days, weeks, even months. People are relying on you for leadership, guidance, motivation and paychecks. Price feels that the best route is to become a “learning organization”. This means being okay with not having an answer or a straightforward process for finding an answer.

“It’s a real different mindset from being an investor where you’re basically trying to define the future… being comfortable with ambiguity, without triggering anxiety was a big learning for me.”

In another learning, Price shared that his investments tend to hinge greatly on the people. He’s attracted to some people immediately in terms of their intelligence, grit and determination. Additionally, a willingness and ability to listen, but also be able to take input when necessary. He stressed that when he’s evaluating an entrepreneur, he isn’t looking for someone “blowing through red lights”, that there has to be thoughtful determination not just a torpedo of determination. Ultimately for Price, it’s the “why” factor. “For me, it comes down to the entrepreneurs and it’s not a quote that I came up with, but there’s a common quote, ‘the greatest predictor of success is the purity of motivation.’ Why are people doing this, what’s the backstory?” Essentially it’s the motivation for the entrepreneur that captives Price. He shared that if someone is motivated enough, they’ll be willing to run through any challenge to make it happen.

Looking ahead, Price’s goal for Next Frontier Capital is to cement their position as a go-to firm in the Rocky Mountains. He’s excited to continue developing their team, while they work hard to solidify their spot in an increasingly lucrative area.

Founder Bio

Will Price, a Harvard University alumn, furthered his education at Northwestern University. Price serves on various boards and is a serial investor at companies such as onXmaps.Inc, Getro, MeatEater through Next Frontier Capital, where serves as a Founder and General Partner. Connect with Price on LinkedIn.

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