A Montana-based group of financial investors announced it has reorganized and added members as it expands its funding efforts for startups across the state.

Frontier Angels, one of several regional venture investment groups, plans to grow its membership of current and former CEOs and entrepreneurs from 35 to more than 100. The move will allow the group to increase its reach and its investment power, said newly appointed managing director Pat LaPointe.

The group’s investment focus will be on technology-based companies, from traditional software ventures to biotech and the energy sector.

“In tech, there’s often a year or two where you have lots of expenses, yet you still don’t have a lot of revenue or customers. That’s where these types of funding models are particularly important,” LaPointe said.

A new, network funding approach where, rather than distributing a large pool of capital, the group’s individual investors choose which ventures to fund, will help distribute startup money to a wider range of businesses across the state, LaPointe added.

“Anybody that thinks it’s hard to raise money for a tech startup needs to know that we’re out here,” he said.

According to a survey commissioned by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance earlier this year, tech companies in Montana generated more than $1.5 billion in revenue in 2016. The survey also showed that the state’s high-tech industry expects to add nearly 1,000 jobs over the coming year with an average annual salary of $60,000 — $20,000 more than the average Montana worker.

Founded in 2006, Frontier has invested roughly $15 million into more than 50 Montana tech-based companies, among them Bozeman-based CrossTx and OppSource.

Meanwhile, Next Frontier Capital, also based in Bozeman, announced this week that it has aggregated $22 million toward its second round of funding.

In the two years since its founding, the venture capital firm used its first funding round to funnel $10 million into a handful of companies, including SiteOne Therapeutics, Submittable, Clearas Water Recovery, Quiq, Orbital Shift, IronCore Labs, and Blackmore Sensors and Analytic.

This second, larger round of funding will allow the firm to put more money behind each company, said Next Frontier founder Will Price.

Outside venture capital represents a critical component in growing high-tech ecosystems like Montana’s, Price said.

“If you think about the iconic firms like Google, Oracle, Amazon and Facebook, they all were venture-backed businesses,” Price said.

“Montana entrepreneurs have historically had to use government grants to fund their businesses. The availability of equity is a fundamental input, and in its absence I don’t know if it’s possible to build a vibrant ecosystem.”

Through its partnership with Next Frontier, Missoula-based software company Submittable tripled its revenue and workforce, co-founder and CEO Michael Fitzgerald said in a release.

“Submittable existed for five years before (Next Frontier) started and found raising capital in Montana next to impossible,” Fitzgerald said.

“It’s fair to say (Next Frontier) has single-handedly leveled the playing field for Montana startups.”

Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or lkendall@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @lewdak

Lewis Kendall covers business and the economy for the Chronicle.

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