Leadership

This Harvard Business School grad sold his business for $100 million to pursue his dream job

Former tech CEO Dan Price never had an interest in becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer growing up. Raised by a family of independent business owners, he always aspired to be his own boss. He reached that goal by age 25 when he helped launched a venture capital firm followed by a million-dollar phone tech company and hasn't looked back since.

Today, Price, 59, leads the Sweet Virginia Foundation, an educational nonprofit where he's a beekeeper and donates flowers from his farm to local elders. He further supports senior citizens through his BrightStar Care home assistance franchise — for which he expects to earn $2 million in revenue — as an additional way to continue his entrepreneurial lifestyle of over 35 years.

Daniel Price in his Sweet Virginia Foundation field of flowers.
Courtesy of Daniel Price
Daniel Price in his Sweet Virginia Foundation field of flowers.

"In my early teens and 20s, I decided I'm going to pursue this entrepreneurial path," Price tells CNBC Make It. "I feel very satisfied and fortunate in the way things have worked out for me. I've worked very hard and I've given it my best shot, but I've also been very fortunate in establishing relationships with the right people."

Price was a high schooler in the early 1970s when he first learned about Harvard Business School. He tells CNBC Make It that from that moment, he "zeroed in" and focused on a plan for what it would take to get in there.

"I made conscious decisions in undergrad to pursue that life of trying to own and operate my own business," Price says. "Getting into Harvard would help fast forward the process, do it earlier in life and increase the chances of attracting capital."

After graduating Harvard Business School, Price partnered with two former coworkers from his post-undergraduate job at accounting firm Arthur Andersen to start their own venture capital firm.

They started by making small investments of a half million dollars to $2 million at early stage companies, one of which was Discovery Channel and proved highly successful.

But after a few years of working in the finance world, he felt out of place.

"Having people come to me with plans that they needed capital for really wasn't my thing," Price says. "I wanted to be in the entrepreneur's seat."

In 1991, Price and his brother pioneered the beginnings of automated call distribution technology, more commonly recognized as the robotic voice that directs our calls based on the numbers we dial on our phones. Well before music was shared through Spotify or Apple Music, they launched "Send-A-Song Corporation," of which Price was CEO. Their system could deliver well-recognized songs as voicemail greeting cards just by using a personal computer, a circuit card and a phone line connection.

A few years later, the brothers rebranded as PriceInteractive Inc. and broadened their business to service automated 1-800 numbers for companies including AT&T, Fidelity, American Airlines and Sprint. But to raise capital under increasing competition, they sold PriceInteractive for $100 million in 2001. This would also allow Price to pursue his next business venture.

"If you have a real, burning desire, you should pursue the entrepreneurial path, I personally think it's the most rewarding," Price says. "I encourage anyone who really has thought about it deeply and is prepared to really make the sacrifices necessary to pursue it."

That same year, Price bought the house and farm where he lives and runs Sweet Virginia Foundation. He learned about beekeeping through word of mouth, a hobby that has since become a labor of love which also led to his close work with senior citizens.

As he cuts flowers sometimes, Price thinks about how he couldn't have imagined this future for himself 15 or 20 years ago, to the point his old business friends now say, "Who are you?"

"There's a lot of risk and work to get something started from nothing," Price says. "I haven't lived another life or followed a different career path but I know this one is very satisfying."

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