Dan Anton: The Path from Combat Warrior to Private Sector Entrepreneur
Who is Dan Anton, and why should you care? It’s a story of tenacity, duty, and necessity, embodying the strength of military men and women; their ability to adapt, and overcome challenges in the public and private sector.
It starts back in Neptune, New Jersey, where Dan was the eldest of three boys. His father, Jim, instilled a work ethic closely resembling obsession, which manifested as Dan becoming the Junior Olympic Boxing Champion of New York and New Jersey.
Around the same time, multiple reports of brain trauma caused by repetitive blows to the head began to surface, and Jim pulled Dan from boxing out of fear. As a sophomore in high school Dan refocused his passion into creative problem-solving.
His mother, Anna, would create custom jewelry, crafts and always encouraged her boys to try new things, even knitting, which might seem effeminate to mainstream men and boys in America.
“Why Would They Buy from You and Not Direct?”
This is a question his younger brother, Matt asked Dan. Dan had just explained he discovered there was a large community of people online searching for video games (forums, communities), and they would pay for the convenience of someone to find the game, buy it and ship directly to them. Dan just discovered the basics of arbitrage, buy low, sell high, and find a market.
He began to buy video games from local stores such as FuncoLand and sell them online with a markup. This spun off into ebook guides for popular games such as World of Warcraft. He wasn’t getting rich but was making thousands of dollars while in high school part-time.
Then the Towers Fell…
Knowing what one’s true self wants is the hardest question to ponder, unless you are a military member or a family member; the next day thousands of men and women signed up in droves, just like Dan, in a moment of clarity and duty.
Dan was overwhelmed with a sense of protecting the innocent and bringing justice to those that attacked America. He put off his budding career as an internet entrepreneur and enlisted to go to basic training after graduating with honors from Montclair State University. As a natural leader, he went on to OCS (Officer Candidate School).
He then became a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.
“There Was an Explosion”
Dan was now on his first deployment in Iraq, when his father received the call. Shaken badly but staying strong as a leader, Dan informed his father their convoy was hit by a series of IEDs and his friend, and war-hero, SFC. Salie, was killed in combat. Dan, and his unit are also featured in the book:
Dan, and his unit are also featured in the book: The Gods of Diyala by Caleb S. Cage and Gregory M. Tomlin.
Stateside, Live Your Dream
After his first deployment was finished, Dan began to get interested once again in internet marketing. In early 2006 he placed a phone call to his younger brother, Matt Anton. The topic of conversation was to build a social network for gamers, similar to MySpace at the time.
The first deployment had given Dan a deep sense of passion for everyday life, and taking risks in the private sector was nothing compared to the real risks of the men that served under him every day when he was in Iraq. The herculean task proved to be too great, and the project was a failure on the surface. This
The first deployment had given Dan a deep sense of passion for everyday life, and taking risks in the private sector was nothing compared to the real risks of the men that served under him every day when he was in Iraq. The herculean task proved to be too great, and the project was a failure on the surface. This failure however, laid the foundation for a lifetime of marketing experience. While other networks received funding or had large teams behind them, the two-man operation relied on learning every aspect of internet marketing, including SEO, PPC, Social Media and Email Marketing. Generating casual video gamer traffic was fun, but it turned into a business by accident.
This failure however, laid the foundation for a lifetime of marketing experience. While other networks received funding or had large teams behind them, the two-man operation relied on learning every aspect of internet marketing, including SEO, PPC, Social Media and Email Marketing. Generating casual video gamer traffic was fun, but it turned into a business by accident.
You Can Get Me More Leads Online?
The knowledge and tactics used were becoming easy for Dan, but he noticed business owners didn’t have the time or desire to market their products or services themselves online. He and Matt began to get clients locally and from business forums.
In the early stages of their agency, Matt was the online marketing manager of Liberty Travel by day, while Dan worked on complicated systems and solutions to very common problems plaguing small business owners – lack of exposure on Google.
Dan, having a computer science background, saw inefficiencies in repetitive human-based tasks and developed software to assist in the process of increasing rankings in Google, Yahoo and Bing. The military experience as an officer taught him the importance of detail, which birthed easy to use, yet effective software.
“I’m Being Deployed to Iraq Again”
Since Dan was still in the military, his unit was chosen to be deployed again to Iraq. After years of living stateside and building up a profitable business, Dan had to mentally shift gears back to being a leader and officer in the United States Army, and put aside private sector aspirations.
Through a subpar internet connection Dan would help forget the burdens of the day by going over marketing strategies for a few minutes at a time, only to be rushed off the phone by an emergency, lack of internet, or the need to prepare the men for a combat patrol mission.
Now, an Infantry Airborne-Army Ranger Captain, his men served bravely alongside him, completing multiple high risk missions. Affectionately known as “Achilles” by his soldiers for his unflinching nerve in the face of extreme danger, Dan’s vehicle was hit with an IED, in which his vertebrae were injured in the violent explosion.
The strain of two deployments had impacted Dan’s marriage, and a divorce was set in motion (balancing family life and military deployments is extremely difficult). The mental burden of leading men into life and death, running a business, and holding together a family can take its toll. Dan had received 2 Bronze Star Medals in addition to multiple honors and military achievements up to this point, one for each deployment; but his personal life and career began to unravel.
“You’ve Given All There is to Give”
Once stateside Dan saw back specialists, began to practice yoga, and was able to recover much of his mobility, continuing to improve each day. Not wanting to become a desk general, and always wanting to be with his men, Dan understood his time in active military duty was becoming less of a real future.
His immense sense of responsibility could be seen in a phone call with Matt, where he stated he felt guilty for not being over in Iraq again, a common trait among military veterans; they always want to do more, be with their brothers. Matt, pleading for reason “You’ve Given All There is to Give, you’ve spent years of your life in Iraq, there is nothing left”. It’s what Dan needed to hear.
After a decade of committing his entire soul to the United States Army, he made peace with moving to the next chapter of his life.
New Love, New Opportunities
While in Atlanta, Dan met his fiancé Allison. She brought out a deep passion in him that had been buried while on deployment and going through a divorce.
Dan was now a whole person, physically, mentally, spiritually. The same entrepreneurial bug that bit him 20+ years ago, still thirsts for finding solutions to problems and helping others succeed online.
Dan Anton currently runs an Atlanta SEO Company, and manages a team of software developers and marketing specialists. His products and services are used by thousands of businesses each day, and as a byproduct he has become a multi-millionaire. The internet is akin to the American Dream; if you honestly put your entire person into a project, don’t give up, and keep moving forward, you will be successful in your mission.
This is just Dan’s story, and there are thousands of other military veterans turned private sector successes. We thank the brave men and women that continue to put on the uniform, to give those that transitioned the freedom to choose their path of excellence. Dan Anton retired as an Infantry Airborne Army Ranger Major, a two-time Iraq combat war veteran, and recipient of two bronze stars.