Dale Landry (in the blue shirt), Corey Glass (far left) and the team take on big business at Prassa.
Which sounds more intimidating: Refusing combat in the Iraq war, fleeing federal marshals to come to Toronto, fighting deportation from Canada and facing arrest in the United States? Or starting an internet business?
For Dale Landry, it was the start-up.
"I lack the confidence to just start something and see where it goes," he says. "I'm much more anxious about risk than I look on the outside."
He's got a point. Something like nine out of 10 internet businesses fail.
But when opportunity arose to get in on the ground floor of a start-up, Landry took it. He's now in business development for a Toronto search company called Prassa.
Landry is joining an industry full of second careers. But more than most, his story illustrates the opportunity and fulfillment start-up businesses can offer.
His first career was in the U.S. Air Force, working on a transport aircraft that flew missions to Afghanistan.
He was set to be deployed to Iraq in 2007 to fight in a war he did not agree with. Instead, he defied orders and came to Toronto, risking deportation and arrest if he steps back on U.S. soil.
Even now, five years after coming here, he's still struggling to stay in Canada, battling with Jason Kenney, the Conservatives' overbearing immigration minister.
Facing deportation and arrest is obviously not something you put on a resumé, and most businesses would likely not take a chance on a guy the government is trying to throw out of the country.
Start-ups, however, thrive on risk.
The entrepreneurs behind Prassa, Manuel Almeida and José Nieves (who also owns Dundas West's Lula Lounge) not only employ Landry, but also his friend and fellow war resister Corey Glass.
Like Landry, a David who's taking on the Goliath of the U.S. military-industrial complex, Prassa also battles behemoths. It's a marketing service to help small local businesses compete with multinationals on the web.
So his values align with those of his employers, which clearly wasn't the case under his last boss, George W. Bush. There's more room for individuality at a start-up.
"In the military, when you have an idea, it's next to impossible get that idea out. I imagine it's the same at IBM and Microsoft," he says. "In a start-up, you have a culture of creative thinking."
Even as Landry helps Prassa grow - he tells me there are more than 200 local companies signed up for its services - his prospects are still grim. He was recently deemed "criminally inadmissible" to Canada.
But he has faith in the system. He reminds me that Andy Barrie, the long-time former host of CBC Radio's Metro Morning, was a war resister, too.
"If you want something bad enough, sometimes you have to wait a long time to get it," he says hopefully of his immigration fight. "It's the same with a new company. You're not going to be a billion-dollar company overnight. You've got to work hard and keep putting in the work, knowing that your hard work will pay off in the end."