Mike McDaniel laid the plans to buy Baltimore Water Taxi during his second deployment to Iraq in 2009.
The Marine infantry officer was running a mortar platoon and helping train the Iraqi military during the day, then firing off business emails and phone calls from an internet cafe and a phone bunker at night.
"We'd get an air raid siren," he said, "and we'd continue that conversation after that."
McDaniel purchased the company in 2010 with his father, MedStar Health founding CEO John McDaniel.
Six years later, Harbor Boating Inc., which owns and operates the water taxi, is being bought by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, and McDaniel is overseeing plans for a large expansion that will include new routes to Plank's proposed $5.5 billion waterfront development in Port Covington.
Under the deal with Sagamore Ventures, Plank's venture capital firm, McDaniel, 43, will remain at the helm of Harbor Boating.
After his first deployment in 2004, McDaniel was stationed in Hawaii. There, he started a small assistance boat-towing company — "kind of like AAA on the water" — which he owned for two years.
With his mother fighting cancer, McDaniel moved back to Maryland in 2007 and began looking for opportunities locally in the nautical industry. He met with Cameron Kane, whose husband, Ed, had founded the water taxi at the urging of Mayor William Donald Schaefer in the 1970s. The service had a modest beginning, running infrequently "from nowhere to nowhere," as Ed Kane used to say, before Harborplace became one of Baltimore's central tourist attractions.
Cameron Kane ran the service for years after her husband's death in 2003. By the time McDaniel approached her, she was ready to sell it.
After McDaniel's mother died, he and his father bought the water taxi company for an undisclosed sum. They split the cost, and he became its managing partner, with his father in the role of investor.
"I invested everything I made on my deployment toward the company," McDaniel said. "It was all or nothing for me."
Born and raised in Baltimore, McDaniel enjoys the city's variety of historic and modern areas.
"I like the pulse of the city," he said.
McDaniel volunteers with the American Red Cross and the Signal 13 Foundation, which supports police officers. He enjoys sailing, which he learned in Hawaii, and takes fishing trips with friends to Ocean City.
But those activities have been put on hiatus as he has prepared for the sale and planned to expand the service.