Years before Hudl grew into a global tech giant in Lincoln, questions centered on why there weren't more tech companies in Nebraska. 

The answer to that question wasn't simple, but seeking a solution led to another startup company that has grown to accomplish big things.

Lincoln-based Don't Panic Labs is a software development company that provides the tools to help growing businesses. 

"We are helping other companies succeed at building software and software products," said Brian Zimmer, a business developer at Don't Panic Labs. "We help them do that through a variety of ways."

Indeed, it's not just a software solution, but in many cases a guidebook for innovation.

Due to the company's rapid growth and development, CEO Doug Durham doesn't consider Don't Panic Labs to be a startup. But startups make up the bulk of the company's primary client base. 

"A lot of the projects we do are for startup companies that don't have a technical co-founder," Durham said. "Or they may have somebody that would want to leverage our experience and our ability to manage a technical project."

Don't Panic Labs formed from a different company, Nebraska Global. Founded in 2010, Nebraska Global was, according to Durham, essentially an investment fund. 

"The goal was to build and launch software technology startups in Nebraska," Durham said. 

Durham and Zimmer, along with many other Don't Panic Labs employees, are University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduates. When the idea for Nebraska Global came about, there was an aim at retaining some of the brighter technological minds coming out of the university, rather than allowing the continuous stream of graduates who moved away to find work. 

"When the idea was first presented to me, the conversation was basically based around the question of, 'Why aren't there more tech companies in Nebraska?'" Zimmer said. "A lot of people were leaving Lincoln to work for other tech companies. Eventually, Nebraska Global kind of became a hybrid answer."

Don't Panic Labs has spun off into a thriving business. However, the idea behind the company was originally much smaller than what it has grown into. 

"Don't Panic Labs was actually the product development side of Nebraska Global," Durham said. "In the beginning, it was never meant to be a separate company. It was meant to be a way to create a kind of identity and subculture within Nebraska Global."

Today the company based in the former Salvation Army building in the Haymarket is home to 32 employees and positioned to have its most successful year.

"I think we've made a dent in retaining talent and developing talent here," Zimmer said. "I think we have a working model of a different way things can be done to achieve a higher level of success." 

Its clients go beyond startups to corporations looking for creative solutions. For Lincoln-based HobbyTownUSA, the goal was to develop technology that would perfect pricing, inventory management and data sharing between its chain stores.

To reach that goal, HobbyTown brought its developers on site to work alongside Don't Panic Labs developers.

As Don't Panic Labs continues to seek new ways to grow, there's a stronger push to make a positive impact on the community. 

Last year, Don't Panic Labs acquired Stone Fin Technology, a company focused on working within the government and health care sectors.

"We're starting to do more business development and exploration, trying to answer the question of, 'How can we help the city of Lincoln?'" Durham said. "We want to use software engineering to make an impact on the software systems that the state and local governments might use, for example."

Neither Durham nor Zimmer could envision the company reaching its current level five years ago. As a result, it's difficult to fathom where Don't Panic Labs may be in five years.

But keeping top talent in the state is always among the goals.

Said Durham: "We're probably going to hire more people this year than ever before."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or zpenrice@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zacharypenrice1


City desk intern

Spring semester city desk intern at the Journal Star.

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