With “expanded mission” Don’t Panic Labs lends technical help outside
Don't Panic Labs fielded and consistently passed on offers for consulting work for some time following its launch in late 2010. But eventually Don't Panic Labs, the technical arm of Lincoln-based software investment firm Nebraska Global, began to entertain offers that were too good to turn down.
"We had said no for a long time, probably for a year," said Tom Chapman, Nebraska Global's vice president of operations. "And then some stuff that we really couldn't say no to came across, and we were like, 'All right, we can do that.' And then we said yes a couple more times, and we were like, 'Well, maybe we should actually market this, because it seems like people want it.' "
That led to Nebraska Global's official announcement this summer of an "expanded mission" for Don't Panic Labs. In addition to working with Nebraska Global portfolio companies Beehive Industries, EC3H, EliteForm and ICORA, Don't Panic Labs is now providing software development resources to companies not under the Nebraska Global investment umbrella.
The move, per Nebraska Global's announcement, is intended to address the "key and persistent problems" of "the availability of talent, elasticity of resources and tactical application."
In a phone interview last month, Chapman provided additional explanation of the decision to expand the Don't Panic Labs mission and discussed the implications of that choice.
Asked if the desire for a new revenue stream was a factor in the decision to farm out talent from Don't Panic Labs, Chapman said it wasn't a driving force. "I would say the bigger issue is if you're going to hire technical talent, you want to give them good projects and you want to keep them excited to be there," he said.
So when Nebraska Global's portfolio companies aren't in the midst of major builds — meaning there's less in-house demand for Don't Panic Labs' technical expertise — the firm can deploy talent as needed to outside projects.
Chapman said Don't Panic Labs has advised startups and larger, more established companies and has done project work for companies that run the gamut. The list of Don't Panic Labs clients includes Assurity, National Reserach Corporation, the University of Nebraska's athletic department and Speedway Motors.
Nebraska Global believes technical talent is its greatest competitive advantage, Chapman said, and the expanded mission for Don't Panic Labs reflects the organization's desire to leverage that advantage.
In doing so, Nebraska Global — whose investment thesis is to fund Nebraska-based companies — has enjoyed the ancillary benefit of having a new outlet for helping companies located in the Midwest but outside of Nebraska's borders.
"Because we only do deals in Nebraska, this is one way we can help regionally," Chapman said. "We've been getting a lot of requests from other parts of the region."
Credits: Photo of Chapman courtesy of Chapman.