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Catching Up with Tech Innovator Doug Durham of Don’t Panic Labs and Nebraska Global

Every year, the AIM Tech Celebration awards ceremony recognizes individuals, organizations, teams, students and educators furthering the cause of technology in the community.  Doug Durham is one of those people.  In 2016, Durham won a Tech Celebration award in the Tech Innovator category for his work as CEO of software development company Don’t Panic Labs…

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Every year, the AIM Tech Celebration awards ceremony recognizes individuals, organizations, teams, students and educators furthering the cause of technology in the community. 

Doug Durham is one of those people. 

In 2016, Durham won a Tech Celebration award in the Tech Innovator category for his work as CEO of software development company Don’t Panic Labs and co-founder of tech-focused venture capital firm Nebraska Global.  

Nebraska, Boomerang-Style

After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Durham moved to St. Louis to work as a systems engineer for McDonnell Douglas. He enjoyed the job but found himself missing home, particularly the huge skies and thunderstorms elemental to Nebraska, as well as the humble but plucky spirit that can be hard to define categorically, but which seems intrinsic to those who’ve grown up here. 

“I guess I am the typical boomerang story,” Durham said, expressing pride in his home state.

With a Master’s degree in Finance and Management in hand from Webster University, Durham moved back home. For several years, while raising a family with his wife Shana, Durham worked in the technology and entrepreneurial industries, served in the National Guard as a civil engineer (completing a 2005 tour of duty in Afghanistan and attaining the rank of Major), taught in the UNL Raikes School of Business, and eventually co-founded Don’t Panic Labs and its parent company, Nebraska Global. 

Nebraska Global is a tech-focused venture capital firm that takes a Silicon Prairie rather than a Silicon Valley approach to investment by funding companies that will yield a positive, multi-generational impact for the wider community, not put quick money into the pockets of a few. Nebraska Global also strives to cultivate gender equity and increase representation of people of color in the tech workforce.

“Doing that, we can solve our tech talent shortage,” Durham said.

His other enterprise, Don’t Panic Labs, develops software for early-stage companies and helps established enterprises with product innovation. The word Labs is apt here, as the company takes an iterative approach that calls to mind the creative engineering powerhouses that loom large in the cultural imagination, like Bell Labs, the company whose researchers developed radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the photovoltaic cell, information theory, Unix, C++ and more.

The nimble-footed approach to innovation helps generate those valuable eureka moments quicker and more often, and is a process companies of any size or provenance can benefit from.

“Think about it. In any given year, we do thirty or forty new products every year. Many organizations, they’re lucky if they get to do one per year,” Durham said.

AIM Tech Celebration Award Provides Well-Deserved Recognition

Given his track record of innovation and holistic thinking about the community impact of tech entrepreneurialism, it’s no wonder the AIM Institute awarded Durham a Tech Innovator award. 

“This probably sounds pretty cliche, but what I took from that award was recognition of the role Don’t Panic Labs has played in trying to help grow the technology ecosystem in Nebraska over the last ten years,” Durham said. “It was recognition of the hard work this organization has done to try to play some part in trying to advance opportunities for people in Nebraska to start, to build, and participate in software technology companies.”

Durham considers AIM’s Tech Celebration award ceremony a powerfully connective force in the regional tech community. 

“The Tech Celebration event helps put us all in the same room, allows us to develop relationships, share experiences, and get to know one another a little bit better, because in our day-to-day lives we don’t often interact with each other,” Durham said.

Moreover, Durham said Tech Celebration provides the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues that may have fallen out of touch over the years, and to meet new people that might have great ideas to share.

“I think only good things will come from seeing ourselves as neighbors in this ecosystem,” Durham said. “Those connections will create opportunities for connection, for new ideas, for innovation and collaboration.”

If you’re interested in attending the 2019 AIM Tech Celebration awards ceremony, visit www.careerlink.com/techcelebration. This year’s event will take place Thursday, November 14, at the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus. Tickets are free and available to the public. (The event is also the AIM Institute’s major fundraising event of the year; consider making a donation to help support AIM’s youth tech education initiatives to support tomorrow’s tech talent community.)

And if you know of a person, startup, business, nonprofit, student, or educator who deserves recognition for their work in tech, please nominate them by October 7.

What He’s Been Up To

For the last three years, Durham has been working hard to develop opportunities for people to enter the tech workforce. Recently, Don’t Panic Labs has partnered with Doane University to create an intensive 9-month computer science education that shears away the general education components of a traditional four-year degree. Durham said it’s a good fit for underemployed individuals and for those who might already have a bachelor’s degree but want to switch careers. Visit https://dontpaniclabs.com/devlabs/ for more information. 

 

 

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