Doug Durham and Carl Steffen have known each other for a while.
Steffen is the Owner and Founder of Stone Fin Technology. Don’t Panic Labs and Stone Fin recently announced that they have joined forces under the Don’t Panic Labs brand.
“Stone Fin is in a similar line of business although our projects and customers never really overlapped,” Durham said. “Last winter I just came out and asked him whether he would consider joining Don’t Panic Labs.”
Stone Fin works largely in the government and healthcare verticals with clients mostly outside of Nebraska, while the Don’t Panic Labs customer base is more local and private sector.
“We have pretty good traction here in the private sector in Lincoln, some in Omaha,” Durham said. “For me, this is like wow, we might have the same kind of influence in government.”
Steffen feels his company has reached a plateau.
“We’ve been riding a roller coaster trying to get to the next level,” he said. “I would need to make a big investment in marketing and hiring more people.”
That realization sparked the conversation about joining forces.
“They have a lot of the administrative stuff figured out,” Steffen said. “I’m hoping our experience will add to the Don’t Panic Labs base.”
Another factor playing into the decision was having the entire Stone Fin team go through the Don’t Panic Labs software design and development clinic last year. That demonstrated to Durham how closely the two companies’ philosophies aligned.
“Carl’s team shares the same value of building sustainable software,” he said. “It’s always been a good cultural fit.”
This is not simply a matter of adding resources for Don’t Panic Labs. Durham sees an opportunity for synergy.
“The interesting thing is the notion that bringing Carl and his team into Don’t Panic Labs doesn’t just add development capacity,” Durham said. “We looked at this and said, let’s create an environment where we can set up a runway to bring our knowledge, experience and skills to a whole new area that can benefit the state.”
Leveraging Don’t Panic Lab’s administrative and process capacity will enable the Stone Fin team to aggressively pursue new business in the government and healthcare space, an area where they have had success.
“Trent (Fellers, former Lincoln City Council member) is going on four years soliciting business in the government space,” Steffen said. “We’ve done a workflow management system for the Nebraska Energy Office that dramatically improved their workflow.”
The unique challenge of selling into the government market is not lost on Durham and Steffen.
“It annoys me that we go out of state to hire resources for state government projects,” Durham said. “We have all this talent and capability here to make a significant dent in the efficiency of software development for government projects. In today’s tight budget environment, we have a good value proposition.”
Building relationships and helping government officials understand how software can improve operations can be a long process.
“Our struggle is getting agencies to understand flawed processes from a design/efficiency standpoint,” Steffen said. “With the Nebraska Energy Office project, we turned a process that took over four months to complete into something that could be done in less than two weeks.”
Steffen is hoping to gain the attention of more government officials even if a project is not involved.
“We want to talk to government entities even if they don’t have a project,” he said. “That’s the message I’m trying to get out there. Let us show you what we can do, and it won’t cost a dime.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.