Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2010 (Revised May 2012)

TopCoder (A): Developing Software through Crowdsourcing

by Karim R. Lakhani, David A. Garvin and Eric Lonstein

Abstract

TopCoder's crowdsourcing-based business model, in which software is developed through online tournaments, is presented. The case highlights how TopCoder has created a unique two-sided innovation platform consisting of a global community of over 225,000 developers who compete to write software modules for its over 40 clients. Provides details of a unique innovation platform where complex software is developed through ongoing online competitions. By outlining the company's evolution, the challenges of building a community and refining a web-based competition platform are illustrated. Experiences and perspectives from TopCoder community members and clients help show what it means to work from within or in cooperation with an online community. In the case, the use of distributed innovation and its potential merits as a corporate problem solving mechanism is discussed. Issues related to TopCoder's scalability, profitability, and growth are also explored.

Keywords: Business Model; Innovation and Invention; Two-Sided Platforms; Motivation and Incentives; Social and Collaborative Networks; Competition; Software; Technology Industry;

Citation:

Lakhani, Karim R., David A. Garvin, and Eric Lonstein. "TopCoder (A): Developing Software through Crowdsourcing." Harvard Business School Case 610-032, January 2010. (Revised May 2012.)