TopCoder (A): Developing Software through Crowdsourcing

Posted: 12 Feb 2012

See all articles by Karim R. Lakhani

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group; Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

David A. Garvin

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Eric Lonstein

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: January 15, 2010

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.

Learning Objective: To detail mechanisms of a platform focused on prize-based innovation for complex software projects involving over 225000 members. Issues of managing clients, community and firm employees are presented.

Suggested Citation

Lakhani, Karim R. and Garvin, David A. and Lonstein, Eric, TopCoder (A): Developing Software through Crowdsourcing (January 15, 2010). Harvard Business School General Management Unit Case No. 610-032. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2002884

Karim R. Lakhani (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6741 (Phone)

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

David A. Garvin

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Eric Lonstein

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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