The Fundamental Difference Between TopCoder and Elance or oDesk
There comes a time when an overall market or methodology rises into the limelight where a parsing is needed to separate the players sharing this earned spot on the proverbial stage. For Crowdsourcing of software development and design, that time is likely now. Being at the very front end of our marketing and business development efforts and often finding myself talking TopCoder at live events, I am bombarded with responses that sound something like; “Ohhh yeah, like eBay for coders, what’s that other one called oDesk?” To which I gently correct the ship by explaining in more detail where and how these models differ in very dramatic ways. Because I’ve spent the last 8 days mainly at live events talking Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation, let’s just say this topic is “on the brain”. There are several differences in the models, but one stands above the rest.
Eliminating a Single Point of Failure via Competition
At either Elance or oDesk you are sourcing an individual, likely based on a combination of their rating and their pricing.
At TopCoder you are sourcing a community, comprised of individuals who self-select the work they want to register for and compete on.
If you are sourcing an individual and they under-perform, your project suffers.
If you are sourcing a competitive community, you have multiple contributors on every piece of every project, submitting for you. This means you have innate redundancy, eliminating any single point of failure.
There are many other differences, such as the Elance and oDesk model really being a compelling market for smaller and medium-sized businesses who just have a very specific project (or part of a project) they need to get done, and this neo-market is a great option for them. Conversely, TopCoder is focused on Enterprise Open Innovation (EOI) that enables enterprises to continually create digital assets via Open Innovation competitions managed by an enterprise ready platform. We serve different markets.
How does NASA leverage TopCoder Enterprise Open Innovation? See the Case Study
oDesk and Elance are very rarely in competition with TopCoder and fundamentally, they provide work for what is a growing freelance economy where hyperspecialized skills and knowledge are the new currency. So, I believe it is fair to put these models into the same ocean – where all boats rise with the tide – but it is important to realize we are steering very different vessels, powered by very different engines. Our engine is competition and competition eliminates the single point of failure.
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image credit: martinlawrence.com