The Challenge Model

Our challenge model, the foundation of Topcoder, allows clients to work on any scale of project with guaranteed outcomes.

The Challenge Model is one of our key solutions. It provides clients with multiple approaches to solving a problem and puts the decision directly in your hands.

How the Challenge Model works

See how the Challenge Model translates to success for our customers

  • Challenge model basics

    • Topcoder challenges are open competitions hosted on our platform.
    • Challenges are small units of work. Multiple challenges deliver a project.
    • You can launch challenges to the community yourself through Self-service, or benefit from challenges run on your behalf with Full Service.
  • Atomization of work

    • Platform architects break down a projects’ requirements into smaller units of work.
    • Architects are community members who are adept at taking a customer’s needs and designing a challenge that delivers the optimal solution.
    • Atomization is core to why our Challenge Model is so effective—we’re able to reduce the workload of any one member, we can run multiple challenges at once, and dramatically speed delivery for our customers.
  • Opt-in model & transparency

    • Our model is an opt-in model. Members can see the competitions and pick the things that interest them.
    • This drives talent hyper-specialization (UI design competition, front-end development competition, back-end development competition, QA competition, Algorithm competition, etc.)
    • Members can also see who has registered for the competition, and see each other’s ratings.
    • Competitors who do not win are able to see the winning submission and learn from it.
  • Competition drives quality

    • All challenges have a scoring mechanism or scorecard.
    • Members compete to win the challenge and deliver the best solution.
    • Prize money is awarded to members with winning solutions, and depends on the type of challenge (see the FAQ below for more details).
    • You receive outcomes from our platform’s strongest contributors, and can choose to implement whichever solution best fits your needs.

Customers see solutions

  • Different Approaches

    All organizations suffer from cognitive fixation and group think. The challenge model breaks this by removing the traditional work barriers, and opening problems up to communities with different education, skills, and experience to provide solutions.

  • Best Solutions

    Combined with multiple approaches, the Challenge Model creates a network effect, driving the quality of solutions into the extreme value range as more skillsets compete to make their solution the right one.

  • Performance Based

    In the traditional model, you pay employees for their time, not their output. The Challenge Model flips this. It produces a hierarchy of the best performing solutions to a problem. You pay only for the deliverables, not for the hours spent developing them.


How do members get paid in the Challenge Model?

In the challenge model, members compete for prize money which they can see when they register. Code competitions have a 1st and 2nd place prize and both get paid. Hackathons, ideations, and design competitions have multiple prizes, typically 1-5. Code sprint competitions might have a checkpoint or bonus prize.

What about the people who don’t win?

All competitors will benefit from the challenge model regardless if they win or not. Competitors who don’t win are able to learn from the winning submissions. This will motivate and prepare them for future competitions.

How long do challenges run for?

Challenges can run for a few hours up to 7 days depending on the challenge type. Submission phase leads to the review phase and as soon as a solution is chosen, the competition is over.

Who decides which solution is better?

For design challenges, the customer decides which solution best suits their needs. Though there may be many possible approaches, the customer ultimately decides. On development challenges, Topcoder uses a well defined scorecard to help determine which code solution works best.

Do I have to run the challenge myself?

The short answer is “no”. You can launch a challenge through Self Service or have it launched on your behalf through the Full Service team. Topcoder architects will monitor the challenge operations based on your criteria guidelines.

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