An old friend from the open-source world, Ira Heffan, called me today about his company, TopCoder. Ira is a smart guy so I figured anything with which he was involved must be good.
And it is. At its most basic, TopCoder stages programming competitions, both for itself (that is, its direct consulting clients) and for third parties like Google. Companies hire TopCoder to stage competitions to build functionality for them (as well as to scout for new talent). TopCoder also provides consulting services and uses competitions to create the requested applications, and heavily reuses its portfolio of applications and components to drive down development costs.
As an example, TopCoder has its premier competition in Las Vegas next week at the 2008 TopCoder Open (May 12 through 15), hosting 120 finalists from 30 countries. $260,000 in prize money is on the line.
Ira told me that one developer made over $500,000 last year in TopCoder prize money. Not too shabby. This, coupled with recruiting interest from top companies means that developers may be winning themselves a new job, as well as a competition.