Crowd-sourced Innovation

23 Platforms to Monetize Your Skills by Solving Problems

Startups, Entrepreneurs, Designers, Coders, Freelancers, Scientists, Technologists and Students— This is for you!

Tiago Silva
10 min readJun 29, 2020

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The Power of the Crowd is an important driver for innovation and problem-solving for all organizations that want to commit to quality and long-term success. Established corporations, SMEs, non-profits and public organizations are using open and engaged online communities to solve their problems, see the example of NASA. These organizations are also known in the field as the Problem Owners.

Problem Owners interact with such communities and “fish” for solutions and technologies for a variety of reasons:

  • General technology/solution scouting
  • Solve a specific problem
  • Find talent for hiring purposes
  • Engage with general public/communities
  • Employer branding

Usually from the Problem Owner’s side the persons managing the challenge are members of the innovation team and/or from the specific group that has the problem to be solved. Business, design and more techy profiles, can be found in the teams promoting this kind of initiatives. They look for passionate and motivated individuals ou groups to enlarge their knowledge regarding a given issue and bring diversity into the process.

Corwdsourced problem-solving is a big opportunity for freelancers, coders, designers, scientists, students and even Startups to learn, improve skills or validate technologies. These are known as the Problem Solvers.

Problem Solvers look for acquiring or improving skills, meet think-alike people, know companies, meet opportunities and, of course, make money! The members of these online communities are moved by fun, prizes or glory, or all at the same time. This can mean being recognized by their expertise among influent people/recruiters or take it as a side hustle and make an extra income.

This list has some examples of ways to benefit from this phenomenon. There’s a challenge for any kind of person with any level of expertise or skill. The types of platforms/communities in this article are:

  • General Innovation Challenges: Ranging from well-known and defined problems like helping with the HR department to retain talent through Machine Learning to wicked and open ones like the space poop challenge. Depending on the circumstance the problem solver could either submit the solution individually or in group (or startup).
    Some of the challenges require truly specialized knowledge while others look for creativity rather than technical expertise.
  • Programming Competitions: There is an abundance of coding platforms either to learn from scratch or to practice. They provide a wide range of languages and tasks to progressively augment the coders capabilities. In this list only the platforms that allow to monetize the coding skills were considered.
  • User Research: Targeted at UX/UI professionals or general community, these platforms allow anyone to earn cash by reviewing websites and apps. All companies now have an online presence and for optimization reasons and user experience improvement, they often run tests with a restrict group of people to collect valuable insights.
    Most common tests take 15/20 minutes and the participant has to follow predefined guidelines and navigate through the website or app and verbalize his/her experience. Both the audio and the screen (sometimes de face) will be recorded to be further analysed by the test owner. The increased quality of the test can get to a better paycheck.
    All you need: Computer, tablet or smartphone, wi-fi connection, a quiet place and to install a little piece of software (most of the times).

The list has no particular order, no criteria was taken to present it as it is other than grouping them by themes. Each platform as a small description, useful info regarding the monetization potential and relevant links. Any comment or question is welcome!

General Innovation Challenges:

1. Open Innovation Platform

OIP launches monthly innovation calls with a set of challenges from different problem owners. There are two types of challenges: Proof-of-concept and Prototype. Usually it follows a process from Applications to evaluation and selection phase, ending in PoC/Prototype Generation within a given time frame.
Companies like Panasonic, Singapore Airlines and Kinder have used the platform.

👉 e.g.: Next Generation Smart Toys for Children ($25.000) | Sustainable Utilisation of Inflight Food Resources ($30.000)

🔗 Platform Link

2. Agorize

Agorize has general challenges oriented to students, dev/designers and startups. 1,200,000 people have collaborated on projects on Agorize from companies like Microsoft, AXA, Carrefour, Merck, Allianz, Youtube or Pepsico.

👉 e.g.: Code Life Ventilator Challenge ($200.000) | Smarter and Sustainable Economies (+$24.000)

🔗 Platform Link

3. Herox

The HeroX wants to help problem owners find innovative solutions through the power of crowd sourcing. The challenges run between 2 to 4 months, although more technical problems may take more time. There you can find challenges from NASA, NFL or the Government of South Australia

👉 e.g.: Honey, I Shrunk the NASA Payload ($160.000) | NFL Helmet Challenge ($1.000.000)

🔗 Platform Link

4. freelancer

freelancer.com is the market place for posting and getting much utilized by independent workers. Truth is many companies like SAP, Boeing or General Electric use the platform!

👉 e.g.: Blueberry App Design ($1000) | Box Design for Male Product ($400)

🔗 Platform Link

5. Grabcad

GrabCAD gathers a free CAD Library, Tutorials and Challenges. Organizations like NASA, GE and Stratesys look for professional designers that can deliver great results on problems related to 3D printing and CAD. The community has 7.540.000 members from around the globe.

👉 e.g.: NASA Lunar Sampling System Design Challenge ($7.000) | Airbus Challenge: Design a Water Pump for Flying Product ($10.000)

🔗 Platform Link

6. Open Ecosystem Network

Open Ecosystem Network is an open co-creation environment originally initiated by Nokia. The platform as 40,244 members distributed in 197 thematic communities (5G, IoT, Connected Mobility, Software Tools, Autonomous Tech). There you can find challenges from Telefonica, EIT Digital, Nokia, Municipalities.

👉 e.g.: Hack Skin Cancer ($5000) | Reboot the Earth

🔗 Platform Link

Programming Competitions

7. Codechef

Code Chef is a non-profit platform base din India with learning content and several competitions one-off and monthly. Companies can sponsor regular competitions or promote one themselves. The community has 10.000.000+ programmers from around the globe.

👉 e.g.: Snack Down (+$18.000) | Monthly Long Challenge ($400)

🔗 Platform Link

8. Topcoder

Topcoder has a 1.5 million member community in 190 different countries and promotes 1.400+ challenges per quarter. The platform wants to be an extension of companies that look for IT solutions like building an app, a website or related with data science. There you can find requests from Microsoft, MACY’S or SPACENET.

👉 e.g.: Ski Resort Scheduling & Booking System ($179.000) | Computer Vision Prediction Algorithm & Visualizer ($161.000)

🔗 Platform Link

9. Coderbyte

Coderbyte is a learning and training platform that unfolds as an hiring platform for developers. There you can find a large amount of challenges to solve with different levels of difficulty and companies (Nokia, Bose, Samsung or NVIDIA) will track your performance to assess your skills.

👉 e.g.: SQL Member Count (job)| React Button Toggle (job)

🔗 Platform Link

10. HackerRank

HackerRank has a 11 million developers community and it aims at helping them practice coding, prepare for interviews and get hired.

🔗 Platform Link

11. DevSkiller

Similar to the two platforms above, DevSkiller connects programmers with companies through challenges. The platform is trusted by companies like ING, Mango, PayPal and Deloitte.

👉 e.g.: Junior C# Developer — Visual Basic (job)| Junior Python Developer — Data Analysis (job)

🔗 Platform Link

12. Codility

Codility follows the line of the previous platforms and connects coders and companies for hiring purposes. There you’ll find a community of over 20.000 programmers and you’ll improve your coding skills while competing. Codility is used by companies like Deutsche Bank, Zalando and Asseco Poland.

👉 e.g.: The Palladium Challenge (job)| The Rhodium Challenge (job)

🔗 Platform Link

13. Codewars

Codewars brought martial arts and code together. Learning code, in any of the 29 languages available, is done by solving the kata — a coding challenge — and for that you’ll earn ranks, honor and respect among the top 500 community members. On the other side, recruiters like Facebook, Zoom, Apple and GE, are checking your progress and performance.

👉 e.g.: Sum of the First Nth Term of Series (job)| Convert String to Camel Case (job)

🔗 Platform Link

14. Leetcode

LeetCode is the home for recruiting of companies like Uber, Jet.com, Intel, Stripe and Pinterest. With over 1.550 questions to practice, Leetcode gathers a community of hundreds of thousands active users that participate in contests and earn awards.

👉 e.g.: Longest Palindromic Substring (job)| Trapping Rain Water (job)

🔗 Platform Link

15. CodinGame

CodinGame is one of the most interesting and fun platforms in this list, if I may. Imagine being learning or practicing your code while you are playing and possibly being rewarded with a job at the end of the day. Can’t get much better than this! CodinGame is based on turn-based games where users have to code their strategy and execute it to win the game. Companies like Nintendo, Warner Bros. and Deloitte are around to check your performance.

👉 e.g.: Spring Challenge 2020 (Monitor, Keyboard) | Ocean of Code (Artwork, T-shirt)

🔗 Platform Link

16. Hackerearth

HackerEarth is an online community with over 4.000.000 developers that engage in challenges and virtual hackathons. Companies like Amazon, Walmart Labs, Barclays and PayPal go fish for talent there.

👉 e.g.: Exact Sciences OCR Hack ($5.000)| Brute Force 1.0 ($325)

🔗 Platform Link

17. Google’s Coding Competitions

Google’s Coding Competitions is a well known platform that promotes individual and team-based coding challenges. In fact, the longest running global coding competition is their Code Jam. This is an opportunity to be part of a global community and level up your skills.

👉 e.g.: Code Jam ($15.000) | Hash Code ($7.000)

🔗 Platform Link

User Research

18. UserBrain

Userbrain that focuses on providing user testing for websites and apps. As a tester, after you join the community and do the initial test, if successful, you’re qualified to answer the requests that match your demographics. Companies like Spotify, Virgin and Rebull Mobile, use the platform to enhance their online presence.

💰 $3 per 5/15 min. approved test (Paypal)

🔗 Platform Link

19. Userlytics

Userlytics is a user research platform with clients such as trivago, Verizon, Glassdoor and American Airlines. It relies on collecting quantitative &qualitative metrics and advanced video capture & editing to provide insightful results. As a tester you’ll need to simply follow the given tasks and instructions and earn your fare share.

💰 $5 to 90$ for website/app/video commercial/other review (Paypal)

🔗 Platform Link

20. Userzoom

UserZoom Inc. promotes 15–20 min. tests where participants can influence product experiences and get paid quickly and easily. All you need is a computer, tablet or smartphoone, wi-fi and get the Userzoom’s eCertified testing software.

💰 $2 to $10 avg. depending on the complexity of the study (Paypal)

🔗 Platform Link

21. Userfeel

Userfeel is trusted by corganizations like 99designs, Rakuten, Lowe’s and Tripadvisor.

💰 $10 for a 10–20 min. test (Paypal or Amazon Gift Cards)

🔗 Platform Link

22. Trymyui.com

Trymyui is used by Bose, NBC, Amazon and British Airways, to improve their user interfaces and collect user feedback. It promotes crowdsourcing usability research tests and provides useful analysis tools for its clients. As a tester you’ll have your screen and voice recorded and you’ll be asked to answer some written questions.

💰 $10 for 20min. test (Paypal)

🔗 Platform Link

23. Playbookux

Playbookux has been used by Uber, Levi’s, Google and EY as an international user testing tool. Their software handles recruiting, incentivizing, transcribing, and analyzing the videos with A.I..

💰 $10/$30/$60 for 15/30/60 minute test (Paypal)

🔗 Platform Link

Anyone is good at something. These platforms are open doors for a sea of opportunities to improve skills and meet brilliant people & great companies.

The list was curated and only the most interesting ones found in the research process and the ones I used myself, were considered. Happy to hear from you and your experience with these or other platforms.

Tiago Silva

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