Hackathon and online technology challenge contest provider ChallengePost (disclosure: ChallengePost is the current service provider for TC Disrupt hackathon events) is pretty proud of its 2013 – the company awarded $7.5 million in prizes to developers and software creators this past year, topped 400,000 registered users on its platform, and hosted 130 hackathons and online competitions. That represents 100 percent growth in business compared to 2012, but already the company is turning its attention to something new: supporting the kind of innovation that happens within a confined time frame at hackathons, but on a continuing basis.
“The future of every industry is a battle to create an ecosystem that has a platform for developers, and the developers and designers themselves,” ChallengePost founder and CEO Brandon Kessler explained in an interview. “That to me is a hugely important aspect of the future and it’s already coming true, and ChallengePost sees ourself as the only platform that excels at developer marketing.”
Currently, ChallengePost powers both the kind of 24-hour in-person hackathon that we host at our Disrupt Events, as well as longer format online events they call “challenges” that could span weeks, and that generally produce much more polished and usable software. Embark, the transit app acquired by Apple earlier this year, was first built at a ChallengePost online challenge event, for example, as was Movil, the video startup acquired by Samsung to boost its smart TV platform.
“The thing I am most focused on is allowing software makers to submit their software outside of a challenge, as well as inside of a challenge, so developers can showcase their work any time,” Kessler said. “In order to best inspire developers to build and showcase software, we want to do it beyond just challenges and hackathons and allow them to do it any time. The time-constrained nature of challenges has limited our ability to respond to the intense demand to showcase software.”
“No customer has ever said ‘we only want to engage developers between the months of March and April,’ and no software maker has said ‘We only want to show our software to the world between the months of January and April,'” Kessler added. “They want to do it all year round, and that’s where we as a company are at right now.”
Of course, ChallengePost will continue to offer its platform for contests, hackathons and challenges, but the sense I get from Kessler is that they see a lot of opportunity for revenue and platform engagement left on the table dealing only with time-constrained competitions. The need to build a platform with a rich developer ecosystem doesn’t ever go away, and while a high-stakes, high profile hackathon draws a brief spike in attention from software builders, having that fizzle away after the fact because there’s no easy support system in place once the contest closes makes little sense.
Kessler is keeping mum on the specifics around how a ChallengePost product that isn’t time-constrained will work exactly, and when it’ll go live for users, but he says they’ll be back with more information soon. For now, with the company at the peak of its popularity, all that’s certain is that this is a good time for ChallengePost to capitalize on is customer interest and user engagement to take its platform to the next level.