Startup Advice: Crowdsourcing Software Development And Testing

It is becoming well-known that crowdsourcing platforms are available to fulfill almost any business function.  This fact can be a massive benefit to cash-strapped startups that are not at the point where they can staff entire departments, or even for startups that opt to remain lean.  Of course, which business tasks should be crowdsourced depends on the business model and resources available.  It is not a good idea to assume that we should arbitrarily crowdsource everything.

However, when it comes to programming and testing, the crowdsourcing model can be a perfect fit.  While it is true that for most startups the technical aptitude of those involved in the core design or idea cannot be farmed out, no software solution is monolithic.  Furthermore, testing is typically task based (working from a defect list that accrues during the course of development) and aside from being modular in nature it benefits from being performed by someone looking at it with a fresh set of eyes.  Let us take a closer look at crowdsourcing testing and development.


Sites such as eLance, TopCoder and Bountify offer opportunities to leverage development talent from around the web.  Since they are based on competitive bidding and contests, they allow development at a much lower cost than full-time staff.  Of course, quality should never take a back seat to cost and any startup that crowdsources its software components needs to carefully screen its contributors and pay careful attention to the proposals or solutions they submit.  Furthermore, the decision to use crowdsourcing encourages a development team to give strong consideration to the modularity of its designs.


In a way, internal software testing is a form of “outsourcing” given that it involves a transfer of knowledge and labor between teams.  Crowdsourcing for testing mimics this dynamic.  It is also very likely to help an organization avoid the “happy path” test methodology in which not enough branches and possibilities are checked.  An outsider to the organization may have a much fresher view of the product and a perspective much closer to that of a customer in the field.

TopCoder and eLance offer testing services as well as development.  However, there are also dedicated test platforms such as 99tests, uTest and Pay4Bugs.

Crowdsourcing these items can be a great way to improve your process without breaking the bank.

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