You just designed the perfect circuit board but don't have the cash to fund its manufacture. Seeed Studio, an "open hardware" company in Shenzhen, China, helps tinkerers move their concepts onto the assembly line. Inventors can submit an electronics schematic to Seeed for review; a community of inventors and customers then improves the design with feedback. If interest is high, Seeed builds the device, sells it online, and shares its profits with the inventor.
In 2006, Netflix made its vast database of user-generated movie ratings available to the public, offering $1 million to the first team that could improve the accuracy of the company’s recommendations by 10 percent. That’s a lot of money—but Netflix could have spent much more on in-house development, with no guarantees. By 2009, the top team had its prize, and Netflix had its algorithm. Other groups took notice and are now holding their own contests, asking statisticians, computer scientists and basement hobbyists alike to mine complex data sets for solutions to some difficult problems.