In a time where malicious hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in popular software and websites that they can exploit, companies are willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money to find those vulnerabilities before hackers have the opportunity to do any damage. That’s why bug bounty rewards and hackathon prize money are increasing so much, because who better to find these vulnerabilities than a hacker? It’s gotten to the point where it’s well within the realm of possibility to become a professional hacker and make a living by finding and reporting vulnerabilities to companies. Isn’t it a little weird to know that we live in a world where professional gaming and professional hacking are viable careers?
Hackathon prize money keeps rising each year as organizations learn to take advantage of their value. Runner-up cash prizes are now in the thousands, and grand-prize payouts are as high as $1 million. There is now a compelling argument for ambitious programmers to live off hackathons: They can forget the long-term slog of building a startup and instead focus on the fun part — the first few days of innovation. Another motive to becoming a “pro” hacker is to find the perfect idea. Rather than marrying an idea without investor backing from the start, potential startup founders can attend hackathons until they win a big investment deal — essentially removing much of the risk of a startup. For example, Brian Clarke, a young entrepreneur, claims to have won more than $150,000 in cash-equivalent prizes, which are helping “fund his startup journey.” In one case, he claims to have won $5,000 for an app that took him four hours to build. The potential of generating around $100,000 per year from hackathons is becoming a possibility. Similar to being a pro gamer, it’s hard, but possible (some hackathons with large payouts are listed at the bottom of this article). Strategically, programmers would need to go where the money is big and play the numbers. The smaller prizes could pay living expenses. The idea is to get so good at hackathons that you eventually win big, like the $90,000 or $800,000 hackathons.