Founders: Garrett Camp, Travis Kalanick (CEO)
Date launched: 2009
Funding: $1.5 billion
Industries disrupted: Transportation, Travel
Disrupting: Avis Budget Group (Zipcar), New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, OpenTable
Competition: GetAround, Lyft, SideCar
If there were a poster child for the so-called sharing economy—where technology connects people with goods and services—Uber would be it. The San Francisco-based company enables people to hail a ride within five minutes of tapping a few keys on their smartphone. The service is available in about 70 cities worldwide, and the five-year-old company already has nearly 400 employees.
By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through an app, Uber makes cities more accessible for riders and generates more income for drivers. The company started out as a private luxury-car service for Silicon Valley movers and shakers. Then co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick had his "aha" moment when he realized that bringing together passengers with drivers for hire was a business model that could work nearly anywhere.
Read MoreFULL LIST: 2014 DISRUPTOR 50
Not surprisingly, Uber has had its dust-ups with well-entrenched taxi and limousine industries in the major cities where it had expanded, including New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. They argue that Uber is an unlicensed taxi service. Kalanick counters that the company just created the software that brings drivers and riders together. In the end, Uber helps folks get around major cities without having to drive their own cars. That's good for the environment—and everyone's patience.
Despite challenges, the company raised $1.2 billion from a consortium of investors led by Fidelity Investments in early June.
How did you come up with your big idea?
"I live in San Francisco, and it’s really hard to get a ride. So my co-founder and I just wanted to push a button and get a ride—and we wanted it to be a classy ride."