18. Quirky

R&D innovation platform

Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky
Source: Quirky
Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky

Founder: Ben Kaufman (CEO)
Date launched:
2009
Funding: $175.3 million
Industries disrupted: Consumer Goods, Retail, Venture Capital
Disrupting: Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Helen of Troy
Competition: AngelList, GeniusCrowds, Kickstarter

You know that great idea you have for a gadget that helps you locate your keys in the morning? Well, Quirky wants to hear about it. The 5-year-old New York City-based company culls ideas submitted to its website and the best ones get made and then sold in some of the world's biggest retailers, including Target; Bed, Bath and Beyond; and Best Buy. Inventors—or even someone who simply sketches out a product idea that eventually gets produced by Quirky—collect about 4 percent of sales.

One 24-year-old who came up with the idea of a flexible power strip has already made more than $400,000 in royalties. To date, the company has developed 311 products, most of which are manufactured in Asia.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2014 CNBC DISRUPTOR 50

Venture capital big shots, including Andreessen Horowitz, have kicked in more than $175 million so far. They're enamored with the company's ability to juice innovation and get products to market faster than some of the biggest and most established manufacturers. Inventors love it because now their ideas can become something more than cocktail party chatter.

The company is also a cool marketer. It recently teamed up with Uber to begin promoting the Aros—an app-controlled air conditioner Quirky produced in partnership with GE—to New York City residents.

How did you come up with your big idea?

"The idea for Quirky was born out of my experience starting my first company, mophie. I realized how difficult it was to commercialize a great idea, and the process made me want to build a platform where all great inventions could be realized." -Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO

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