41. Airbnb

Website to rent lodging

(Left to right) Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, co-founders of Airbnb
Source: Airbnb
(Left to right) Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, co-founders of Airbnb

Founders: Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky (CEO), Joe Gebbia
Date launched:
2008
Funding:
$776.4 million
Industry disrupted: Travel
Disrupting: Expedia, Extended Stay America, Marriott International
Competition: 9Flats, Couchsurfing.com, HomeAway

This San Francisco-based company joins a growing number of start-ups that are part of what's being dubbed the "sharing economy." Airbnb is an online marketplace that allows people with extra rooms—or even a couch—to rent to others visiting their city. Hosts set the nightly rate they want to charge, and Airbnb collects the guests' payments. It then keeps a small portion of the fee—typically 3 percent—and passes the rest on to the host.

Of course, the accommodations don't include the amenities that hotels offer, but the price is typically less, and the variety of properties that guests can choose from is greater than what chains such as Marriott, Starwood or Hilton can offer.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2014 CNBC DISRUPTOR 50

Airbnb has met opposition from an array of factions, including hotels that face competition from its services and tenant-rights groups who fear the company will diminish the availability of affordable housing. Despite the challenges it faces, the company has more than 600,000 listings in over 190 countries. It's backed by a whopping $776 million in venture capital by some of the biggest names in the industry, including Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

How did you come up with your big idea?

"After struggling to pay rent, my co-founder and I decided to open our home to people attending a conference in town. We had airbeds, so we called it an 'air and breakfast.'" -Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO

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