2014 CNBC Disruptor 50

Innovation Welcome. Disruption Required.

Ilana Golant, Editorial Director, Strategic Content
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Changing the course for tens of millions of frustrated drivers. Burning off 75 percent of health-care costs. Turning your living room into a factory floor. Offering Internet access from the Bermuda Triangle.

Welcome to the inaugural CNBC Disruptor 50 List. The term "disruption" is so often used and so hard to define. We're looking to expand the concept beyond the technology sector to identify disruptors who are changing the economy and overall business landscape. We've set out to find the disruptors in industries ranging from energy to manufacturing and from retail to financial services. These companies have entered the traditional sectors and turned them upside down. It's not about one product or delivery method. It's the power of a company to displace the established incumbents in its own industry and create a ripple effect throughout its economic ecosystem. A true disruptor's power is seen in its effects on multiple industries. It's about the private companies with the greatest potential to disrupt the public giants.

Technology not only empowers all disruptors today but is also accelerating the rate of disruption. Without technological innovations such as big data, mobile payments and the cloud, these disruptors would not exist. We're looking for immediate disruption, not for companies with future promise. The time is now. Companies need constantly to innovate to stay ahead of a fierce pack of innovators, lest the disruptors become the disrupted.

We've polled leading academics at the top business schools on the ever-changing nature of disruption and the elusive yet often misused label of disruptor. Understandably, the group couldn't agree on one definition but focused on factors such as the significant potential to replace incumbents, continuous innovation, the likelihood of "hypergrowth," the ability to scale quickly, the introduction of a new business model that applies across industries, and meeting a business need in a cheaper, easier, simpler way that is reliable, repeatable, and scalable. We shared these and other guiding principles with the top venture capital firms, industry analysts, CNBC beat reporters, and start-up investors who collectively nominated over 200 private, venture-backed companies in 10 industries.

CNBC editors and reporters reviewed and debated the nominations ultimately selecting 5 in each industry for the inaugural CNBC Disruptor 50. We'll track their progress in the coming year.