Founders: Dan Berkenstock, John Fenwick, Ching-Yu Hu, Julian Mann
CEO: Tom Ingersoll
Date launched: 2009
Funding: $91 million
Industries disrupted: Aerospace, Enterprise Technology, Software
Disrupting: ADS, DigitalGlobe, Google
Competition: Kymeta, Planet Labs, SSL
Four friends attending Stanford University's graduate school started Skybox Imaging in 2009. Their goal: Develop a platform that could process, store, analyze and distribute massive amounts of high-resolution data gathered from satellites high over the Earth. These information-rich images—and eventually, HD video—could then be used by major companies to help monitor their operations around the globe as well as aid humanitarian organizations in the aftermath of disasters.
In fact, the company recently helped out in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in early March. What makes Skybox different is that the start-up builds its satellites in-house and then writes its own image-processing algorithms.
Read MoreFULL LIST: 2014 CNBC DISRUPTOR 50
The company launched its first satellite—SkySat-1—on board a Russian rocket in November; by the end of 2015, plans call for eight more Skybox satellites to be hovering above the planet. Ultimately, customers will be able to see whatever spot on Earth that interests them, up to eight times per day. Shortly after being selected for the 2014 Disruptor 50 list, Skybox announced that Google would acquire the company for $500 million.
On the company's disruptive impact:
"The company approaches the planet like one big data set ... to help businesses discover granular things, like the number of ships in a port, the volume of oil in a refinery storage tank and the number of trees being slashed in a Brazilian rain forest."