2014 CNBC Disruptor 50

Wacky and original start-up ideas that raised millions


The 2014 Disruptor 50: Honorable mentions

Tom and Steve | Moment | Getty Images

In 2013, CNBC.com created its list of "disruptors." These were private venture-backed companies that included Twitter, Buzzfeed and Spotify, all of whom shook up the status quo, threatened the public giants or otherwise upset the apple cart.

This year a new crop of innovative businesses has been chosen from more than 500 nominees for CNBC.com's list. Sadly, only 50 of these companies could be selected, which means that hundreds of noteworthy new businesses with interesting ideas had to be turned away.

Still, it seemed unfair to send them all away without some kind of consolation prize, so for that reason, CNBC.com presents its list of honorable mentions. These 10 companies are not necessarily disruptors, but they are original concepts that have raised millions of dollars in venture capital.

Read ahead to see CNBC.com's list of honorable mentions from this year's pool of disruptor nominees. We're sure a few of them will make you ask, "Why didn't somebody think of it before?"

By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 18 June 2014

First Opinion

Source: First Opinion

First Opinion is a San Francisco-based business that's geared toward moms who want to be able to consult a doctor about their sick child and get an opinion right away via a handheld device. The company's mobile app allows users to text doctors, all of whom also happen to be moms.

According to the company's Facebook page, its mission is to "reimagine the way the human race visits the doctor." Since it describes its team of doctors as "standing by 24 hours a day," they've already made that happen. In January the company raised $1.2 million in a seed round led by Felicis Ventures, with additional funding from Greylock, Yuri Milner and 500 Startups to help recruit more doctors and grow its team.

Living Proof

Source: Living Proof

Living Proof is a high-end hair and beauty product company co-owned by actress Jennifer Aniston. That fact alone would normally be enough to get it into stores, but its unusual history makes it even more remarkable.

In 2004, MIT professor and biotech inventor Bob Langer researched the ingredients used in conventional beauty products. He discovered that the industry had been using the same cheap materials for years, which in turn made for unreliable products with short shelf lives.

Langer assembled his own team of scientists, most of whom didn't know the first thing about gloss, lip liner or foundation, and partnered with such well-known beauty industry personalities as Ward Stegerhoek and Mitch DeRosa. According to their website, "beauty met brilliant science, and Living Proof was born." To date its raised $53 million in financing.


Source: Borro.com

Borro provides quick personal-asset loans of more than $1 million secured against personal assets such as fine art, classic cars and jewelry. It picks up a client's collateral, stores it safely and then brings it back when the loan is paid off. If this sounds similar to a pawn shop, you're not far off. However, the clientele, which CEO and founder Paul Aitken calls "mass affluent," is very different.

"People who use our service have high earnings and are living in a way above-average-priced property—usually very city-centric," he said. He initially funded the company himself, but since bringing in additional investors, it's raised more than $150 million of equity. He said that the average loan value is currently $15,000 and predicted that it would climb to $18,000 by year's end.


Source: WhistleGPS

Most dog owners become highly distressed when a pet goes missing, even if it's only for a short period of time. Steve Eidelman and Ben Jacobs, the founders of Whistle, understand this, so they have created products that allow owners to monitor a dog's every move.

The Whistle Activity Monitor and WhistleGPS both attach to the dog collar. The former gives updates on a pet's health, while the latter tells owners of his or her whereabouts, all by sending the information to the owner's mobile app.

"Often, by the time we realize our pets are sick or lost, it can be too late to take action," Jacobs said. "Whistle's goal is to transform preventative care and veterinary research for pets everywhere." He added that Whistle had recently closed a $6 million Series A round of funding, with participation from Red Swan Ventures.


Source: Mark43

Mark43 creates mobile software for the law-enforcement community. According to CEO and co-founder Scott Crouch, he and fellow co-founders Flo Mayr and Matt Polega were inspired by the idea at Harvard, where a class project teamed them up with the Massachusetts State Police.

"When we started working with the troopers, we saw that law-enforcement software in general is about 20 years behind the times," he said. "The entrepreneurial and tech community has really forgotten our first responders. They deserve the best technology available, and we want to give it to them."

Mark43 has raised $2 million of venture capital from such firms as Spark Capital, General Catalyst, Lowercase Capital and SV Angel. The software is already in use in California and Massachusetts and is scheduled to expand into other parts of the U.S. in the fall of 2014.


Source: Telepigeon.com

People with a loved one languishing in prison face many challenges. Loneliness. Shame. Waiting. And perhaps worst of all, the cost of all those telephone calls. Telepigeon may not be able to do much about the first three problems, but they excel at keeping the cost of phone calls down by as much as 70 percent.

Friends and family are provided with a local telephone number with which to reach their incarcerated loved ones. In the event that the prisoner is transferred to another facility, users can change the local number immediately and at no cost. The company is powered by Pigeonly, a tech start-up founded by CEO Frederick Hutson, himself a former prison inmate.


Source: BusinessWire

Hospital-acquired infections can prey upon patients who go to medical facilities for care. When hospital staffers do a lousy job of keeping the environment sanitary, conditions such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can set in, sometimes making the patient more sick than he or she was when admitted.

Xenex addresses this problem. Founded in 2008 by epidemiologists Mark Stibich and Julie Stachowiak, it uses ultraviolet technology to decontaminate medical facilities. Nearly 200 U.S. hospitals now use its room disinfection system, according to its website. To date it has raised more than $11 million in venture capital from such investors as Richard Yoo and Battery Ventures.

Rap Genius

Source: Rap Genius

Long ago, parents recoiled at the smutty lyrics of the pop songs their children listened to. Well, we've come a long way since "Let's Spend the Night Together," and now parents have "Wiggle (Big Fat B**t)" to contend with … if they could only comprehend the lyrics. Luckily for them, there's Rap Genius, a crowdsourced website that deciphers hip-hop lyrics for the benefit of its users.

If you're tempted to dismiss Rap Genius as just some fly-by-night music website, don't. They've raised $15 million from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and they currently get 30 million unique visitors per month. The company is currently hiring, and offers such perks as health, dental and vision benefits alongside its "bomb salary and equity."

d.light Design

Source: d.Light Design | Facebook

d.light Design was founded in 2007 by former Stanford Design School students Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun. Goldman had just returned to the U.S. from Africa, where he had seen firsthand the dangerous conditions in a developing world that was still without electricity. Inspired by the experience, the two men developed a prototype solar lantern and vowed to make renewable lighting products available worldwide.

Today the company's solar-powered products are available in more than 40 countries. It made headlines in February when it secured $11 million in Series C financing, for a total of $40 million raised from investors overall.


Source: Grouper | Twitter

Dating pretty much sucks. From the awkwardness to the flop-sweat to the silent pauses, it's an experience few people relish. The founders of Grouper , who call themselves "experts in awesome nights," have decided to tackle this painful endeavor by turning it into an exercise in which two groups of three friends each meet and mingle.

A social club that connects groups of people in different cities, Grouper requires that participants apply for a membership. Once that's approved and the member's friends have been accepted, it organizes what basically amounts to a gang date, in which group A meets group B in a location of the company's choosing. The rest is up to the daters, whom the website says only have to "show up and have a good time." To date it has raised an undisclosed amount of angel and venture capital financing from Y Combinator, SV Angel and Harrison Metal.