15. Quirky

Crowd inventing

Founder: Ben Kaufman
Date launched: 2009
Funding: $175 million
Industries disrupted: Manufacturing, consumer goods, e-commerce

Ben Kaufman, the founder of Quirky, has taken inventors into the 21st century. The six-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 Home Depot, Target, Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond. Inventors collect about 4 percent of sales. One young man who came up with the idea of a flexible power strip has already collected $700,000 in royalties since the product—Pivot Power—hit store shelves in 2011.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2015 DISRUPTOR 50

The company, which had revenue of just over $100 million last year, has developed 417 products to date but has also begun partnering with some heavy hitters to juice innovation and reach. Last year it announced a line of seven new smart-home products developed in partnership with GE that enable homeowners to control the lights, locks, heating and cooling through their smartphone. In April the company announced a new partnership, with Mattel, that will enable Quirky inventors to design toys for Mattel's brands, such as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher Price.

The same deal is in place for inventors: if the product gets made—either by Quirky or Mattel—the inventor gets the royalties. Investors like this slice of the "maker" economy, with Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and GE having invested $175 million in the company to date.

Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky
Source: Quirky
Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky
"As the smarthome space continues to become more anchored, we see many areas where we can establish ourselves as a viable market leader." -Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO, Quirky

Latest Special Reports

  • Piggybanks navigating a maze

    Americans are still shaken by the pandemic and the volatility of the markets. Many are working to manage the impact on their retirement and savings. The implications of the pandemic and economic volatility and changes in tax laws bring new considerations for individuals and especially those retirees planning for and managing future finances.

  • Financial advisors stress that now is the time for investors to get serious about year-end financial planning checkup.

  • More than ever, the hope for a sustainable world has gained real traction among the next generation, businesses, governments — and investors. There’s a long way to go. But technology, entrepreneurship and smart policymaking hold hope for turning green abstractions into tangible reality. CNBC’s Sustainable Future is the premier destination for tracking how smart investments, new ideas and tech innovation can generate commerce — and a world — with staying power.

Tech