It's been a strange 12 months for the incumbent Disruptors. Last October, Pure Storage became the first of the 2015 class to go public. Its debut was seen as a bellwether for future tech IPOs, and unfortunately, it was. The same was said for Square (a Disruptor in 2013 and 2015) when it went public in November. The tech IPO scene has been frozen since, and it may take a Disruptor to unfreeze it. Nutanix, a 2015 Disruptor, filed an S-1 in December, and its deal has been on hold since. Twilio (#39 on the 2016 Disruptor 50 list) filed its S-1 late last month.
The cooling off in the IPO market has done little to stop elite start-ups from raising money at ever-increasing valuations. At least 52 of the 750 companies nominated for this year's Disruptor 50 list have valuations of $1 billion or more, but only 35 of these unicorns made the final list. As we have learned in four years of identifying and honoring the most disruptive companies, the idea and the execution matter far more than the cash alone.
Here's how we picked the 2016 CNBC Disruptor 50.
Companies nominated were required to submit a detailed analysis, including key quantitative and qualitative information. All submitted materials were reviewed, and all 750 companies were researched and scored by a dedicated team of CNBC staff. Companies were scored using our proprietary blend of quantitative criteria, such as the amount of venture capital raised, off-the-record information on sales and user growth, along with qualitative criteria, including originality, scalability and creation of a new market or ecosystem.