41. Skillz

A sport to surpass the NFL, with less injury risk

Founders: Andrew Paradise (CEO), Casey Chafkin
Launched: 2012
Funding: $28 million
Valuation: $84.7 million (PitchBook)
Disrupting: E-sports, video games, mobile
Rival: AlphaDraft

George Kavallines

Who knew there could be big money in popping bubbles? Skillz, the mobile e-sports technology platform does. The San Francisco-based company helps game developers make more money from their existing titles by creating a platform for tournaments to be played for cash or prizes.

Read More FULL LIST: 2017 DISRUPTOR 50

More than 10 million players from over 180 countries participated in Skillz events last year. Half of them were women. The company's top game in terms of prize money is a bubble-popping game called Bubble Shooter. Skillz paid out $390,000 last year to the game's top player. The company partners with more than 3,000 mobile game developers and claims to be responsible for about 30 percent of all e-sports prizes awarded last year. By making games like Bubble Shooter or Mini Golf Stars competitive and open for cash prizes, players are likely to engage more often and try other titles as well.

Former venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur Andrew Paradise, who learned to program at 7 years old, started the company in 2012 because he saw the opportunity in the fast-growing e-sports market. Today there are about 2.2 billion mobile gamers worldwide, according to NewZoo.

Skillz makes money mainly through advertising, sponsorships of the competitions, fees for online events and entry fees. Though it doesn't release revenue figures, the company does disclose that it awarded a total of $50 million to winning players in 2016. So far, Skillz has raised $28 million from venture firms, including Sequoia Capital and The Kraft Group, founded by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

Latest Special Reports

  • In a world of big box retail and e-commerce, successful business owners are taking new paths to Main Street success.

  • Covid-19 is expected to be with us for years even if the colossal investment in treatments and vaccines eventually manages to contain and control the global pandemic. The world will look dramatically different in its wake. As businesses begin the shift from crisis mode to planning for the lasting impact of Covid, CNBC’s journalists will hunt for cases of companies and industries taking a leading role in shaping Our New Future.

  • Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

    CNBC’s financial reporters weigh in on what every investor needs to know when it comes to companies' earnings reports.