CNBC Disruptor 50

The top concerns of world's most audacious visionary CEOs

Thinking like a disruptor

What does it take to turn a crazy, disruptive idea, into a successful, sustainable business?

That's what we were looking to understand in our survey of CEOs and founders of CNBC's Disruptor 50 companies. The message we heard from many of these trailblazers was summed up by George Kurtz, CEO of CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity software company that ranked No. 11 on this year's list and raised another $100 million from investors this week in a fundraising that valued the firm around $1 billion. "Running a business is always a balancing act. You have to break the rules, then be prepared to remake them," Kurtz said.

Meet the 2017 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies

A number of other founders and CEOs surveyed say they think of themselves as rule-breakers, but thoughtful ones.

"To be a successful leader, you need to know when to take risks, when to play by the rules and when to set the standard for others," says MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria.

That entrepreneurial moxy is a key if a start-up is get on the fast track to success, according to Jeff Jordan, a partner of Andreessen Horowitz who sits on the board of Airbnb and Pinterest, which were No. 1 and No. 31, respectively, on this year's CNBC Disruptor 50 list.

"The biggest thing you're investing in is the entrepreneur," he said. "It turns out early stage, middle stage, late stage, you're investing in the entrepreneur. So you're looking for someone who is passionate, can tell a story, and most of all, is persistent."

They also need to be brave and courageous, Jordan explained, because the one constant in a start-up is that things will go wrong all the time, so you need someone who can power through them.

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Taking this into account, perhaps it's no surprise that hiring qualified talent is the greatest challenge facing Disruptor 50 founders and CEOs we surveyed. Thirty-two of this year's Disruptor companies responded to the survey.

Staffing challenges was the top issue cited, by 44 percent of respondents, followed in a distant second by a related issue, delegating responsibility, cited by nearly 16 percent of those surveyed.

The complete history of the CNBC Disruptor 50

Another key topic surveyed was views on President Trump's agenda items and which they would like to see addressed by the end of 2017.

Topping the list was passing tax reform this year. The survey revealed that 37.5 percent wanted tax reform to happen by yearend, and 28.1 percent want infrastructure improvements. Immigration reform for highly-skilled workers came in third.

But CEOs and founders of fast-growing private companies are far more concerned about automation impacting the American workforce over the next decade than the Trump administration seems to be.

A majority (56.3 percent) say that 11 percent to 25 percent of America's workforce will be replaced by machines or software in the next 10 years.

No wonder, then, that a majority (68 percent) also say artificial intelligence is critically or very important to their businesses, which, by then, they all hope will be thriving, widely admired public companies.