CNBC has announced its call for nominations for this year's Disruptor 50 list — click here for details and to submit nominations. As we search for the fast-growing private companies challenging the status quo, those that could become the public giants of tomorrow, it seems we're at a tipping point.
Much of the disruption of the past decade — and the first six years of Disruptor 50 companies — was built on the platform of the smartphone and the access to the cloud it enabled. But now Apple and Samsung have both warned about slowing sales indicating market saturation without a technological leap to drive growth. So what is the new catalyst on the horizon? What new technology will provide a platform for the next generation of entrepreneurs?
5G, expected to roll out nationwide in the next year, provides new opportunities for entrepreneurs to build connectivity into devices, to bring the Internet of Things to life. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will further automate so many things in our world and those we don't see — from customer support to smarter manufacturing. And the rise of blockchain is enabling all sorts of new transparent, global interactions.
One sign of what's next: venture capital funding. Overall VC funding increased 30 percent in the United States last year, to nearly $100 billion. The trend was bigger investment rounds, on average, but a smaller number of deals, according to the PwC Money Tree Report.
The category that saw the biggest jump in funding last year was artificial intelligence: Those start-ups saw a 72 percent jump in funding, to $9.3 billion. As AI companies become more mature, the number of AI companies drawing funding actually decreased from the prior year as the average funding amount grew higher.
The category drawing the second-largest piece of the venture capital pie was fintech. These start-ups in the financial services space saw a 38 percent jump in funding, to $11 billion, with more companies drawing backing than in prior years. In third place, funding of digital health companies jumped 21 percent, to $8.6 billion, with the number of deals pretty much flat from 2017, according to the PWC Money Tree Report.
One other notable trend, which speaks to established giants' interest in avoiding disruption themselves, is the fact that corporate America is betting even more on start-ups. Corporate VC funds invested nearly $67 billion in start-ups last year. That's an 83 percent increase from 2017, according to PitchBook.
As we look ahead to the next generation of growth, it seems what it'll take for start-ups to be successful is changing. It's not just a fresh use for an emerging technology. As we saw with the fall and then rise again of Uber, and the persistent success of companies such as Warby Parker, which value giving back, we're seeing other factors play into companies' long-term success. Increasingly we're seeing the importance of management that embraces diversity, an inclusive corporate culture and the value of listening to consumers. We'll see what other additional management values become crucial if the economy hits a downturn and resources become more scarce.
Here's a look at the guidelines for the Disruptor 50 list and the track record of past companies on the list.
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