2019 was another record year for the CNBC Disruptor 50, with more than 1,200 companies vying for just 50 coveted spots on the seventh annual list. The companies that made the final cut share a common goal of developing revolutionary new technology into scalable business models to create the next generation of great public companies.
This year's Disruptor 50 companies have the potential to upend multibillion-dollar industries. Combined, they have raised over $46 billion in venture capital at an implied valuation of more than $266 billion, according to PitchBook. All that despite the fact that three of the most valuable companies from previous Disruptor 50 lists — Uber, Pinterest and Lyft — went public earlier this year, thus becoming ineligible to make the list again.
As the parade of unicorn IPOs marches on, there are plenty more out there that remain eligible for the list. A record 36 of this year's Disruptor 50 companies have valuations of $1 billion or more.
For some an eye-popping valuation would be reason enough to put a company on a list of top start-ups. But our approach to selecting the Disruptor 50 focuses on the ideas and the execution behind the big numbers, not just the numbers.
All private, independently owned start-up companies founded after Jan. 1, 2004, were eligible to be nominated for the Disruptor 50 List. For the first time, CNBC limited the age of Disruptor 50 companies to 15 years. This decision was based on an editorial review of venture-backed companies and of past Disruptor 50 companies and nominees. We determined that the age limit would help keep the list aligned with its ongoing mission to identify the next generation of innovative companies on a path to becoming investable via the public markets.
Companies nominated were required to submit a detailed analysis, including key quantitative and qualitative information.
Quantitative metrics included off-the-record information on sales and user growth, and data from a pair of outside data partners. PitchBook provided data on fundraising and implied valuations, and we used IBISWorld's database of industry reports to compare the companies based on the industries they are attempting to disrupt.
CNBC's Disruptor 50 Advisory Council — a group of 66 leading thinkers in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship (see list of members below) — then ranked the quantitative criteria by importance and ability to disrupt established industries and public companies. Again this year the council found that scalability and user growth were the most important criteria. These categories received the highest weighting, but the ranking model is designed to ensure that companies must score highly on a wide range of criteria to make the final list.
More from CNBC Disruptor 50:
Indigo Ag is a start-up leading an agricultural revolution to help feed the planet
This app has saved Americans $10 billion on prescriptions so far
Impossible Foods' mission to mass-produce the fake burger of the future
Companies were also asked to submit important qualitative information, including descriptions of recent company developments and a list of the key technologies driving their businesses. A team of more than 50 CNBC editorial staff, along with members of the advisory council, read the submissions and assigned holistic qualitative scores to each company. These scores were combined with a weighted quantitative score to determine which 50 companies make the list and in what order.
The result is one of the most diverse lists yet, filled with a balance of unicorns and decacorns but also plenty of companies with smaller valuations. It's the most diverse list in terms of geography as well, with more than half of the companies founded outside of Silicon Valley and San Francisco for the first time.
Two companies (Airbnb and Palantir) have made the list all seven years. Five others (23andMe, Houzz, Rent the Runway, SoFi and Stripe) have made the list for the fifth time. Each year, we try to discover what the companies that make the list have done that is new, and these multiyear winners continue to deliver on the promise of what it means to be a disruptor.
There are also 17 newcomers, reimagining the way we work, play, shop and even sleep. These are the companies that think differently — and force the incumbent giants to do the same.