CNBC Disruptor 50

The 2022 Disruptor 50: How we chose the list of companies

Key Points
  • The 10th annual CNBC Disruptor 50 list comes amid a challenging economy for venture-backed companies, with the IPO market all but closed and investors pushing down public and private stock valuations.
  • There is a generational shift from a group of companies that leveraged the ubiquity of smartphones to a new generation of mission-driven start-ups born in an era of social and political upheaval, and possibly recession.
  • The companies on the 2022 Disruptor 50 List represent a way forward, with ideas for every major industry to innovate out of yet another crisis.
Persephone Kavallines

One year ago, the ninth annual Disruptor 50 List came into being under very different circumstances. A year ago, companies were coming public at a record rate and using a variety of tools to get to the public markets. We expected the companies on last year's list to exit quickly, and many of them did. The party was raging. 

A year later, the music has stopped. Most of the new public companies have been left without a chair, and many have fallen through the floor. Meanwhile, those who have stayed private are, to extend the metaphor, floating in midair. They may still have high valuations, but there is little interest in having them test the public markets.

Public or private, though, young companies are facing the same market conditions – surging costs, higher wages, rising interest rates, supply chain disruptions, a strong but nervous consumer, and enterprises debating whether to keep investing in growth or to start preparing for leaner times. The companies on the 2022 Disruptor 50 list face these challenges, but they also represent the way forward, a chance to innovate out of yet another crisis.

Disruptive innovation is anti-inflationary by definition. Classic disruption aims a set of new technologies at a problem and finds a solution that is both better and less expensive. The 2022 Disruptors take aim at a wide range of solutions, untangling supply chains, controlling carbon emissions, democratizing access to financial services, and improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations.

We expect all 50 of the companies on this, our tenth annual list, will continue to grow and innovate while inspiring change in their larger, incumbent competitors, as we follow them through the rest of this year and into the next. Many, more than ever, maybe, will become perennial Disruptor 50 companies.

This year, six Disruptors have made the list for the fourth time. Impossible Foods is on the list for the fifth time (it first made the list in 2015, at a time when it barely had enough product for an on-air taste test). Stripe is an eight-time Disruptor 50 company, joining Airbnb as the only companies in the history of the list with that distinction, and its $95 billion valuation is the richest in the 10-year history of the Disruptor 50. 

But Stripe is the outlier. Most of the 2022 list is made up of companies that have earned a spot for just the first or second time. This is a sign of a generational shift in the Disruptor 50, from a group of companies that leveraged the emerging ubiquity of smartphones and grew out of the depths of the Great Recession, to a new generation of mission-driven start-ups born in an era of social and political upheaval but (mostly) favorable market conditions, suddenly facing the possibility of recession and, most likely, a much longer road to the public markets.

Here is how we chose this year's list:

All private, independently owned start-up companies founded after Jan. 1, 2007, were eligible to be nominated for the Disruptor 50 list. Companies nominated were required to submit a detailed analysis, including key quantitative and qualitative information.

Quantitative metrics included company-submitted data on workforce size and diversity, scalability, and sales and user growth. Some of this information has been kept off the record and was used for scoring purposes only. CNBC also brought in data from a pair of outside partners — PitchBook, which provided data on fundraising, implied valuations and investor quality; and IBISWorld, whose database of industry reports we use to compare the companies based on the industries they are attempting to disrupt.

CNBC's Disruptor 50 Advisory Council — a group of 55 leading thinkers in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship from around the world (see list of members below) — then ranked the quantitative criteria by importance and ability to disrupt established industries and public companies. This year the council again found that scalability and user growth were the most important criteria, followed by sales growth and use of breakthrough technologies (including, most commonly, artificial intelligence and machine learning). 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.

Here are the top five companies on the 2022 Disruptor 50 list
Here are the top five companies on the 2022 Disruptor 50 list

Companies were also asked to submit important qualitative information, including descriptions of their core business model, ideal customers and recent company milestones. A team of more than 30 CNBC editorial staff, including TV anchors, reporters and producers, and writers and editors, along with many members of the Advisory Council, read the submissions and provided holistic qualitative assessments of each company.

The qualitative scores were combined with a weighted quantitative score to determine which 50 companies made the list and in what order.

Special thanks to the 2022 CNBC Disruptor 50 Advisory Council, who again offered us their time and insights. As always, we appreciate their contributions:

  • Rob Adams, Managing Partner, Congress Avenue Ventures and Fellow, The University of Texas IC2 Institute
  • Ron Adner, Professor, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business
  • Anita Anantharam, Professor, University of Florida
  • Suzanne Bergmeister, Executive Director, James Madison University Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Edward Blair, Chair in Entrepreneurship, University of Houston
  • Robert Brunner, Chief Disruption Officer, University of Illinois Gies College of Business
  • Candida Brush, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Babson College
  • Howard W. Buffett, President, Global Impact LLC and Adjunct Associate Professor of International & Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • John Sibley Butler, Professor, The University of Texas
  • Gary Chan, Professor, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Jim Chung, Associate VP for Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, George Washington University
  • Shawn Clark, Professor/Director, Penn State University
  • Benjamin M. Cole, Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, Fordham University Gabelli School of Business
  • Chris Coleridge, Senior Faculty in Management Practice, University of Cambridge
  • Jason D'Mello, Associate Professor, Loyola Marymount University
  • Donna De Carolis, Dean, Drexel University Close School of Entrepreneurship
  • Monica Dean, Managing Director, University of Southern California Marshall School of Business Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Judi Eyles, Director, Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Clare Gately, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Waterford Institute of Technology and EDHEC Business School
  • Ari Ginsberg, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Management, New York University Stern School of Business
  • Michael Goldberg, Executive Director, Case Western Reserve University Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship
  • Michael Goldsby, Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, Ball State University
  • Henrich R. Greve, Professor of Entrepreneurship, INSEAD
  • Anil K. Gupta, Chair and Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland
  • Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Syracuse University
  • Lisa Hehenberger, Associate Professor and Director, Esade Business School Center for Social Impact
  • Michael Hendron, Academic Director and Associate Teaching Professor, Brigham Young University-Provo Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Keith Hmieleski, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Texas Christian University
  • Jim Jindrick, Director of Corporate Engagement (retired), University of Arizona
  • Neil Kane, Assistant Teaching Professor and ESTEEM Curriculum Director, University of Notre Dame
  • Sandra Kauanui, Director, Florida Gulf Coast University Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship
  • Donald F. Kuratko, Distinguished Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Indiana University-Bloomington Kelley School of Business
  • Rob Lalka, Professor in Business and Executive Director, Tulane University Freeman School of Business Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Debra Lam, Executive Director, Georgia Tech Partnership for Inclusive Innovation
  • Marie Josee Lamothe, Professor, McGill University
  • Vincent Lewis, Associate VP, Entrepreneurial Initiatives, University of Dayton
  • Alex McKelvie, Associate Dean and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Syracuse University Whitman School of Management
  • Scott Newbert, Academic Director, Baruch College Field Programs in Entrepreneurship
  • Dan Olszewski, Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, Associate Professor in the Practice of Engineering, Brown University
  • Gerhard Plaschka, Professor, DePaul University
  • Julia Prats, Professor of Entrepreneurship, IESE Business School
  • Jeff Reid, Professor of the Practice and Founding Director, Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Lyneir Richardson, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, Rutgers Business School
  • Matthew Rutherford, Professor & Chair, Oklahoma State University
  • Amelia Schaffner, Founding Director, Emory University Goizueta Business School Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • Mark Schenkel, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Belmont University
  • Albert Segars, Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • John H. Shannon, Professor, Seton Hall University
  • Lewis Sheats, Director, Saint Louis University Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Robert Stein, Executive Director, University of Pittsburgh Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence
  • Thales Teixeira, Co-Founder & CEO, and Fmr. Professor, Harvard Business School
  • David Touve, Senior Director, University of Virginia Darden School of Business Batten Institute
  • Ari Wallach, CEO, Longpath Labs
  • David Zvilichovsky, Senior Academic Faculty, Tel Aviv University and Global Modular Courses Professor, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School

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