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It’s a strange time to be a venture-backed private startup. The exits are blocked. The last Disruptor 50 Company to go public was Gojek, which debuted on the Indonesia Stock Exchange more than a year ago. The last Disruptor 50 IPO in the U.S. market, Nubank, happened on December 9, 2021. Venture capital funding has slowed — VC activity dropped in all stages and sectors in the first quarter of 2023, according to PitchBook’s Venture Monitor. And valuations have collapsed — PitchBook says the median pre-money valuation in Q1 2023 is less than half what it was in the first quarter of 2022.

Silicon Valley Bank, once the beating heart of the venture capital community, beats no more. The kind of phrases that were rare in the “grow at all costs,” “move fast and break things” environment of the last decade are now common themes. Disruptor 50 companies now tell us they are “operating to be more lean,” “narrowing focus,” and “prioritizing profitability over growth,” as they manage inflation and the prospect of a recession along with the tighter venture capital environment.

On the other hand, we may be on the cusp of a true new era – the age of AI. This year’s No. 1 Disruptor has, in just six months, gone from being a Silicon Valley laboratory to — depending on whom you talk to — sparking a revolution that will change every aspect of human life, or bring about the demise of all humanity. At stunning speed. Innovation does not stop. In fact, crises, we have found, often serve as the breeding ground for disruptive innovations, as consumers and enterprises look for ways to leverage technology to be more efficient, or to solve new problems. The 2023 Disruptors are identifying these new market opportunities and delivering solutions across a multitude of sectors.


Q: What is the Disruptor 50 list?

A: The Disruptor 50 list is an exclusive annual compilation by CNBC, showcasing privately-owned startups that are revolutionizing industries and defying market challenges.

Q: How are the companies selected for the Disruptor 50 list?

A: Eligible companies must be privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2008. The selection process involves a comprehensive analysis of quantitative and qualitative information, including workforce size, diversity, scalability, sales and user growth, industry disruption potential, and utilization of breakthrough technologies.

Q: Who determines the ranking of the Disruptor 50 companies?

A: The Disruptor 50 Advisory Board, comprised of 51 leading innovators and entrepreneurs worldwide, assesses the quantitative criteria by importance and disruptive impact. The ranking model ensures that companies excel in various criteria to secure a spot on the final list.

Q: Are there any notable trends among the Disruptor 50 companies?

A: Yes! Many of these companies are focusing on social and environmental causes, such as climate change, sustainable development, healthcare, and financial inequities. Additionally, several companies have female founders, CEOs from racial and ethnic minorities, and are addressing inefficient global supply chains.

Q: What are some standouts from the 2023 Disruptor 50 list?

A: The list features remarkable companies like OpenAI, Brex, Canva, Relativity Space, Wiz, Alto Pharmacy, Anduril Industries, Octopus Energy, Flexport, and many more. Each company brings its unique disruptive approach to various sectors, promising to reshape industries and make a lasting impact.

Q: How successful are these companies in terms of funding and valuation?

A: The Disruptor 50 companies have collectively raised over $54 billion in venture capital, with a total implied valuation exceeding $362 billion. Many of them are unicorns, valued at $1 billion or more, while some younger firms are exploring novel ideas early in their fundraising journeys.

Q: Can I learn more about these companies individually?

A: Absolutely! Each company on the list has its own fascinating story and purpose. Explore the game-changers like OpenAI, Brex, Canva, Wiz, Discord, Stripe, Notion, Zipline, and many others, to uncover how they are reshaping their respective industries.

Q: Is this year's Disruptor 50 list different from previous years?

A: Yes, this year's list marks several firsts, including OpenAI's impressive debut at the top spot in its first year on the list. It also features founders with multiple companies on the list, and the inclusion of a company founded in 2020, demonstrating the resilience and innovation in the face of challenges.

Q: Are these companies poised for future success?

A: While future success is never guaranteed, the Disruptor 50 list represents companies that have shown exceptional growth, innovation, and potential. They have demonstrated the ability to adapt to market conditions, leverage breakthrough technologies, and disrupt established industries, making them ones to watch in the coming years. CNBC’s Disruptor 50 Advisory Board— a group of 51 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 board 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.

All private, independently owned startup companies founded after Jan. 1, 2008, 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.

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 CNBC editorial staff, including TV anchors, reporters and producers, and writers and editors, along with many members of the Advisory Board, 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.

It’s our eleventh year, but we still see a number of “firsts” on this year’s list. OpenAI is the first company to reach No. 1 in its first year making the list. The company exemplifies what it means to scale quickly, going from releasing a product to having 100 million users in two months. The 2023 list also features the first two founders to have two companies make the Disruptor 50 (Rodney Williams of SoLo Funds, and Elon Musk of OpenAI.)

And this year’s list brings the first appearance of a company founded in 2020. As an ultra-rapid shift to remote work during the Covid lockdown opened up a need for faster, better, less expensive cyber protection, No. 5 Disruptor Wiz was there to meet the needs of the new market (of course, so were the incumbents it now challenges, but the point remains). Wiz raised $300 million in new venture capital in February. Imagine what that number could have been a year or two ago

The 50 companies selected using the proprietary Disruptor 50 methodology have raised over $54 billion in venture capital, according to PitchBook and company data, at an implied Disruptor 50 valuation of more than $362 billion.

1 OpenAI Believe the hype

2 Brex A better Silicon Valley banker

3 Canva A new face on graphic design

4 Relativity Space The first 3D-printed rocket takes off

5 Wiz Next-level cloud security

6 Alto Pharmacy Online Rx

7 Anduril Industries AI-powered defense

8 Octopus Energy Extending its climate tentacles

9 Lineage Logistics Improving links in the cold chain

10 Flexport The logistics industry’s cloud giant

11 Exotec A fleet of warehouse robots

12 Pivot Bio Sustainable fertilizer

13 Einride Heavy-duty EV trucking

14 Rippling Making waves across HR, IT and finance

15 Chime The branch-less future of the bank

16 Spring Health Mental benefits

17 Vanta Know your customer data

18 Discord Keeping the social media conversation (and controversies) going

19 Scale AI How the chatbots learn

20 Flock Freight Carbon-free trucking

21 Maven Clinic The new family practice

22 Arctic Wolf Always vigilant

23 Dedrone Aerial defense

24 Orca Security Killer cybersecurity in the cloud

25 Zipline 38 million autonomous miles flown

26 ElevateBio Scaling CRISPR

27 Tala Big in little loans

28 Stripe Making online pay

29 Ramp Automating the most annoying part of having a job

30 Guild On a new career path

31 Databricks Enterprise-level understanding

32 Notion Cutting through cloud clutter

33 ŌURA Wrapped around your finger

34 Mast Reforestation Wildfire fighter

35 BlocPower Climate-controlled cities

36 Cityblock Health Medicaid’s healthtech start-up

37 Evrnu Recycled trends

38 BeeHero The Pollinator

39 Phononic The brain in the cold chain

40 Snyk Making developers feel secure

41 GrubMarket Farm to table food tech

42 Airtable Speaking in low-code

43 Kindbody Family-building femtech

44 Cohere A Google-linked ChatGPT rival

45 Climeworks Carbon captured

46 Bowery Urban roots

47 Convoy Making trucks climate-connected

48 Sila The next silicon revolution

49 Monarch Tractor EV farming

50 SoLo Funds Lending, democratized

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