How to Make it On CNBC's Top 50 Disrupters List Next Year

June 2, 2017

There’s a “secret sauce” behind several of the iconic and soon-to-be legendary companies that are annually anointed the top disruptors by CNBC. It’s not billion-dollar valuations, breakthrough products, the Sequoia/Andreessen/Accel VC angel dust, or wunderkind CEOs (though several of these companies do have these qualities) - the untold, secret ingredients are purpose, community, and impact. Three words that are increasingly integrated into the core of every high-growth, disruptive business.

While I’ve noticed this change through working with the leaders of large brands over the last several years, this shift has also been driven by a larger number of purpose-focused executives, impact investors, employees (who are demanding more from their employers), and – most importantly – from customers who are making conscious decisions. The importance of those three words and their profound impact on many of the world's greatest companies has been a revelation for me, and it is the raison d’etre for my current purpose-driven company, Pledgeling.

Here’s an overview of each element now becoming interwoven into the fabric of today’s greatest companies:


Nearly all of these companies, from Airbnb to Lyft to Warby Parker, have defined a purpose that is far greater than day-to-day business, or the unique benefits of their products or services – their purpose defines everything that they do and guides every decision that they make. Instead of just disrupting the the hotel industry, Airbnb, the #1 Disruptor, is helping to create a world where you can “belong anywhere.” WeWork, #3, is creating a world where folks work to live, as opposed to live to work – and in the process greatly disrupting the traditional office space (and soon, living and wellness environments, too).


Embracing an authentic purpose is only part of the equation – an iconic company must live by it and encourage all of its stakeholders to align with it. Think of that philosophical difference – brands of the past used to focus on acquiring customers, but today’s disruptors think about fostering a community. The best companies frame everything they do under the overarching umbrella of their purpose, which unites their customers, employees, channel partners, and their entire ecosystem. Think about the absolute devotion that some of these iconic brands have been able to muster – it’s by providing the purpose, embracing it, and inviting their larger community to participate in it. Will Warby Parker’s loyal customer shop elsewhere when they are getting a great product that also strives to help 1 billion people get the gift of better sight?


At Pledgeling, we define impact as as progress against one’s purpose. The best disruptors do this everywhere. How is Airbnb creating a world where everyone can belong? They’ve flattened the world by enabling everyone to stay and participate in local communities almost anywhere and have now created social impact experiences that benefit nonprofits everywhere. Lyft is creating a world where every fare can be rounded up and donated to charity. Warby Parker has helped two million people restore their eyesight.

The Data Underlying it All

It’s not surprising that companies who excel at integrating purpose, community, and impact are rewarded by their customers. Cone Communications has found that 93% of consumers will choose to support one brand over its competitor if it has a cause that matters to its customer base. 80% of consumers want companies to do more than just generate profits.

So how do you position your purpose, community, and impact to grow your business, create your community and achieve your financial goals? And perhaps appear on the Disruptor Top 50 list one day? At Pledgeling, we believe in following these 3 steps:

  1. Define a higher purpose larger than your current product’s features and benefits.
  2. Communicate your purpose everywhere to foster & strengthen your community.
  3. Share your impact and measure how you’re making progress against your purpose.
And if you are ready to support a cause and don't know where to start, our team of experts is here to help and support your journey of discovery. Contact us here. At Pledgeling, I'm proud to share that we’ve just achieved $4M in donations processed for causes around the world. Take a look at the impact we've helped brands to achieve to-date. And here’s our impact that I’m proud to be a part of!