Syracuse University Entrepreneurship Thought Leaders Appointed to CNBC Disruptor 50 Advisory Council for Second Year in a Row

Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation, and Alexander McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and full-time master’s programs, and professor and chair of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises department, are two of 52 thought leaders selected to serve on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 Advisory Council.

Through its annual Disruptor 50 list, now in its sixth year, CNBC identifies innovative private companies in a variety of industries that are reimagining the world. According to CNBC, the 2018 Disruptors have raised $78 billion in venture capital and have the potential to become billion-dollar businesses themselves.

Professors Haynie and McKelvie, along with other leading thinkers in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship, helped CNBC determine weighting for the quantitative criteria used in the Disruptor 50 methodology. The two were chosen for their own prestigious contributions to the field of entrepreneurship from research and innovation to their work with veterans and outreach programs.

Whitman Voices asked them a few questions about the significance of the CNBC Disruptor 50 ranking.

Q. What does it mean for you to be a part of this council?

Professor Haynie: For both myself and Alex McKelvie to be selected for the CNBC Disruptor 50 Council is a tremendous honor. The Council represents some of the most accomplished and respected entrepreneurship scholars and innovators, selected from across the globe. The fact that Syracuse University is the only institution with two representatives on the Council speaks volumes about the global reach and impact of the entrepreneurship program at the Whitman School of Management.

Professor McKelvie: It’s humbling for me to be able to influence a list that is widely cited and acknowledged for its recognition of innovative companies. A lot of rankings are based on growth and other types of financial performance. We sometimes overlook companies that are transforming industries and forcing long established companies to rethink how they do business. Some of the companies on this list are the Ubers of the world and others are the next wave that we don’t know about yet, but will. If you look at the group of individuals selected for this Council, they are leading thinkers on the topic in the world. This is extremely good company to keep.

Q. In your own words, what makes a company a “disruptor?”

Professor Haynie: A disruptor challenges the status quo, by bringing discontinuous innovation to the marketplace, and displacing incumbent firms, fundamentally transforming the consumer value proposition.

Professor McKelvie: It’s not always the fastest growing but those that are fundamentally challenging long standing methods and models. As part of our review process, we determine some of the metrics used to evaluate these companies. Sometimes these companies are disruptors due to the stage of development of the industry, the nature of the changes they’ve had on the industry and sometimes it’s their overall number of users. Other times the firms are disruptive because of the sheer number of competitors that are being forced to change how they do business.

Q. Why are disruptors so important to entrepreneurship and the economy?

Professor Haynie: Most simply, market disrupting firms are important because they represent the fuel for the engine of the global economy. Take for example, Airbnb, the top disruptor on the 2017 list. Airbnb has transformed the travel industry in profound ways, and by doing so created new wealth and economic inclusion for many millions now utilizing the platform.

Professor McKelvie: People tend to think of these highly influential and innovative companies when they think of entrepreneurship — these are not the prototypical ventures. They’re rare but important. It’s kind of like studying elite athletes or formula one drivers when looking at the best of the best. These companies are some of the biggest movers and shakers with the highest impact. Being able to talk about them is important because they will transform industries by disrupting established methods and approaches. Disruptors do things differently. For example, one company, Zipline International (#25 on the list) is using drones to deliver blood, fundamentally transforming how that industry works. These companies span software security to food to retail and so the emphasis is on the change, not just the industry. When you think of some of the companies on the list, some are now becoming household names like SpaceX, Airbnb, Uber and Duolingo. They have unique business models and have had track records of success. It’s not only about technology businesses.

Q. What can students and/or our alumni learn from these companies?

Professor Haynie: There is much that our students and alumni can learn from the entrepreneurial journeys of these market disrupting firms. One lesson I like to highlight relates to a common misperception about innovation; that is, the notion that a pre-requisite to meaningful innovation is a slick, new technology. Often, the innovation is born from simply apply new thinking to old problems. Uber and Lyft are great examples of this idea.

Professor McKelvie: Our students and alumni can certainly learn a lot from these companies. I’ll highlight two areas. First, they can learn about how to question industry rules and norms. In some cases, this involves figuring out how to harness the power of multiple industries, meaning drawing on the abilities and approaches from across sectors. How do you make things more efficient and effective for customers or processes? Why are the established companies in these areas not able to see the potential of those innovations? Second, students can learn how to put a business together that will be a high potential, high growth company. What types of customer pains and problems are they trying to solve? How did they approach solving customer needs? How do they expand over time, and work with other partners? What are the funding patterns to help launch and then support their growth?  These are cool and inspirational stories about being able to do things very differently. Celebrating and acknowledging these very successful innovators is what the CNBC Disruptor 50 ranking is all about.

For the complete list of the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50, visit