Four Indian American-led firms feature on CNBC Disruptor 50 List


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AI is all over the 12th annual CNBC Disruptor 50 list with OpenAI topping the charts. With roughly two-thirds of the 50 companies making the Disruptor 50 list describing artificial intelligence as “critical” to their businesses, there are 4 companies founded by Indian Americans, which also feature in the CNBC Disruptor 50 list. CNBC’s 12th annual Disruptor 50 list highlights private companies upending the classic definition of disruption as AI leads new business models beyond the era of better, faster and cheaper innovation.


Launched in 2015 by Ritu Narayan, a first-generation immigrant and mother, Zum set out to change the lives of working parents — a reflection of the struggles she felt while managing her career while also ensuring her kids got to and from school. Zum is continuing on its journey to disrupt the $50 billion student transportation industry, aiming to make it safer, more reliable and sustainable. Thanks to a $140 million Series E round that valued Zum at $1.3 billion alongside a more than $26 million grant from the EPA’s first clean school bus program, the company is accelerating key efforts around decarbonization like transitioning its fleet of school buses to 100% electric and expanding its AI-driven technology platform that sends stored energy from EV school buses back to electrical grids.

“Zum is on a mission to revolutionize student transportation, moving beyond the status quo towards a future where innovative technologies are used to advance sustainability efforts,” Narayan said.


Launched in 2014 and led by CEO Shivani Siroya, the fintech startup works with the so-called unbanked and underserved in Kenya, India, the Philippines and other emerging countries. Tala is out to disrupt legacy finance in developing markets by providing loans, credit, insurance and bill pay to consumers who lack access to banks, insurers and lenders, and who lack a financial track record.  Last year, Tala rebuilt its AI platform using in-house proprietary data sets with the goal of expanding financial access more quickly. Its reliance on AI is helping Tala move beyond lending. Using an AI chatbot, Tala customers can identify and detect fraudulent loan offers and phishing scams in real time. Moreover, with new AI tools, Tala has built customized financial services to help customers with budgeting, investing and saving.


Founder and CEO Arvind Jain, who is also a founder of recent successful IPO company Rubrik, created Glean in 2019 with other former Google engineers. Starting out as search engine for enterprises, Glean soon transitioned to new gen AI technology. Jain has described Glean as both Google and ChatGPT for the business market because of its conversational and chat-based functions to sort through internal data, retrieve information, and present quick answers. Originally focused on tech industry customers, Glean is branching out to other sectors including finance, retail and manufacturing. New customers include fintech Bill, fellow Disruptor Canva and Sony. The software is being used for, among other tasks, writing test code, troubleshooting sales issues, preparing for meetings and following up with customers.


Founded in 2011, the New York-based company is led by CEO and former Morgan Stanley financial analyst Jack Kokko, whose previous experience includes founding chair of doctor search engine BetterDoctor, acquired by Quest Analytics. Along with his co-founder, fellow Wharton MBA graduate Raj Neervannan, they have spent more than a decade building out the startup’s AI capabilities and data stockpile to optimize its language models and algorithms. The AI financial research startup recently opened an Asia-Pacific hub in Singapore, and brought on board a chief marketing officer.

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