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Couchsurfing International Inc.
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Type of business C corporation[1]
Founded 2 April 2003 (New Hampshire nonprofit organization)[2]
3 May 2011 (Delaware for-profit corporation)[3][4]
Area served Global
Founder(s) Casey Fenton
Daniel Hoffer
Key people Patrick Dugan, CEO & CFO[5]
Matt Cohler, Investor
Casey Fenton, Chairman
Products Homestay
Services Hospitality service
Social networking service
Employees 11-50[6]
Alexa rank 4,245 (As of 7 December 2018)[7]
Users 15,000,000[8]
400,000 active hosts[8]
Launched June 12, 2004; 14 years ago (2004-06-12)[9]

CouchSurfing is a hospitality and social networking service accessible via a website and mobile app. Members can use the service to arrange homestays, offer lodging and hospitality, and join events such as "Couch Crashes".[10][11]

The platform is a gift economy; hosts are not allowed to charge for lodging.[12] Members set up an online identity, and after leaving comments on their experiences with other members, develop a reputation.[13][14][15] Members can either directly request lodging from other members or post their travel plans publicly and receive offers from other members.[16] However, unless members go through a verification process, which includes a one-time US$60 charge[17] (waived for members who host 4 times per year[18]), they are only able to send messages to 10 other members per week.[19]


Conception (1999–2004)

Couchsurfing was conceived by computer programmer and New Hampshire native Casey Fenton in 1999, when he was 21 years old.[1][20][21] The idea arose after Fenton found a cheap flight from Boston to Iceland but did not have lodging. Fenton hacked into a database of the University of Iceland and randomly e-mailed 1,500 students asking for a homestay. He received between 50 and 100 offers and chose to stay at the home of an Icelandic rhythm and blues singer.[20] On the return flight to Boston, he came up with the idea to create the website. He registered the domain name on 12 June 1999.[20][22]

Couchsurfing International Inc. was formed on 2 April 2003 as a New Hampshire nonprofit organization.[2]

The website was launched on June 12, 2004[20] with the cooperation of Dan Hoffer, Sebastien Le Tuan, and Leonardo Silveira.[21]

Development of the website by volunteers (2006–2011)

From 2006 until the company raised financing in 2011, development of the website occurred mostly at events called "Couchsurfing Collectives", in which members came together to voluntarily improve the website.[20] Collectives took place in Montreal, Vienna, New Zealand, Rotterdam, Costa Rica, Samara, Alaska, Istanbul, and Thailand.[20][23] However, the collectively-coded website, which was full of software bugs, could not handle the rapid increases in traffic and crashes were common. Many members believed that the website needed to be redesigned from scratch.[24]

In June 2006, problems with the website database resulted in much of it being irrevocably lost.[20][25][24] Founder Casey Fenton posted online asking for help.[26] A Couchsurfing Collective was underway in Montreal at the time and those in attendance raised $8,000 in donations and committed to recreate the website.[20]

Change to a for-profit corporation and financing (2011)

The company applied for status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in November 2007 but was rejected by the Internal Revenue Service in early 2011.[1][27] Hoffer, in charge of strategic development, then believed that non-profit status was an obstacle to innovation due to the audit and regulatory requirements and that a for-profit corporation was the best structure for the company.[27]

The New Hampshire entity Couchsurfing International Inc. was dissolved on 4 November 2011.[2] Its assets were sold to a for-profit Delaware corporation, also called Couchsurfing International, Inc., which was formed on 3 May 2011.[3][4][28][29]

At first, the company was a certified B Corporation;[1][30] however, it is no longer listed as such.[31]

In August 2011, in conjunction with the reorganization to a for-profit corporation, the company raised $7.6 million in a first-round financing led by Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network.[32][33][34][35]

In August 2012, Couchsurfing received an additional $15 million in funding from an investor group led by General Catalyst Partners, with participation by Menlo Ventures, as well as existing investors Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network. The additional funding brought the company’s total funding raised to $22.6 million.[28]

The company has a burn rate of $2-3 million per year.[36] However, it has been as high as $800,000 per month.[37]

Criticism from members of the conversion to a for-profit corporation

The conversion to a for-profit corporation was objected to by many members.[24][38][39] Founder Casey Fenton said he received 1,500 emails in the days after announcing the conversion.[1] Even though the founders did not receive any cash from the financing,[40] members were opposed to the founders having a valuable ownership interest in an organization that was financed by donations and built using volunteer work.[24][33] The company spent more than $10,000 on a public relations firm to educate its directors on how to respond to the press about the conversion to a for-profit entity. A 3-page letter was sent to over 1,000 volunteers.[1]

Launch and development of mobile apps

In 2012, the company launched mobile apps for iOS and Android.[41] In 2016, the company added a feature called "hangouts" that enables members to quickly meet with other nearby members.[42][43]


Jennifer Billock, CEO of CouchSurfing from October 2013 to October 2015

Since August 5, 2016, Patrick Dugan has been the CEO, CFO, and Secretary of Couchsurfing International, Inc. As of November 2018, William Francesco Deparis was the Director of Operations.[5] Casey Fenton is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.[36]

Co-founder Dan Hoffer served as CEO from 2011[32] to 2012, Tony Espinoza served as CEO from 2012 to 2013,[33] and Jennifer Billock served as CEO from 2013 to 2015.[37]

The board of directors of the company includes founder and Chairman Casey Fenton as well as venture capital investors Matt Cohler of Benchmark, Todor Tashev of Omidyar Technology Ventures, and Jonathan Teo of Binary Capital.[44]

Membership statistics

Date Members Ref
June 2004 0 (Launch)
June 2005 6,000 [27]
June 2006 90,000 [25]
March 2007 173,000 [45]
July 2007 240,000 [46]
August 2007 285,000 [47]
September 2007 300,000 [48]
August 2008 600,000 [49]
December 2008 790,000 [50]
March 2009 1,000,000 [51]
August 2009 1,300,000 [52]
January 2011 2,500,000 [53]
August 2011 3,000,000 [38]
April 2012 3,965,492 [14]
October 2013 6,000,000 [54]
October 2014 9,000,000 [55][56]
October 2015 10,000,000 [57]
February 2016 11,000,000 [58]
January 2018 15,000,000, including 400,000 active hosts [8]

In 2017, Dan Fultz, head of support and safety, stated that "Couchsurfing activity certainly dipped between the ‘heyday’ and today".[59]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lapowesky, Issie (29 May 2012). "Couchsurfing Dilemma: Going for Profit". Inc.
  2. ^ a b c "Business Information: COUCHSURFING INTERNATIONAL INC". New Hampshire Department of State.
  3. ^ a b "State of Delaware corporate entity search – enter "couchsurfing"".
  4. ^ a b "Bizapedia: Couchsurfing International Inc".
  5. ^ a b "Business Search – Results". California Secretary of State.
  6. ^ "Crunchbase:". TechCrunch.
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  8. ^ a b c van Brugen, Isabel (13 January 2018). "Deal watch: budget travel". The Times.
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  10. ^ "Global Couchsurfing Event Calendar". Couchsurfing.
  11. ^ "How do I join an event?". Couchsurfing.
  12. ^ "I heard of someone charging for a couch. Is that OK?". Couchsurfing. 17 December 2017.
  13. ^ Kittle, Cody (15 February 2011). "Adventures in Couch Surfing: One Sojourner's Truth". Time.
  14. ^ a b Marx, Patricia (16 April 2012). "You're Welcome". The New Yorker.
  15. ^ Da Costa, Celinne (5 August 2016). "I've been couchsurfing nonstop for two months, here's what I've learned about human nature". Matador Network.
  16. ^ "How do I Create or Delete a Public Trip?". Couchsurfing. 18 November 2017.
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  18. ^ "How can Hosts earn Verified Membership?". Couchsurfing.
  19. ^ "Limited Introductions". Couchsurfing. 3 February 2017.
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  21. ^ a b "How CouchSurfing Got its Start, and Landed VC Millions". Entrepreneur. 9 December 2011.
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  25. ^ a b Arrington, Michael (29 June 2006). "CouchSurfing Deletes Itself, Shuts Down". TechCrunch.
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  31. ^ "B Corporation".
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  36. ^ a b Chan, Nathan (15 May 2018). "112: The Crazy Origin Story of Sharing Economy Pioneer with Casey Fenton". Foundr.
  37. ^ a b Lunden, Ingrid (10 October 2013). "Tony Espinoza Steps Down As CEO Of Couchsurfing, Jennifer Billock Steps Up As Interim As Startup Lays Off Staff, "Doubles Down" On Mobile". TechCrunch.
  38. ^ a b "After going for-profit, CouchSurfing faces user revolt". GigaOm. 1 September 2011.
  39. ^ Roudman, Sam (7 November 2013). "How to Lose Funds and Infuriate Users: Couchsurfing, a Cautionary Tale From the Sharing Economy". techPresident.
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  42. ^ "Product Update: Make a new friend with Couchsurfing Hangouts!". Couchsurfing. 28 June 2016.
  43. ^ Jacobs, Harrison (17 January 2018). "A little-known travel app that is Airbnb-meets-Tinder helped me have the wildest night in Tokyo partying until sunrise". Business Insider.
  44. ^ "Company Overview of CouchSurfing International Inc". Bloomberg L.P.
  45. ^ Ward, Terry (11 March 2007). "Divan Intervention". The Washington Post.
  46. ^ "Couch surfing around the world". The Daily Telegraph. 30 July 2007.
  47. ^ Miranda, Jeff (22 August 2007). "Take the couch". The Boston Globe.
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  49. ^ Thomas, Daniel (14 August 2008). "Couch-surfing: going it alone". The Daily Telegraph.
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  51. ^ Gross, Matt (12 April 2009). "FRUGAL TRAVELER; 3 Cushions, a Million Guests". The New York Times.
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  53. ^ Baker, Vicky (22 January 2011). "How to stay with a local". The Guardian.
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  55. ^ Burns, Hilary (22 October 2014). "She's trying to turn Couchsurfing into a profitable business. And she's got her hands full". American City Business Journals.
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  57. ^ "Best traveling-and-working apps". Business Insider. 13 October 2015.
  58. ^ Saiidi, Uptin (12 February 2016). "Office Envy: Inside CouchSurfing's San Francisco workspace". CNBC.
  59. ^ Coca, Nithin (13 October 2017). "Why hasn't there been a new Couchsurfing?". The Daily Dot.

External links

  • Media related to Couchsurfing at Wikimedia Commons
  • Official website
  • See also How to use Couchsurfing, a how-to article from wikiHow
  • See also How to be a great Couchsurfer, a how-to article from wikiHow
  • See also How to host on Couchsurfing, a how-to article from wikiHow
  • See also How to write a Couchsurfing request, a how-to article from wikiHow

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