|Type of business||C corporation|
|Available in||English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese and Spanish|
|Founded||2 April 2003 (New Hampshire nonprofit organization)|
3 May 2011 (Delaware for-profit corporation)
Sebastian Le Tuan
Leonardo Bassani da Silveira 
|Key people||Patrick Dugan, CEO|
Francesco Deparis, CFO
|Services||Social networking service|
|Launched||12 June 2004|
CouchSurfing is a global hospitality exchange service accessible via a website and mobile app. Members can request lodging publicly or directly from other members, "hang out" with other members, or join/create events. Harassment is against the terms of service. Members set up user profiles on which other members can post reviews. The platform is gift economy — hosts are not supposed to charge for lodging and therefore are not bound to fulfill any lodging agreements.
Members in most developed countries must either pay a fee of approximately US$2/month or US$15/year to use the platform. Members can also pay a one-time US$60 charge to have their name and identification verified, adding a layer of security.
Couchsurfing was conceived by computer programmer and New Hampshire native Casey Fenton in 1999, when he was 21 years old. 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. On the return flight to Boston, he came up with the idea to create the website. He registered the couchsurfing.com domain name on 12 June 1999.
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 met to voluntarily improve the website. Collectives took place in Montreal, Vienna, New Zealand, Rotterdam, Costa Rica, Samara, Alaska, Istanbul, and Thailand. However, the collectively-coded website was full of software bugs and crashes were common. Many members believed that the website needed to be redesigned from scratch.
In June 2006, problems with the website database resulted in much of it being irrevocably lost. Founder Casey Fenton posted online asking for help. 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. In 2007, Google search volume for couchsurfing.org overtook the search volume for its major competitor Hospitality Club, after the one of Hospitality Club peaked in 2006.
Change to a for-profit corporation and financing (2011)
The company applied for 501(c)(3) tax status as a nonprofit organization in November 2007 but tax exempt status was rejected by the Internal Revenue Service in early 2011. After researching alternatives, advice from lawyers, the need for additional financial resources, and competition from Airbnb, management decided that the non profit company would sell its assets to a newly founded for-profit corporation.
The New Hampshire non-profit Couchsurfing International Inc. was dissolved on 4 November 2011. Its assets were sold to a private for-profit Delaware C corporation, also called Couchsurfing International, Inc., which was formed on 3 May 2011.
In the August 24, 2011, blog post announcement Casey Fenton confused a B Corporation (certification) with a Benefit corporation, "As a B (Benefit) Corporation, CouchSurfing will be part of a group of innovative businesses that deliver products and services with a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, transparency, fair work conditions, and doing good for the world... CouchSurfing will never make you pay to host and surf." Couchsurfing was not a Benefit Corporation, and Delaware did not permit incorporation as a Benefit corporation until 2013, yet the error received widespread publication.
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.
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.
Criticism from members of the conversion to a for-profit corporation
The guiding principles of the original non profit organisation promised that CouchSurfing operates as a nonprofit, a promise that was broken by Fenton and Hoffer. The conversion to a for-profit corporation was objected to by many members. Founder Casey Fenton said he received 1,500 emails in the days after announcing the conversion.
Launch and development of mobile apps
Management turnover (2012–2015)
Co-founder Dan Hoffer served as CEO from 2011 to 2012, Tony Espinoza served as CEO from 2012 to 2013, and Jennifer Billock served as CEO from 2013 to 2015. Casey Fenton is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.
Change to membership fee revenue model (2020)
In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company instituted a permanent membership fee in some countries. Members who previously paid for "Lifetime Verification," were granted free access until May 2021. The implementation of the membership fee led to "widespread anger" and criticism. In 2012, Tony Espinoza had said in an interview: "Even as the site looks for additional revenue streams, the co-founders promise that hosting and surfing will always remain free."
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