I recently had a chance to visit a happening hostel in Washington. Over breakfasts, dinners, and activities it was exciting and intriguing meeting the eclectic group of hostel-goers and hearing their stories.couchsurfing logoOne new concept I was quickly educated on was couch surfing. CouchSurfing.org that is.

And as VentureBeat reports, just last week CouchSurfing made the bold move to reincorporate as a for-profit B corporation and begin its new identity with a $7.6 million investment from Benchmark Capital.

The big move, which involves establishing a physical headquarters in San Francisco, will also likely expand CouchSurfing’s loyal 3M+ user base.

How CouchSurfing Works

“At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter…” CouchSurfing mission statement

New users can sign up using the simplified sign-up page and can choose to verify their address (which requires using a credit card and having a postcard with a code sent to your address) and are invited to make a recommended minimum donation to the organization, as a good faith show of their desire to be part of the couchsurfing community.

Once you’re on, you can search for “couches” in various cities. CouchSurfing users are peer-reviewed or “vouched for” through badges on the site. And the site mentions multiple tools and measures that have been implemented to ensure safety but clearly states (in multiple places) that surfers should use their individual best judgment when making the decision to surf, host, or meet up with individuals from the site.

CouchSurfing as a B Corporation

CouchSurfing explains its decision to incorporate as a B corporation in stating that “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.”

They mention that incorporating as a for-profit entity will better position them to receive funding, make improvements to the website, and evolve their systems along with their community’s needs.

CouchSurfing’s decision to incorporate as  B corporation speaks to their commitment to their initial mission and vision, and to keeping with the ideals of the organization. As they mention in a released statement,”Becoming a B Corporation makes us accountable to our core values. And you can check out the full audit that B Lab, the non-profit that issues B Corp certifications, recently completed of our social responsibility.”
  
What won’t change?
  
CouchSurfing promises that their mission and vision will stay the same. And that “CouchSurfing will never make you pay to host and surf”.

What should we write about next?

3 replies
  1. CS host
    CS host says:

    Many people were surprised by this move as CS had always prided itself for being a non-profit organization which wanted to be a charity. For those who had seen how volunteers had been used and abused for years by CouchSurfing, how safety measures such as credit card "verification" have been misrepresented, how management covered up repeated sexual misconduct with volunteers by one of its own or how rarely promises were kept none of this should come as a surprise. Reality could hardly be any further from the offical CouchSurfing claim to "create a better world". Unless that "better world" only refers to that of the founder's friends turned wealthy shareholders in a bizarre deal with the New Hampshire charity regulators which should be interesting to look into?

    Considering how bluntly CouchSurfing members and volunteers were betrayed it would be very surprising if this deal wasn't challenged in some court and if the exodus of some of the most dedicated "CouchSurfers" wouldn't come to hurt the new shareholders. For unless their plan is to turn CouchSurfing into yet another social network for barhopping and dating it is hard to see how the new members recruited via Facebook & Co. will be able to find enough of the free couches previously provided not by CouchSurfing, but by generous hosts in the belief they were doing so for the community

    Most will continue to offer their couch, just not for CouchSurfing International Inc. to resell it to travellers against verification payment or optional premium services, but in one of the other more democratic communities organised as non-profit organisations, such as BeWelcome.org or WarmShowers.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Hey, don't just post whatever press release/other nice-PR-that-avoids-all-the-difficult questions that Casey and Couchsurfing send you. It's not appropriate to publish 'what they say' without some due diligence on your part to see if it is true.
    Couchsurfing and its 'team' or 'board' or whatever they have constructed now have never kept a promise, certainly not the one repeated for 5 years that "WE WILL NEVER BE A FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION". Their skill lies in jettisoning devoted volunteers when they ask serious and professional questions.
    Instead CS has taken 'donations' under the guise of a charity and published delayed audits that always showed they had made hefty margins and had cash in hand.. till suddenly they show up with a $3.9 MILLION debt. Probably due to fines and fees for borderline fraud and impropriety, or perhaps for paying off damages when couchsurfing turns out to be NOT so safe.

    Additional clue to the wise: you do NOT have to pay the verification fee though they make it seem you do – click on your name to the left to escape the 'voluntary' donation they amke it hard to avoid. Another purposeful deception – that alone should serve as a warning.
    And yes I am still trying to get some equity for my time invested in a proclaimed 'charity' -this is why i am 'anonymous'.

    Reply

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