Couchsurfing.com is a website that lets travelers shop for free couches to crash on in the cities they’re visiting (and often includes meals, beer, tours and new friendship) which is, yes, in some ways similar to Airbnb, that “billion dollar business” that just raised a massive round. But Couchsurfing has always been about sharing resources for free, between people with a shared love of travel, with the vague idea that kindness to a guest would be repaid in karma when you needed a place to stay elsewhere in the network.
The website designed a clever reputation system, better than Airbnb’s, and though its user experience is not perfect, the nonprofit’s employees and volunteers have managed to iterate on the website and it’s gotten much, much better. And yet its founders decided they needed more money, enough to become a for-profit and invite the profit pressure that comes with tech start-up investors like Omidyar Ventures and VC Benchmark Capital. Read More