September 12, 2011
CouchSurfing International, which connects travelers with a place to crash, raised $7.6M in a funding and abruptly switched from non-profit to corporate status.
The funding, which came from Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network, will be used to hire programmers at competitive rates and thus keep the website functional as their user base grows.
Switching to corporate status after 6 years of operating as a nonprofit, though, is a huge change that could result in an exodus of users who feel side swiped by the news and disillusioned with what this could mean for the organization.
CouchSurfing is a very organic, crowd-sourced platform: they connect travelers with local hosts and place an emphasis on cultural exchange – one of the most fun things about traveling. The best part is it’s free. And therein lies the problem: will it start charging for membership? Up until now, it has been funded by donations, and no one likes a bait-and-switch. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, as they must now keep a close eye on the balance sheet while pleasing their investors.
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