Categorized | Business

CouchSurfing.org will no longer be a non-profit organization

One of the investors is Pierre Omidyar, founder of Ebay, Honolulu Civil Beat and Omidyar Network which has funded a number of websites including Kiva.org, Seesmic, Digg, Linden Lab, Wikimedia and Creative Commons. Omidyar lives in Hawaii with his family according to his biography on Civil Beat.

By Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

According to a posting on the CouchSurfing.org website two investors are getting involved and the organization will transition from a non-profit to a for-profit organization.

One of the investors is Pierre Omidyar, founder of Ebay, Honolulu Civil Beat and Omidyar Network which has funded a number of websites including Kiva.org, Seesmic, Digg, Linden Lab, Wikimedia and Creative Commons. Omidyar lives in Hawaii with his family according to his biography on Civil Beat.

The posting states CouchSurfing will continue to be free of charge for users. The website is planning to add optional features users can pay for.

CouchSurfing.org is a website where “Surfers” (travelers) can connect with hosts in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Not all connections lead to hosting as sometimes it is just so the ‘surfer’ can gain some local knowledge. The website boasts a membership of three million members and has a number of active hosts and ‘surfers’ in Hawaii.

UPDATED (8/24/11)

CouchSurfing has removed the informational video which appeared on this page earlier.

The video release, which was public on the website and on Vimeo, stated that CouchSurfing.org has been trying for the last four years to become a 501(c)(3) corporation but found it very difficult to do so.

CouchSurfing will become a B Corporation. In the video one of CouchSurfing’s co-founders Dan Hoffer says, ‘That sort of structure enables us to achieve the idealistic integrity of a non-profit as well as the efficiency and flexibility of a more traditional company. If we do that, we can leverage the benefits of both and hire more people, improve the site, and deliver the features you’ve been asking for as well as the ones we’ve all been dreaming about.’

Co-Founder Casey Fenton said, ‘So, going forward, CouchSurfing will now be a socially responsible B Corp. It’s an important change. It may not be what any of us expected, it may even seem a little scary, but I believe that it is actually the best thing that could have happened.

As we move into this new structure, my top priority will continue to be how to make sure that this organization will always put its vision first. And what I like most about the B Corp model is that it ensures that our priorities will always be in line with our ideals.’

UPDATED (8/24/11)

CouchSurfing re-posted the announcement at: www.couchsurfing.org/bcorp

  • i love hawaii

    if this really happens I shall close down my CS profile and quit it. We don’t earn money while hosting people in our homes, why should someone earn from our generosity. Appalling!!

  • http://www.bewelcome.org/ BeWelcome

    If you close your account at CS, consider joining BeWelcome.org – a genuine non-profit, registered in France. It doesn’t have the clout (yet?) but quite a few enthusiast volunteers and you can find places to stay.

  • kidsofshiva

    When this site was going in loss and casey was putting money from its end nobody came forward to say or share the loss and now when website is getting profit then why complain.To run infrastructure every big institution needs money to run it efficiently,you guys want it to bear it by one person only? the guy who is responsible for creating this wonderful project and making this world smaller and wonderful place by real life experiences i personally thinking of donating this site as 500 to 1000 $ next year for their wonderful service to the commune!
    Salute!
    Shiva

  • Emma

    It is really sad. I will continue opening my home to strangers but I won’t do anything that brings money into their pockets. The end of a dream.

  • A – FORMER – CS Volunteer

    CouchSurfing was built on the backs of volunteers and now they’re going to make money off of our hard work? Forget it. I’m done with CS.

    • poopii

      Thats the CAsey Fenton plan. Volunteers got suckered.

  • l

    Well, I wouldnt go so far as to say Im closing my account, but lets just wait and see. At the end of the day, we are quite removed from the head organization, but have enjoyed the fruits of their labor. Because of that, I will have a little more trust that this will stay legit…and if it doesn’t, we’ll just organize the hell out of it and make our own equivalent.

  • niknah

    By simply using couchsurfing you’re making them money anyways. Before people ask for a place to stay, a percentage of them will pay money out of fear that they may not be accepted if they didn’t validate themselves. I’ve never cared if somebody was validated or not.

  • Sara

    I will be closing my account.

  • Stefan Grip

    Hospitalityclub.org, maybe it´s gonna be the biggest one?
    /Stefan

  • Ray

    I am really bummed out and angered by this. I Have met a lot of great people via CS and now think I may close my account after my current hosting committments have been honored. I believed in the concept and glady got verified to help the organization.

    This seems like a complete betrayal of the CS “values”…

  • CSer still

    I was a bit shocked at first. But I think I have to agree with the person above who points out that we can’t expect one person to bear the financial burden if the site is costing more than the money that is coming in. People do work on the site. That’s not free. And I don’t think most people are validated. I’m not. Personally, I am frequently annoyed by the people who only use CS to be freeloaders. I think those people should join global freeloaders and leave CS to those of us who are actually interested in making connections with people and learning from people around the world. I’ve never asked for anything from my guests, and I have yet to surf someone else’s place myself. But I’ve met amazing people through CS while traveling. If it’s still going to be free to use, I don’t know why you freeloaders are so overwrought at the idea that someone might make a living off of having brought this brilliant idea to the rest of us. If the site could run itself with no human power, that would be a different story. So go ahead, get off CS and go join global freeloaders.

  • guineveruca

    I am willing to see how this plays out…in the video they say CS was denied 501c3 status. If that’s the case, they had no option but to move to a different business model and B corp sounds like it might be the right fit. I suspect that this would not have happened if CS had been granted NPO status.

    the only thing I take issue with is Casey Fenton using the “18% of NPO’s lost their status” as a reason to not become a 501c3. The IRS does not randomly strip organizations of their NPO status. Agencies lose their status because they are out of compliance – they either don’t file their tax returns (501c3s are tax exempt but still must file, and there are strict requirements around disclosures), or have otherwise gone out of compliance. There is a lot more latitude for innovation than Casey implies, as well.

  • poopii

    I closed my CS account. I think its a shame to rip off the good will of all the volunteers and people who donated money to CS via their fake verification scheme.

    They should return all the donations from the time they pursued this vc capital idea.

    I was couchsurfer who hosted before this website and will just go back to doing it on my own or join bewelcome.org

  • http://www.hospitalityclub.org Veit

    After digesting this shocking news for a little while today, I just published a message to the hospitality exchange community. Most important: Hospitality Club will never be a for-profit business, we are currently developing a new open-source website and some behind-the-scenes info on CS. Please read the statement here: http://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/couchsurfing-for-profit-business-now

    Veit (Founder HospitalityClub.org)

  • Aaron

    This headline is misleading. Couch Surfing was never a “non-profit” organization. They were denied their 501(c)3 – the paperwork to register with the IRS as a non-profit organization.

    They decided that a B-Corp was inline with the CS mission. This allows them to focus on their mission of connecting people, not making a profit.

    From wikipeida (in case you were to busy complaining to click):

    A Benefit Corporation, or in short-hand a B Corporation, is a class of corporation required by law to create general benefit for society as well as for shareholders. Benefit Corporations must create a material positive impact on society, and consider how their decisions affect their employees, community, and the environment. Moreover, they must publicly report on their social and environmental performances using established third-party standards.[1]

    And from CouchSurfing:
    “””
    When it became clear to us that a non-profit structure was not going to be possible, we started to look for other options. We didn’t want to be a traditional, for-profit organization, because our highest priority is helping people explore and connect — not making money.

    It turns out that a lot of other organizations are in the same position as we are: they want to make a difference in the world, but the government won’t classify them as a 501c(3) non-profit. So instead, hundreds (and soon to be thousands) have chosen to be B Corporations, and so have we. This structure legally allows us to put our ideals before our profits. It also requires us to go through external reviews to make sure we’re being true to our word about how we’re going to benefit the world. We’re proud to join this group as the newest B Corporation.
    “””

    All of that doesn’t really sound so bad does it? Or like cheating people.

    You don’t think the director of the Red Cross does it for free do you? Is he bilking all the volunteers just to make a buck?

    As a long time member who’s never donated why should I even care?

 

 

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Jul 24, 2014 / 11:19 am

 

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