Spotlight on the Sharing Economy: Q&A with Couchsurfing

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couchsurfingMany of the companies that supported our Indiegogo campaign are active participants in the sharing economy and we wanted to hear more about their companies and perspective on the sharing economy. We’ve asked each company to answer the same questions and we’ll be rolling out the answers over the course of the series.

Please tell us your name, title and company.

Tammy Hagans, Media Team, Couchsurfing 

What does your company do?

Couchsurfing is a free service that connects a global community of more than 5.5 million members in 97,000 cities across the world. The community is made up of people who are eager to share their homes and their lives to promote tolerance, create new experiences and simply have fun together.

Couchsurfing represents a different way to travel for people who value trust, sharing and cultural exchange — regardless of regional, national or political boundaries. Couchsurfers have friends all over the world, even if they haven’t met each other yet.

When were you founded and how big are you?

Couchsurfing began in 2004 as a project built by and for a passionate community of travelers from around the world whose goal was to meet like-minded people in order to foster cultural exchange and share experiences.

How do you define the sharing economy?

A growing trend that advocates the sharing and exchange of goods, services and skills in order to extract additional productivity and value.

How does your company contribute to the rise of the sharing economy?

Couchsurfers not only share their homes but to also plan and share a wide variety of experiences – from simply sharing a beer to attending an art opening to hiking across Europe.

How do you build community?

The Couchsurfing community is built through word-of-mouth and member referrals. Members create local activities for others to attend, which leads to stronger connections and a wide variety of experiences between members.

For example, two Couchsurfing members who meet at a local meetup in San Francisco might discover that they have a common interest in hiking.  They may then choose to take a hiking trip through Europe together, at which point they could choose to meet other Couchsurfers at other local meetups in order to find other hikers to join them – or they may simply meet others to share a beer together. This interaction may in turn lead to the beginnings of multiple lifelong friendships taking shape as a result of these meetups.

How does your company reduce consumption and stimulate economic growth?

Couchsurfing members who stay with each other while traveling reduce the amount of resources consumed by traditional accommodations by simply staying in each other’s houses.

People who travel spend money, and those who couchsurf will theoretically have more money to spend while traveling since they’re saving on accommodations.

Can you share a recent milestone your company has achieved?

Couchsurfing recently raised a total of $22.6 million from investors including Benchmark, General Catalyst, Menlo Ventures and Omidyar.

What’s your biggest challenge?

One of our current challenges is the process of updating an outdated technology platform in order to accommodate the 5.5 million (and growing) number of members in the community.

What is your favorite thing to share?

Couchsurfing is all about sharing your life – from sharing your home to sharing day-to-day experiences around town to sharing a weeklong roadtrip together.

Jen is editor in chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and lives in Oakland with her husband and baby. 
Hit her up at on twitter @jenboynton to discuss diapering strategies or sustainability reporting methodology.