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Travel and technology heats up some more, after Hopper and Airbnb funding rounds
CouchSurfing, the (formerly) anti-capitalist Airbnb, announced Thursday that it has closed $7.6 million from Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network. The funding round means that CouchSurfing has transitioned from a non-profit to a “B Corporation,” a new kind of business designed specifically with the public’s benefit in mind.
CouchSurfing.com actually preceded Airbnb, one of our time’s fastest growing travel startups, by half a decade. Yet, in its short three year history, Airbnb has managed to rack up over two million bookings in 17,000 cities across 190 countries. The site, which takes a small portion of booking costs, is seeing its revenue grow 30 to 50 percent each month.
It was precisely that growth that prompted Andreessen Horowitz, DST Global and General Catalyst to invest $112 million in the San Francisco company’s Series B round.
And it was likely that round that led CouchSurfing to venture capital for the first time in its eight year life. Where before, the site had survived solely on donations from its more than two million members, it is no longer a non-profit. That means it will need to make financial gains.
The idea behind CouchSurfing is simple. Everyone creates a profile on the site, complete with a picture and full bio--anything that helps convey what kind of person you could be sharing space with. A user can be a host or a couchsurfer and, in many cases, a user can be both.
It’s not just a great service for cash-strapped students and the like, but it also paves the way for cultural mingling. Staying at the fanciest hotel in Rome won’t really help you see the city as its citizens do; you have to crash on a couch belonging to some random Italian guy to get that experience.
As part of today’s news, co-founder Daniel Hoffer has been named President and CEO. Additionally, Benchmark general partner Matt Cohler has joined the company’s board of directors and Omidyar partner Todor Tashev joins as board observer.
“With its network of more than three million members, CouchSurfing has tapped into a passionate and highly engaged community at the nexus of the social, mobile and local trends,” said Cohler, in a prepared statement. “We see an enormous opportunity, and couldn’t be more excited to back this team as the market for socially connected travel experiences starts to hit a tipping point.”
Tipping point indeed.
The crossroads of travel and tech is red hot right now, with companies besides Airbnb and CouchSurfing getting funded all over the place. Most recently, there’s search site Hopper, along with Tripl and Gogobot, both very similar to CouchSurfing in that they want to make traveling a better, more authentic experience.
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