I hosted 27 times in Munich and Duisburg, I surfed 20 times in Europe, Mexico and once in the US. Most of these experience were good, some were disappointing (let's face it! ;), none was really bad. But more important, a few were really fantastic!!!
When CS turned for-profit I was very disappointed.
You probably already know it: on 24/8/2011 Couchsurfing accepted venture capital in the amount of 7.6 million $ and is now officially a for-profit corporation (info here).
I was really irritated. I felt fooled and even manipulated.
To me it looks totally illogical that I offer hospitality for free and some venture capitalists in some way make money out of it. Am I stupid or what? This reason alone should be enough to rethink the whole situation. But there is much more.
Reading in the forums and checking some official CS “documents” myself there is much more mud to discover about how CS was run in its allegedly “non-profit” past.
There is enough to reply to the statements that the CS founders used to explain the change:
1) The IRS (the U.S. tax authority) was very conservative and a burocratic nightmare that did not recognize the non-profit status to CS for so many years of hard application process
2) Relocate somewhere else, where the non-profit status could be eventually reached, is no option because the State of New Hampshire (where CS was originally founded) demands 1 million $ fee for it
3) Anyway CS is now such a complex web service that running it requires a lot of money, and the pure non-profit situation does not fit anymore
4) CS is now a B-Corporation, so it is anyway socially committed and this status fits CS “vision”
1) I remember that 2007 the CS team told us they were officially non-profit. That was obviously a lie. But they kept on asking for “donations/verification”. The reasons why the IRS denied CS the non-profit status are not public, CS refuses to publish them. There are sufficient hints that among others one reason is bad management, unclear tax declarations and lack of evidence that the “donations” were used for “charitable” aims. Example: In the 2009 budget about 40 % of the costs are rents, travel expanses and grocery. I can’t help to relate these to the CS Collectives in Alaska, Thailand, New Zealand that the CS Team organized for themselves…
2) It seems that this famous 1 million $ is the amount CS saved because of acting as non-profit while not being it, in the hope to get this status, eventually failing miserably. More: if it were just an “unfair fee” they could ask the community for help, raising funds like for example Wikipedia does. But they preferred to sell to an investor.
3) Did you know that CS raised donation for 788.000 $ in 2008, 1,16 million $ in 2009 and more than 1,6 million $ in 2010? And 2011 will be even more through the (totally useless) verifications, as the site grows fast. If this is not enough to run a website, how many years can they survive with the 7,6 million $? How much have they to earn to pay costs and return of investment to the new owners? (By the way, 40 % of point 1 for 2009 is more than 400.000 $!).
4) Up to now, B Corporation is just a label given by a for-profit consultancy, B-Lab. Legally CS is a normal for-profit corporation. The B-Corporation label is not much more then a marketing tool.
CouchSurfing was the past. Now BeWelcome!