Ask the CEO: Revenue at Couchsurfing

When people ask me how Couchsurfing will make money, my answer is pretty simple: we’ll experiment with well-understood monetization models to see what works best for the community and the company. Experimenting means we’ll test, iterate and learn.

Couchsurfing’s revenue, at present, comes from its Verification service. Members have been asking for a long time about our plans for monetization. The answer wasn’t very illuminating but it was the truth: until now, we hadn’t been particularly focused on monetization.

Build a strong foundation first

When I started leading the company in 2013, the team and I determined that a full-scale re-write of Couchsurfing’s services was the only sensible way to move forward. That became our main (basically only) priority.

We now have a platform that we can iterate on, develop new features for and continue to improve. Without question, there’s a lot to do on the site and mobile apps. Here’s what we’re working on next.

Some of the tools Couchsurfers regularly request (such as web-based map search) cost money not only to develop but also to run on an ongoing basis. So building our revenue streams is an important part of building features.

Test and Learn

We’re beginning the process of building additional revenue streams for Couchsurfing.

There are three main ways that consumer Internet/mobile companies make money:

  • Freemium/subscription
  • Advertising
  • Transaction fees

You’ll see us begin experimenting with two of these in the near future:

  • Freemium/subscription – the Verification service that’s been offered to date falls into the “freemium” category. It’s an optional way to add to your Couchsurfing identity and improve the safety and trust of the network as a whole. We’ll begin making changes and upgrades.
  • Advertising – we’re testing display advertising. Some of you might see an ad soon!

We’ve run tests to help us build preliminary revenue models and understand Couchsurfing’s business potential in the past. We’re picking that work up again now.

We’ve previously said we wouldn’t focus on an advertising model – but it’s a sensible way for us to learn and begin creating additional revenue to fund the ongoing development of this service.

We’ll update you here as we progress.

– Jennifer Billock


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