Myths and Facts: Couchsurfing’s conversion to a B Corp

Since we converted to a B Corporation two weeks ago, CouchSurfers have been asking questions and sharing their opinions with us. (Thanks to everyone who’s written!) We thought it would be helpful to clear up some of the most common misconceptions we’ve been hearing.

Myth: The CouchSurfing team knows how it will make money, but it doesn’t want to share this with members.

Fact: We are investigating lots of options for generating revenue, but we haven’t yet chosen a plan.
We’re not ignoring the fact that, now that we can no longer accept donations, we will need to find an alternative way of earning money to keep CouchSurfing going. However, our initial investment makes it possible for us to take the time we need to find the best possible way to do this. Our first and foremost focus is perfecting what we already do. We are confident that we will find a way to generate money that doesn’t hinder the amazing experiences that CouchSurfers have. It’s not at all uncommon in the US tech industry to receive an investment without yet having a firm decision made about how to generate revenue.

Myth: CouchSurfing has been sold to investors.

Fact: CouchSurfing has a partnership with the investors, but is still run by the same organization as before.
Our investors aren’t in our office calling the shots. Strategic decisions are still made by the CouchSurfing team. The investors have a minority stake that allows them to contribute their perspective, but ultimately the direction of CouchSurfing remains controlled by the same organization.

Myth: The CouchSurfing co-founders were given the money from the investors.

Fact: The investment belongs to CouchSurfing, not to individuals.
The purpose of the investment is to pay for CouchSurfing’s operating expenses and future innovations. Previously we earned this money through member donations, but as a B Corporation we can no longer accept these. Our expenses include the salaries of all of our employees, including the co-founders that work with us full-time. The rates that we pay at are based on market standards and we operate frugally for a company of our size.

Myth: CouchSurfing could have remained a non-profit, even if it didn’t gain 501c3 status.

Fact: CouchSurfing was only allowed to operate as a non-profit while it was in the application process for 501c3.
After our final rejection for 501c3 at the federal level, the government of the state that we were registered in would no longer allow us to operate as a non-profit. Our status up until our conversion was an unusually drawn out part of the normal process that US non-profits go through while registering at the federal level, not an accepted permanent state for an organization.

Myth: CouchSurfing could move to another country and be a non-profit there.

Fact: Moving to another country could take years of work and huge amounts of money, which would distract from our mission and vision.
Changing from a non-profit was a massively complex task that took just under a year in research and execution. Moving a company to a new country is even more complicated. How this would be accomplished varies from place to place, but it would have involved millions of dollars and potentially years of research, negotiations, and arrangements. In the time that we would have spent trying to find a country to move to, working with their government to make the plan, transferring our legal status, and obtaining visas for our staff, we would not have been able to focus on the rest of our work. We’ve already spent far too much time and money on our legal status — those resources are much better put towards supporting the CouchSurfing community.

Myth: CouchSurfing is going to sell member data or make it accessible to third parties.

Fact: We still follow the same privacy policies as before.
Our investors don’t have access to our database, and are not interested in buying it. They are interested in building amazing, sustainable organizations. Our privacy policy is the same as it’s always been.

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