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CS CEO at 2012 PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit
Posted December 21st, 2012 - 1:01 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
After the in-house webcast for internal consumption by CS volunteers and users, watch the CEO's somewhat different version for the business audience at last month's PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit:

http://phocuswrightconference.com/ondemand

Scroll down to "CouchSurfing" and watch at least from minute 9 where the critics give their view of CouchSurfing and what it has become, before the video is removed. I have a copy for that case:

Erik Blachford, Venture Partner, Travel Guard Chartis:

"When I first ran into CouchSurfing a couple of years ago it had sort of a different feel to it, right? It was a non-profit, everything was open-sourced, the community was ready to code, was doing everything, and I worry a bit about you guys. It's a lot of venture money, you're starting the presentation with a slide with all your investors and so forth and it just feels like a different thing now. I may just be sentimental about it but I think there was a remarkable thing in the CouchSurfing community and I worry a lot that when the time comes to monetize, the blow-back you're going to get from your base is going to make the blow-back which Facebook has gotten from theirs (Espinoza nodding) look like nothing at all. I would worry about that."

Tony Espinoza, replying to a request to clarify what people on couchsurfing were actually doing because it wasn't clear from his presentation ("dating, meeting people, like airbnb finding a place to stay, or events?"):

"It's about being a couchsurfer. And when it comes to monetization I think that's a really critical thing for us as well. We're not looking to start advertising and pushing things on people. What we think that's been created in the process of building couchsurfing has been a really strong connection with a community, with one another and with the whole process of traveling through people. So everything we do will reinforce that. Ultimately its a premium service. If I told you the percentage of people that have paid, just for the simple verification to get a little check-mark, you'd be shocked. And that's becauses people care, they want to be part of the community, they want to be taken seriously as part of it. Everything we do from here out will reinforce that. We want to connect with companies that will create incredible value for members, so that being a card-carrying couchsurfer actually has a lot of meaning and usefulness and utility for people. That's where we'll focus monetization. It won't be about exploiting or extracting value. I think that this company is fundamentally about creating value for the travel industry."

When a partner in an insurance company (!) worries openly about ethics to this point, I guess you really need to be concerned.