Digital

Investors bet $15 million more on CouchSurfing’s sharing economy

@denschaal

Aug 22, 2012 12:30 am

Skift Take

If Airbnb- and CouchSurfing-type accommodations cause concern about their legalities and risks, these issues are not dissuading important investors.

— Dennis Schaal

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Some high-profile investors want to share in hoped-for profits from the sharing economy as CouchSurfing closed on $15 million in funding in a round led by General Catalyst Partners.

General Catalyst Partners — which has backed Kayak, ITA Software, Airbnb, and Sabre — is the new lead investor, supplanting Benchmark Capital, which participated in the Series B round along with existing investor Omidyar Network and new investor Menlo Ventures.

CouchSurfing, which has now raised $22.6 million in funding to date, can be considered a cross between Airbnb and Triptrotting. It pairs travelers with locals for accommodations, and hosts myriad offline activities and events, supposedly in more than 300 cities around the world.

General Catalyst on board

With the funding, CouchSurfing adds General Catalyst managing director Jonathan Teo to the board of directors.

And, it is interesting to point out that General Catalyst is hedging its couches, as it now has invested in both the much larger Airbnb and CouchSurfing, too.

A CouchSurfing spokesperson says the company intends to use the new funding “to build out the engineering and product management teams.”

And, that’s a good thing because despite CouchSurfing’s online and offline nature, investors clearly see its behind-the-scenes technology as key to the company’s prospects.

“It’s clear that the path to success for companies in the sector is to make users a strategic focus and use data to better understand and serve them,” Teo says. “We believe the CouchSurfing team has the winning formula, and our firm is eager to support their innovation and growth.”

Nonprofit no longer

CouchSurfing officially launched in 2004 as a nonprofit, and incorporated in August 2011 when it raised $7.6 million from Benchmark and Omidyar.

In addition to expanding its engineering and product teams, CouchSurfing plans to “finalize   new iOS, Android and website features, set to begin rolling out later this year,” the company says.

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