Before there was Uber, Lyft, or Airbnb, there was Couchsurfing. For a certain sect of millennials — say, those entering college between 2005 and 2011 —Couchsurfing was transformative. Members all over the globe offered up their couches for free to these cash-strapped travelers.
It was the original sharing economy, except there was a lot more “sharing” in Couchsurfing’s version than there was “economy.” And that was the problem.
Without a way to properly support itself, the application staggered under the burden of its popularity. It nearly went out of business because of technical problems, and its community struggled to maintain its values with the flood of new users. Raising venture funding just exacerbated the problem, triggering power struggles between long time volunteers and new leadership.
Fascinating look back. Timing is… key.