One day, before leaving Boston for Iceland, Casey Fenton randomly emailed 1,500 students from the University of Iceland to ask if anybody would host him during his stay. He received over 50 offers.
In 1999, he started CouchSurfing International, a free hospitality exchange community which aims to “create inspiring experiences” that lead to learning and personal growth, as a result of the aforementioned event. Initially a labor of love, with Fenton and his co-founders working volunteer hours, the San Francisco-based corporation now has millions of members in over 240 countries and territories.
Upon signing up for the service, users get a profile page where they can provide their information and photos. Members can use the CouchSurfing website to look for locals to hang out with or hosts to stay with in foreign places. They can also offer their own home to accommodate fellow travelers.
For the safety of its members, CouchSurfing employs three security methods namely, personal references or feedback; a personal vouching system; and credit card verification, where members enter a code mailed to their address after making a credit card payment to the company.