CouchSurfing Raises $15M From General Catalyst, Menlo, Benchmark, Omidyar

CouchSurfing said it raised $15 million in a Series B round led by General Catalyst Partners and joined by Menlo Ventures and existing investors Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network. The company has raised a total of $22.6 million in the past year.

PRESS RELEASE

CouchSurfing Raises $15 Million in Series B, Led by General Catalyst Partners

Global Social Travel Network Continues Rapid Growth; Expands to Nearly 5 Million Users in More Than 93,000 Cities

SAN FRANCISCO—August 22, 2012—CouchSurfing, the pioneering social travel network, announced today that it has closed $15 million in funding from new lead investor General Catalyst Partners, with participation by Menlo Ventures and existing investors Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network. The additional funding brings the company’s total funds raised in the past year to $22.6 million and will help expand product management and engineering teams to enable faster innovation across its mobile and online platforms.

“Today, we’re honored to welcome new investors who share our belief that people are at the core of authentic and fulfilling travel,” said CEO Tony Espinoza. “This new funding will allow us to improve the ways in which we serve and strengthen our incredible, diverse community.”

CouchSurfing enables people from around the globe to discover each other online so they can share their cultures, hospitality and experiences offline. Along with hosting travelers and staying with locals, there are thousands of activities hosted by more than 40,000 interest groups on CouchSurfing, including language exchanges, bicycle tours, museum visits and volunteer opportunities. In just the past year, CouchSurfing’s nearly 5 million users have shared more than 10 million face-to-face experiences. The company recently released an infographic highlighting the diversity of its users and their experiences.

“The internet and social media have led to monumental changes in the travel sector, which today constitutes a third of all global e-commerce activity,” said Jonathan Teo, Managing Director at General Catalyst Partners and the newest addition to CouchSurfing’s Board of Directors. “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. We believe the CouchSurfing team has the winning formula, and our firm is eager to support their innovation and growth.”

CouchSurfing joins some of the most innovative travel, collaborative consumption and consumer internet companies in the portfolios of its new investors, including Airbnb, Getaround, ITA, Kayak, Room 77, Sabre, TaskRabbit, Tumblr and Uber.

“More than four years ago, I identified the sharing economy, or collaborative consumption, as a very exciting new area and made my first angel investment in the space,” said Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director at Menlo Ventures. “CouchSurfing truly launched this movement in 2004, and the world has finally caught up to it. I have deep faith in this emerging market, so we are investing because we believe that helping accelerate growth here can actually transform our world.”

Over the coming months, the company will continue to hire top-tier engineers and product managers and finalize new iOS, Android and website features, set to begin rolling out later this year.  These include a completely new code base for the site, which will increase speed and reliability, provide a more intuitive browsing experience and deliver more customized and optimized search results.

“At its core, CouchSurfing is providing a truly social experience, giving people the ability to connect online in the interest of interacting face-to-face,” said Matt Cohler, General Partner at Benchmark Capital and CouchSurfing board member. “From our early days and investment in eBay, to my personal experience at both LinkedIn and Facebook, we’ve become strong believers in the multiplier effect of networks like CouchSurfing.”

About CouchSurfing:
CouchSurfing is the world’s largest social travel network, connecting a global community of travelers, adventure seekers and lifelong learners dedicated to sharing their cultures, hospitality and authentic experiences. Founded in 2004 and incorporated in 2011, CouchSurfing connects nearly 5 million people in more than 93,000 cities via its website and mobile applications. The company’s investors include Benchmark Capital, General Catalyst Partners, Menlo Ventures and Omidyar Network. For more information or to join the CouchSurfing community, visit CouchSurfing.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Benchmark Capital:
Benchmark Capital believes that great entrepreneurs change the world for the better.  The venture capital firm focuses on early-stage companies in the areas of mobile, social and cloud computing.  Benchmark is comprised of six equal general partners who take a hands-on approach to every business decision. Benchmark’s portfolio includes companies like Twitter, Dropbox, Asana, and Uber; recent exits such as Bytemobile, Gaikai, Demandforce, Instagram, OpenTable, Yelp, and Zillow; and market leaders like eBay, Juniper Networks, MySQL, and Red Hat.  Benchmark Capital has offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco, CA.  For more information, please visit http://www.benchmark.com

About General Catalyst Partners:
General Catalyst Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in exceptional entrepreneurs who are building the technology-based companies that will lead innovation and transform industries. Founded in 2000, General Catalyst Partners leverages its principals’ extensive operational, business development and technological expertise to provide portfolio companies with a catalyst for success through business-building and partnership development assistance. General Catalyst has offices in Cambridge, MA and Palo Alto, CA. For more information, please visit: http://www.generalcatalyst.com.

About Menlo Ventures:
Menlo Ventures provides capital for seed through growth technology companies in the consumer and enterprise sectors. For decades, the firm’s market-driven research analysis has led to the identification of and successful exits in innovative technology markets. Notable research areas of investment include Mobile (Siri, MobiTV, TeleNav), Enterprise storage (3Par), Communications (Acme Packet, Cavium Networks), and Consumer (Carbonite, Roku). Founded in 1976, Menlo’s portfolio includes 70 public companies and more than 100 mergers and acquisitions. Throughout our history, Menlo’s deep network of portfolio entrepreneurs, angels and advisors are a key resource made available to all of our family of investments. Menlo Ventures has $4B under management and is currently investing Menlo Ventures XI, a $400M fund with $20M allocated to our Menlo Talent Fund for fast seed funding. For more information, visit www.menlovc.com.

About Omidyar Network:
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $550 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including entrepreneurship, financial inclusion, property rights, government transparency, consumer Internet and mobile. To learn more, visit www.omidyar.com.

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