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How CouchSurfing Got its Start, and Landed VC Millions

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This story appears in the December 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In 1999, Casey Fenton scored a cheap ticket to Iceland, but needed a place to stay. He sent an e-mail to more than 1,500 students in Reykjavik asking for a place to crash--even on someone's couch. The result was a new network of friends who offered to show him the "real" Reykjavik. After spending a weekend immersed in the culture of the area, Fenton walked away with disdain for the typical sanitized tourist experience--and an idea for a new nonprofit.

He invited former colleagues Daniel Hoffer and Sebastien LeTuan from Fuxito Worldwide, a venture-backed international soccer website, and friend Leonardo Silveira to form CouchSurfing. The San Francisco-based organization was designed to provide a platform for people to connect all over the world, fostering more affordable travel, not to mention more immersive cultural experiences, by encouraging users to provide and benefit from free in-home lodging.

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