This article is written by Jeremiah Uke, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.
Casey Fenton is the Co-founder and Founding chairman of the board at Couchsurfing International, also the CEO/Founder of Upstock.io (formerly known as Mast.ly), he has also founded other startups Wonderapp and Sovolve, he was present at Startup Istanbul where he shared the lessons learned from his startup Couchsurfing over the years.
Couchsurfing, a startup founded in 2004 by Casey Fenton, is a hospitality and social networking service accessible via a website and mobile app. Registered Couchsurfers can arrange homestays, offer lodging and hospitality, and join events such as “Couch Crashes”. The platform is a gift economy; hosts are not allowed to charge for lodging. The platform currently boasts of over 15,000,000 users and 400,000 active hosts.
Couchsurfing was built out of the necessity to explore the world and gather experiences from several places, exchange culture, learn and have fun. During his session at Startup Istanbul, Casey Fenton tells us about a few lessons he learnt from the process of building and sustaining Couchsurfing, one of which is learning how to manage and make people work with each other, during the earlier stages after building the Couchsurfing software, users up to a million got registered on the platform and finding a way to make registered users work together, the team came up with the “work-live collections” where users volunteered to contribute to the building of the Couchsurfing project.
Casey also learned fund sourcing when he and the team had to go source funds from Silicon Valley to convert from being a non-profit company to B-corporation.
Casey learned that the future is a trust economy, Couchsurfing was basically a business built on people trusting each other, user profiles on the platform allowed them to give other users negative or positive references after having an experience with them, therefore maintaining that trust was a major step. Casey sees a future where Couchsurfing can be used by nearly everyone allowing people to trust each other more and share experiences, and have gotten a good number of reviews from platforms such as Yelp, eBay, Fico, Wonder, and StackOverflow.
Due to the success of Couchsurfing, Casey’s new startup Wonder allows users to share their perspective and reputation on a give-to-get basis and is raising millions to push its cause. His third startup Mast.ly solves the problem of stock options and how companies do not incentivize their staff well, Mast.ly allows entrepreneurs to share their company, allowing members of any team working on any project to share incentives and helps them trust each other better, seeing what they own from the company in real time.
Casey leaves the quote “when people come together around a common vision, they can accomplish great things. We need the instruments that pull people together, not apart”, to emphasize the amazing things people are building with tools, changing the world one startup at a time.