How is Trustroots different from Couchsurfing?

The elephant in the room

Couchsurfing, the largest hospitality exchange network has announced on the 14th of May, that they will be requiring many of their users to pay a monthly subscription. Since Trustroots is also enabling hospitality exchange, this is very relevant to us.

While Couchsurfing hasn’t claimed to be a charity or a non-profit since 2011, this move has angered many members of the community. When Couchsurfing turned into a for-profit, there were claims that it would also remain free. So the questions that are being asked about Couchsurfing are also relevant to other networks.

While we aren’t taking any particular action in the wake of Couchsurfing’s decision, we’re putting this post out as a “state of Trustroots in 2020” in the topics of transparency, non-profit status, community ownership and what kind of legal backing stands behind our good word to never sell out to venture capitalists.

Trustroots is a non-profit

Trustroots is owned and operated by Trustroots Foundation, a non-profit Limited by Guarantee (LBG), registered in the United Kingdom in March 2015.

This means:

  • The foundation’s purposes are for the public benefit.
  • There are no shares in the foundation, nor can it pay dividends.
  • As much as possible, assets are specially protected on winding up and from a sellout.

…and since at the end of the day that’s still just legalese, what matters most is the foundation’s board’s track-record with similar projects.

I’ve volunteered full time for CouchSurfing in 2006 and 2007 when it was a non-profit registered in New Hampshire. During this time I was told that CouchSurfing could never be sold. I’ve been mad for long enough at the way it was sold (and at various other issues).

I’ve also been involved in BeWelcome as a board member at around 2013-2014.

I’ve also been maintaining hugely popular since 2006, a free community-built guide to hitchhiking.

From all of this, I learned that it’s extremely hard to legally make it impossible for website assets to not be sold.

All I can guarantee is that we are committed to building a beautiful network of people.


For the foundation, we’re focused on:

  1. Building a culture of transparency and communication.
  2. Keeping the organization financially lean.
  3. Volunteers are encouraged towards do-ocracy, meanwhile adhering to strong values about sharing, privacy, and diversity.
  4. Building open-source software.

We want a world that encourages trust, adventure, and intercultural connections.

Our willingness to help each other is universal. Trustroots is completely free to use and will remain so forever.

We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency.

We emphasize community.

Trustroots manifesto

Where does the money come from?

How to put it… We don’t really need money right now.

Our costs consist mostly of servers and other technical costs. This is around € 1000 – 2000 per year and is paid by the members of the board.

As for Couchsurfing asking money from you: employees are expensive. As a non-profit, we prefer to be run by volunteers. And not just for financial reasons. The foundation could have employees. Many foundations do. There are many ways for a non-profit to raise funds and pay workers. Voluntary donations from the members would be the most likely way for Trustroots. But, for now, there’s a solid consensus between the Foundation’s board and the current volunteers that we should avoid it.

Trustroots will always be foremost built by its members and volunteers. No one is currently getting any money from the foundation. It’s just not who we are.

Who are we?

Projects often get started around a common intention, and this idea gets imprinted in the DNA of the project. Even five generations of volunteers later, you can still feel it.

We are not the foundation. We are not the user database. We are not our founders. What we are, is our principles.

To us, “non-profit” and “open-source” aren’t defining traits. They sort of go without saying. We are hitchhikers, dumpster divers, hackers, survivalists, makers, squatters, nomads. We want a world with open borders, without waste and full of trust. And we’re building it. One couch at a time, lol.

What do we need?

What Trustroots needs is you. We need you to join in the effort and be the change you want to see.

You don’t have to be a coder or designer to join the effort. We need word-people, support-people, people-people, and much more. The simplest thing, of course, is to tell all friends about it, especially those who are into the idea of hosting people.

If you can and want to do more than that, head over to


  1. Rossano Mansan Avatar
    Rossano Mansan

    I’m with you!

  2. You guys are awesome :) Thanks for being a great example of how you don’t need to create a big profit-orientated business to make a great hospitality exchange platform.

  3. […] Trustroots doesn’t even have a yearly donation goal. They say, “Our costs consist mostly of servers and other technical costs. This is around € 1000 – 2000 per year and is paid by the members of the board.” Read their blog here. […]

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