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In October, layoffs claimed an estimated 40 percent of the staff, and CEO Tony Espinoza announced his departure — giving an opening to competitors like Be Welcome and Hospitality Club.Although the company has initiated a doubling down on mobile, the experience of users like Riccardo might suggest another path to profitability. The almost decade-old Couchsurfing, which is available in 100,000 cities across the globe, is becoming the go-to hookup app for a certain class of young world travelers.Today, each of the site’s 7 million members has a unique profile which reads like a personal ad, highlighting interests, locations traveled, details about their accommodations and, most important, references.This system allows friends you’ve made globally or locally to vouch for you and the unlikelihood of you being a serial killer.
After a controversial transition to a for-profit model in 2011, which brought million in funding in the past two years, growing pains have set in.Riccardo G.’s profile on Couch Surfing.com, the website that partners intrepid wanderers with willing hosts, notes that he lives in the “best neighborhood to go out and have drinks,” that he offers a “cozy/clean/nice sofa/couch” and that he’ll even let you bring your “small dog, if you just can’t live without him.” He describes himself as “amazing, outgoing, funny, smart” and says his interests include friends, eating, drinking, the gym and puppies.His photos show the good-humored Latin American native — dark, handsome, and fit — in exotic destinations around the world, from Cairo to Capri.At first, Riccardo could not believe it was that simple. “I’m going to sound like such a jerk just telling them.” But he tried it on his next guest and bingo.“We got home just laughing and telling jokes, and I just said it. ’” “My friends say, ‘You’re telling me that line — get in my bed — it works?