Where did coworking come from, anyway?

workspace long beach

The story behind this revolutionary breed of workspaces.

Trending from Manhattan to Mumbai, coworking spaces are quickly making a name for themselves in the working world. With these new workspaces continuing to pop up and progress each year, it makes you wonder where it all began. We did a little research and got the scoop on the history of coworking.

It all started in 1999…

1999: Bernard Louis DeKoven launched the word “coworking” as a way to identify a method that would facilitate collaborative yet noncompetitive work. Since he said it best himself, a quick quote from the coworking phrase coiner:

“[Coworking spaces] are designed to allow coworkers to work together, as equals. But separately – each working on their own projects, pursuing their own, separate business interests. In this way, people were free to help each other without worrying about competitive pressures. And the result was productivity, community, and, surprisingly often, deeply shared fun.”

And thus, the coworking concept was born!

That same year, the first flexible office space opened in New York City. The office was run by a software company and offered a pleasant work environment with flexible desks for individuals and teams, which could also be cancelled on short notice. Despite the lack of emphasis on the community aspect (now one of the most attractive things about coworking), this initiative was a real breakthrough in the market as it introduced a flexible workspace for companies and small teams to lease or rent on their own terms.

2002: Schraubenfabrik, which was first named a community center for entrepreneurs, opened in Vienna. Since, coworking spaces have become somewhat of a staple for entrepreneurs—allowing them networking opportunities, a “real” office to work in, and essentially all the resources one could need to effectively launch a great idea.

2005: The first official space using the name “coworking space” opened its doors in San Francisco. Organized as a non-profit co-op, the space branded itself as a solution to unproductive ruts that could result from telecommuting, as the turn of the century brought new technologies and new opportunities to work from home (or remotely).

The space offered free Wi-Fi, communal lunches, meditation breaks, massages, and bike tours. Evidently, since then, the bar only continues to be raised for awesome perks in coworking spaces today.

2006: The first “Jellies” started. Jellies are occasional meetings where a small group of people come together to collaborate in a casual atmosphere. Kind of like an office brainstorming session (minus the risk of someone stealing your idea and the inevitable inter-office competition). Jellies offer a platform to exchange ideas, with no commitments or costs. Simultaneously, they facilitate the development of a like-minded community, which can (and likely, do) eventually lead to a coworking space. Now, the community aspect of coworking is seen to be one of the biggest benefits – allowing individuals and companies alike to network and collaborate in a friendly, productive environment.

2007: For the first time, the term “coworking” was seen as a trend on Google’s database. Since then, the search queries increased by factor 20 when searching the word “coworking.” Later this year, “Coworking” got its own page on the English version of Wikipedia.

2009:I’m Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete” – a book about the remote revolution and how it came to transform office spaces, is published. This also brought to attention some of the major downsides in commercial office real estate. Why spend a fortune and tie yourself down to a commercial office lease when coworking spaces and shared office spaces give you everything you need (and then some) for as low as $45 per month?

2010: The coworking movement celebrated the first #CoworkingDay on August 9.
In Europe, the first coworking conference took place at the Hub Brussels. 600 coworking spaces existed worldwide at the time of the conference, with more than half of them being in North America.

2011: Thanks to HR research, employee happiness ratings, and the evident wild success of coworking, it was no secret that coworking spaces were doing something right—and big companies started to catch on. This year saw the first well-known corporations experiment with their own coworking spaces. Companies like TUI (Europe’s largest tourism company) launched the coworking space Modul 57, Bank ING, opened its first coworking space in Toronto, while major players like Google and Instagram designed their private offices to reflect the characteristics of “corporate coworking.”

2012: By the Fall, over 2,000 coworking spaces had launched worldwide.
Meanwhile with a major surge in social media use, Twitter saw more than 93,000 tweets with the hashtag “coworking” (Topsy Analytics). Without the hashtag, there were even more than 217,000 posts centralizing the new, hip way to work.

2013: At the beginning of the year, more than 100,000 people worked at coworking spaces and by Summer, the 3,000th coworking space had launched.

2014: Coworking spaces started popping up on the edges and outskirts of major cities – why? Well for starters, it’s a beautiful thing to be different. With coworking spaces largely residing in central big-city locations, a few new spaces saw an opportunity to go off the beaten track. More importantly though, coworking spaces located within reasonable proximity to a big city provide an office to those who live in the suburbs and don’t want to waste valuable time on a tedious commute. Coworking spaces in suburban towns are also known to aid in supporting local businesses, fostering a hyper-local community, and providing an affordable, relaxed office atmosphere.

Fast forward to 2016, and there were 11,100 coworking spaces in operation; talk about exponential growth. By the end of this year (2017), more than one million people will work in upwards of 15,000 coworking spaces worldwide. Let’s just say the future of coworking spaces is very, very bright.

Coworking statistics adapted from Deskmag.

Leave a Comment

Book a Tour

Come visit us and learn more about how we can help your business succeed!