History of Co-working Space

Coworking is not a new term. The first books which praised the power of coworking, were already published in 1628. Yet they only admired the coworking power of God and its representatives, which also have shown multiple publications in 1645, 1651, 1653 or 1657. The concept changed over time into what it is today: a representation of working independently, but together. Most coworkers work as their own God. They are freelancers who share common values. The most important examples you can find here.

1995: C-base, founded in Berlin, was one the first hackerspaces in the world. In 2002, they made WiFi networks available and promoted free public access to the internet. Hackerspaces are usually community-oriented, offering a physical location where people can meet and work. These spaces can be considered as some of the first pre-models of coworking spaces. The hackerspace movement is also growing worldwide.

1999: DeKoven launched the word “coworking” as a way to identify a method that would facilitate collaborative work and business meetings coordinated by computers. He realized that people and business were too isolated and hierarchical to be considered “working together as equals”. His method aimed to support collaborative work through a non-competitive approach while giving people the opportunity to work on their own projects.

That same year, 42 West 24 popped-up in New York City. The space 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, compared to many other coworking spaces, this initiative was a real breakthrough in the market. Especially after the tech bubble popped in 2001, when the software company lost many clients and therefore many employees. 42 West 24 was then filled with new members and is still going strong, with 50 coworkers who occupy around 32 desks, which are surrounded by eight offices. The founder company still occupies a part of the shared workspace as well.

2002: Vienna’s mother of coworking spaces opened as Schraubenfabrik, which was first named a community center for entrepreneurs. Later, it was extended by Hutfabrik (Hat Factory, 2004) and Rochuspark (2007). The spaces operate under the umbrella of Konnex Communities, which became the first local network of coworking spaces. There’s no relation to the Hat Factory in San Francisco. Many coworking spaces have given old factories a breath of new life.

2005: The official first “coworking space” has opened its door in San Francisco on August 9 by the programmer Brad Neuberg as reaction to “unsocial” business centers and the unproductive worklife at a homeoffice. Organized as a non-profit co-op, the space was hosted at Spiral Muse, a “home for well-being”. The association offered five to eight desks two days a week, free wifi, along with shared lunches, meditation breaks, massages, bike tours, and a strict closing time of 5.45 pm. The coworking space closed after a year, and was replaced by the Hat Factory in 2006.

The first Hub started at London’s Angel Station. From there, more than 40 other coworking spaces have been developed by a franchise network on five continents, which is the biggest network of coworking spaces as of today.

In Germany, St. Oberholz opened in 2005 as one of the first cafés in Berlin to offer free internet access and allow people to work on their laptops as guests, not wifi parasites. The café and its visitors ended up in a book, called “We Call It Work – The Digital Bohemians or intelligent life beyond fix employments”. Published in 2006, the book that is not specifically about coworking, describes the new form of work created by the internet and its people who – now – often work at coworking spaces. The book nurtured the coworking movement in Europe’s biggest nation. Today, St. Oberholz offers a real coworking space above the coffeeshop.
2006: The Coworking Wiki started in San Francisco. One of the co-founders was Chris Messina, the guy who created the Twitter Hashtag.

The Hat Factory opened as the first full-time space that was called a “coworking space”. Among the co-founders was Brad Neuberg, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt. It was one out of almost 30 coworking spaces worldwide at this time. Until 2012, its numbers have nearly doubled each year.

The same year, the first “Jellies” started. Jellies are occasional meetings where a small group of people come together to collaborate within an informal atmosphere. Jellies offer the opportunity to exchange ideas, with no commitments or costs. At the same time, they allow a community to build that can eventually lead to the development of an institution like a coworking space.

In reaction to the book “We call it work”, an artist came up with the concept of a coworking space called Business Class Net, in 2006. The medium-sized workspace, located in his former gallery in Kreuzberg, finally opened on Labor Day in 2007. It was Berlin’s first coworking space, and also started the first global networks of coworking spaces via fairchise.

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” prevailed over other search terms. The concept of coworking became a part of mainstream media in the United States. However, until about 2009/2010, the term was restricted only to the United States.

One of the first coworking spaces was bootstrapped. Indyhall developed a coworking space in Philadelphia without having a budget, but by creating a community first. Around 30 people were willing to buy memberships in advance.

In August, the first conference discussing new forms of work, “digital bohemians”, took place in Berlin. The meeting was called “9to5”. Several of the participants later founded three of the city’s coworking spaces.

Later this year, “Coworking” got its own page on the English version of Wikipedia.

2008: During the South By Southwest (SXSW) in 2008 and 2009, the first unofficial coworking meet-ups took place. Based on these meetings, and the first Coworking Conference in Brussels in 2010, Loosecubes decided in 2011 to organize the first official Coworking Unconference during SXSW. One year later, the GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference) emerged.

In August, the Coworking Visa is born. The program is a voluntary goodwill agreement between many coworking spaces to allow members of other spaces to visit for free.

At Cubes & Crayons, the first coworking space opened alongside facilities for kids ranging from just a few months old to pre-schoolers.

By the end of 2008, there are about 160 coworking spaces worldwide.

2009: The first book on coworking is published. “I’m Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete” is a book about the people & places that kicked off the workplace revolution in the US.

In Germany, Betahaus was one of the first official so-called “coworking space”, which opened in March of 2009. No other coworking space had found so often a place in Germany’s biggest news magazine, the Spiegel. Because of rising attention, the term “coworking” entered into the German mainstream media. A year later, Germany was established as the first country in Europe to use the term “coworking”, according to Google Trends.

2010: The coworking movement celebrated the first #CoworkingDay – in memory of the first “coworking day”, which took place five years earlier.

In Europe, the first coworking conference took place at the Hub Brussels. Since then the coworking space has closed, thus the 4th Coworking Europe will take place in Barcelona this year. At the time of the first coworking conference, 600 coworking spaces existed worldwide, with more than half of them in North America.

2011: The year started with the European Jelly Week, which became Worldwide Jelly Week only one year later.

The first Coworking Unconference took place in Austin on March 10. A day earlier, NextSpace also announced the first angel funding for a network of coworking spaces.

2011 also saw the first large companies begin to experiment with their own coworking spaces. The result was the coworking space Modul 57, founded by one of Europe’s largest tourism companies TUI, with its headquarters in Hanover (Germany). The Bank ING, opened their first coworking space, Network Orange, in Toronto. Steelcase was already using some coworking spaces as a showroom for office furniture of Turnstone. Two years later, they opened Workspring as their own chain of coworking spaces, which specializes in “corporate coworking”.

2012: In October, more than 2000 coworking spaces are found worldwide.

Over the course of the year, Twitter users sent 93,000 tweets with the hashtag “coworking” (Source: Topsy).That is a huge increase of 52% compared to the previous year. Considering the search term, with and without hashtag, there were even more than 217,000 tweets (+56%). During GCUC, Coworking Europe and Coworking Spain, Twitter users were chirping about coworking most often.

2013: At the beginning of the year, more than 100,000 people worked at coworking spaces. In July, the 3,000th coworking space opened.

There were now nine networks of coworking spaces that operated in more than five locations, such as The Hub, NextSpace in the US or Urban Station in Latin America. Since 2008, NextSpace collected nearly US$2.5 million for opening new coworking spaces, and has recently taken over Chicago’s Coop.