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The History of Coworking :: A Review

Colony Co-Working – Down Arrow

25 October 2018

​Throughout the history of coworking, spaces have aimed to provide freelancers, entrepreneurs and startups with a space to grow and thrive without having to break the bank. COLONY is no different and continues a tradition of innovative spaces, where burgeoning enterprises can develop in a productive and inspiring atmosphere. ​But what is exactly coworking and where does it originally come from?

The Short History of Coworking

Throughout the history of coworking, spaces have aimed to provide freelancers, entrepreneurs and startups with a space to grow and thrive without having to break the bank. COLONY is no different and continues a tradition of innovative spaces, where burgeoning enterprises can develop in a productive and inspiring atmosphere.

This tradition is not a long one (coworking has only officially existed for 13 years), but it is a strong and well-honed one. Today there are coworking spaces all around the world, and, for the most part, they share a set of core values. COLONY represents some of those key notions behind this new way of working, which steadily changes the business landscape. By supporting up-and-coming entrepreneurs; promoting collaboration and innovation; and facilitating the spread of good ideas, COLONY upkeeps and develops an idea born sometime in the before this century, that has gone on to help and profit people all around the world.

This, then, is the short history of coworking, which summarises the development of those ideas and innovations from small experimental workspaces to the big business of coworking today.

1995 – In the autumn of 1995, seventeen computer engineers create one of the first ever ‘hackerspaces’, C-Base, in Berlin, Germany. Hackerspaces are obvious precursors to coworking spaces. The hackerspace is intended as a not-for-profit space which brings together computer enthusiasts, offering them facilities, as well as an opportunity to collaborate, share knowledge and equipment. Given the dawn of the internet, computer engineers no longer need a fixed place to work, so the space is set up to give them a place to work alongside others in their field, where they can collaborate and share new ideas.

1999 – The phrase ‘coworking’ is coined by Bernard DeKoven. However, the term refers to something different than today's concept of coworking. DeKoven, a game designer, uses ‘coworking’ to refer to the way we work, not the space that we work in. He hopes to evolve ways of working that involve collaboration, a breakdown of hierarchy and seeing co-workers as equals.

2002 – Two Austrian entrepreneurs set up an ‘entrepreneurial center’, Schraubenfabrik, in an old factory in Vienna. The space is aimed at entrepreneurs, giving them a place to avoid having to work from home, where they can collaborate and work with like-minded people. The space included architects, PR consultants, startups and freelancers. This space is clearly the mother of coworking and although not called a ‘coworking space’, it’s undoubtedly a clear precursor to what we know today.

2005 – On August 9th, Brad Neuberg sets up the first ever official coworking space, San Francisco Coworking Space, at a feminist collective called Spiral Muse in the Mission district of San Francisco. The space is intended to maintain the freedom of working independently whilst providing the structure and community of working with others. Neuberg has to pay $300 (£230) a month to use the space for two days a week. For the first month, no one turns up. After more outreach from Neuberg, an athlete and startup developer named Ray Baxter arrives, becoming the spaces first member and in turn the world’s first official coworker.

2006 – From 2006, the number of coworking spaces and coworking members approximately doubles each year for the next seven years. This exponential growth will soon become known as the coworking revolution.

2008 – Coworking visas are introduced, meaning that members of specific coworking spaces are given free access to other coworking spaces also included in the agreement. This means that workers who travel can use coworking offices all around the world without having to spend extra money and also develops the global coworking community. The key ideas around coworking and collaborative working are developed and continue to spread around the globe.

2009 – “I’m Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete” is released. This is the first book on coworking and charts the course of the people and the places involved in the coworking revolution, as well as how coworking is changing the way we view the traditional office.

2010 – On the 9th of August, five years after Neuberg opened the first official coworking space in San Francisco, the first #CoworkingDay is celebrated. Now International Coworking Day is celebrated at coworking spaces around the globe on August 9th each year.

2012 – In 2012, 93,000 tweets are sent with hashtag #coworking. This is more than twice as many as the previous year, mirroring the doubling of coworking spaces and members which continues year on year. With and without the hashtag, the word “coworking” is included in 217,000 tweets overall.

2014 – There are currently 5,780 coworking spaces worldwide with 295,000 members.

2016 – There are currently 11,000 coworking spaces worldwide.

2018 – London is currently the capital of coworking, with more coworking spaces than New York, San Francisco and Berlin. Coworking occupies 10.7 million square feet of office space in Central London alone.

One study predicts that 5 million people will be coworking by 2022. From one Ray Baxter, in Brad Neuberg’s little part-time space in San Francisco, to 5 million people globally coworking in only 17 years is quite the success story.

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