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HISTORY OF COWORKING: HOW IT ALL STARTED

The history of coworking and how it all started is not an easy question to answer. The idea of sharing space to work exists for some time now. If we look at it from the broader perspective, the first shared office spaces were incubator centers and community centers for young entrepreneurs. These centers have been around for decades if not more. Later, in the 90’s there were centers, clubs and private places where computer nerds and would be hackers would gather to play with computers and explore the IT technology of the time.

Today, the concept of coworking that we know started in San Francisco in 2005 as a result of unsocial business centers and lack of productivity from working from home. The first coworking place offered a limited number of desks, less than dozen, with limited usage time of only twice per week and with limited opening hours. Soon, other coworking places started to spring up in San Francisco area followed by other cities. By the end of 2005, London had more than forty coworking addresses. Berlin was similar in numbers too. The first coworking places were booked out well in advance and people were willing to pay for this service and just to rent the single desk. Even some small companies rented out several desks for their employees as they recognized the advantages for meeting new people and exchanging ideas and views.

By 2012, there were over two thousand coworking places worldwide which meant that on the entire planet major cities had more than a few.  Today, there are over ten thousand, with the majority of them in the United States, India, Brazil, Spain, Germany and Canada. The estimate is that half a million people use the coworking space on daily basis and the trend is that it will increase in years to come. This increase is driven by the demand in the rise of self employment, requirement for flexible and cheap office space and surplus in office premises.

In just ten or so years, the coworking evolved into a subculture that attracts vibrant and dynamic crowd. Today, most of the coworking spaces offer after hour activities and gatherings or are open well into the night or even 24 hours per day.

Today, the coworking spaces are in range from smaller ones with several desks to large ones that have more than hundred desks. Some coworking spaces go so far to offer massages and spa treatments and sport facilities too. But at the end, the sky is the limit to ideas and private entrepreneurship.

Coworking Timeline:

1999: the term ‘Cowokring’ was first used by Bernie DeKoven to describe the collaborative work that is supported by computer and technologies that were used in the late 90’s.

2005: Coworking as we know it today is a physical space, an office space. The term was first used by Brad Neuberg to describe a space where freelance workers came together to work. The working environment was casual and laid back. Brad Neuberg created the Hat Factory in San Francisco.

2006: In San Francisco a Citizen Space was opened and was considered the first coworking space (as we know it today) and it lead to global coworking movement. In New York City Noel Hidalgo and Beka Economopoulos started the first coworking space followed by Jelly (created by Amit Gupta and Luke Crawford). Jelly space promoted casual environment for working which attracted independent workers and freelancers. Soon, Jelly attracted big media attention and encouraging others to start similar spaces.

2007: Jelly opened coworking spaces in other US cities (such as San Francisco, Austin and Phoenix). In 2007 there were about one hundred spaces that doubled the following year. The term coworking first appeared on Wikipedia.

2008: with almost two hundred coworking spaces world wide the trend was on and some spaces introduced child day care services (ie. Cube & Crayons). Most of the coworking spaces were located in North America and Europe.

2009: the coworking trend spread to Asia and South America. The first coworking chains started to spring up and the first coworking conference was held, including the first book on the coworking topic (I’m Outta Here).

2010: August 9 was declared as the International Coworking Day. Deskmag an online coworking magazine was created.

2011: at the end of the year there were almost twelve hundred coworking spaces around the world. In Berlin was held the first European coworking conference named Coworking Europe.

2012: Alex Hillman launches Coworking Weekly an email subscription about the news and development in the coworking world. Big corporation get involved with the coworking spaces to create a user friendly environment for their employees and to source talented staff (AT&T, Accenture, PWC, etc). In US a League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces is created  as a collaborative union between the coworking spaces across the continent. There are over two thousand coworking spaces worldwide.

2013: an international coworking association named Coshare was started. Coworking Ontario went even further and offered first health insurance to members of coworking community through COHIP program.

2014: The coworking environment developed so much that all the major cities had more than few with total worldwide number reaching nine thousand.