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Coworking Spaces

The History Of Coworking In A Timeline

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A flood of new coworkers will join coworking spaces around the world in the coming weeks. And between the months of September and October more coworking spaces will open in comparison to previous months. This begs the question: what has caused this spike in the coworking movement and how will it develop? We fished for facts in the depths of the internet, pieced together the puzzle into a timeline, and the result is a brief history of coworking. And as the history becomes longer, just tell us what you would like to add.

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, 16511653 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. 

1999DeKoven 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. 

▶ Next page: The years from 2006 to 2013

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The History Of Coworking In A Timeline