Movers and Shakers: History of the Flexible Workspace Timeline

Coworking and Flexible Workspace
The Flexible Workspace. Study your history to be prepared for the future.

Today, there are tens of thousands of coworking centers and business centers in towns, cities, and business parks all over the world. Now better known as ‘flexible workspace’ due to the increasing hybridization of workspace, which reflects continuing changes in business needs, the industry at large is home to a spectacular array of flexible workspace offering everything from serviced and managed office space to coworking, hot-desks, virtual office services, meeting room rental, and business lounges, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

It hasn’t always been this way. Step back three or four decades and flexible workspace was unrecognizable; a scattered collection of office suites that didn’t even have a label, much less an industry to belong to. But they did have a purpose – to deliver cost efficiency and short-term flexibility at a time when crushing capital outlay and 15-20 year building leases were the norm.

History is important. It’s important to know where we’ve been, so we can learn from mistakes and avoid making them again in the future. Many companies have attempted to expand quickly during booms, only to realize they have signed 10 year leases at the top of the market, and when the bubble bursts, they are the first to disappear.

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Around Allwork.Space, we’ve always heard that Fegen’s Law Suites were THE pioneers in our industry and the first to establish in 1966. In the diligence of learning more of the history, we’ve found that OmniOffices Group, Inc. was founded 4 years before, although details are scarce.

We’d like to know more. So this is as much about trying to learn more as it is sharing what we know. Please drop us a line if you have more information or knowledge about OmniOffices or any other noteworthy company or industry milestone that you’d like to see included.

Read text only version here.

Serviced Office History

1962
January 3

1962

The OmniOffices Group, Inc. (OmniOffices) was created, a privately held executive suites company and an early pioneer of the industry.

OmniOffices was later acquired by real estate investment trust CarrAmerica in 1997, and in 1998 the two companies further expanded by acquiring HQ Business Centers. In 1999 the joint company became known as HQ Global Workplaces. HQ (and its predecessors) was eventually acquired by Regus in 2004.

1966
August 1

1966

On 1st August 1 1966, Paul Fegen launched a furnished law suite for attorneys. 'Fegen Suites' effectively laid the foundations of the serviced office model by leasing office space and fitting it with furniture, reception services, telephony, and conference rooms. Fegen Suites expanded and was incorporated as Attorneys Office Management, Inc. (AOMI) on 1st July 1970 and began providing virtual office services to law firms in 1973 (known as an ‘off-site tenant program’ at the time). Following the devastating recession of 1980-82, AOMI was restructured and later sold, although the Fegen name was retained. On 1st April 1990, Vince Otte acquired the company and changed the name to Barrister Executive Suites, which today has 26 business center locations throughout Southern California.

Image grabbed from Fegen Suites website. 

1978
April 3

1978

Alf Moufarrige founded Servcorp at the MLC Centre in Sydney, Australia. Initially leasing one-quarter of a floor, Mr Moufarrige eventually grew the business centre to 16 offices, all of which came with furniture and services. Then known as 'multi-tenanted office accommodation', Servcorp had acquired two floors in the MLC Centre, Sydney and a location in Melbourne CBD inside its first 12 months of trading. Today, Servcorp operates more than 155 locations across the globe.

Image grabbed from this link

1979
April 3

1979

Lenta Business Space was formed by The London Enterprise Agency to promote enterprise development within London. In 2002 the company changed to Lenta Business Centres, and now operates as an independent serviced office provider.

Image grabbed from Lenta Facebook Page. 

April 6

1979

OTSS (Office, Telecommunications & Secretarial Services) was founded in Northampton, England, by the Fuchs family. It was later re-named City Executive Centres Ltd. and grew to 13 offices nationwide before it was bought by MWB Business Exchange in 2005. Part of the original family business was retained and in 2009, a new company was formed - Office Space in Town - by brother and sister Giles and Niki Fuchs, who continue to run the business today.
1980
April 3

1980

Richard Nissen founded Business Space Ltd at 35 Piccadilly in London in 1980, and later pioneered the digital exchange telecommunications system which launched the virtual office concept in the UK. Mr Nissen registered the trademark name in 1992 when the Virtual Office Group was established at 211-212 Piccadilly. After a period of 25 years, Mr Nissen relocated his serviced and virtual office business to its current address at 180 Piccadilly. 36 years later, the business is still going strong.

April 3

1980 – 1982

During the 1980s, office technologies including word processors, personal computers, voicemail and fax machines became widely adopted. They began to eliminate some of the staffing roles required by businesses, and at the same time some of these services were offered by early business centers - negating the need to hire full-time staff for secretarial purposes.

1981
April 6

1981

OffiCenters was launched in Minneapolis, MN on June 1st 1981. Today, under owner and CEO Lori Spiess, OffiCenters has 5 workspace locations in and around Minneapolis.

1984
April 3

1984 – 1985

John Gill of Raines Business Centre and Philip Parris of Harvard Offices opened some of the earliest business centres in the UK. In the US, Michigan architect James Blain opened AmeriCenters in Troy, followed later by locations in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

1985
April 12

1985

Multiburo Business Centers was launched by François Pasquet. Today, it is managed by his brother Antoine Pasquet (CEO) and spans 24 locations across France, Belgium and Switzerland - making it the largest privately held business center operator in continental Europe.
1987
April 3

1987

Regus.com states it was founded by Mark Dixon in 1989, but Allwork.space understands the company was actually founded in 1987 by Swedish company Reinhold. It later merged with Mark Dixon's Crosslink company in 1989 to become Regus, currently the world’s largest business center operator. Today Regus, officially known as IWG plc is traded on the London Stock Exchange (IWG) and operates over 3,000 locations in 120 countries.
1989
April 3

1989

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web - a key part in the development of the Information Age and later becoming integral in the mobile working movement. In 1991 the World Wide Web was released to the public.

April 12

1989

Metro Offices was launched by Kathleen Buchanan, and today operates 9 business centers in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland. Buchanan started her workspace career with World Office Services in 1979, and later worked at COMCOR from 1983-88 before leaving to set up Metro Offices in 1989.

1991
April 3

1991

Alliance Business Centers (ABCN) was formed by Steve Tannenbaum, David Beale and Frank Cottle (Chairman). Today, Alliance is the largest global network of serviced offices in the world, with more than 650 locations in 40 countries.
1993
April 3

1993

Citibase was founded by David Joseph and Ian Read, currently operating over 30 business centres in England and Scotland. In the same year, Search Office Space (SOS) was established as the UK's first serviced office search consultancy.

1994
April 3

1994

IZA Business Centers opened their first location at Torre Gia in Monterrey, Mexico, and today operates over 30 business centers in Mexico's largest cities.

Also this year, The Executive Centre was founded, and currently operates over 100 serviced office locations across 21 cities in the Asia Pacific region. In the same year, David Saul, Simon Rusk, Bernard Klug and Colin Gershinson founded BE Offices (formerly known as Business Environment) in the UK; and the Rockefeller Group Business Centers was launched in New York.

Image grabbed from Executive Centre Facebook Page.

1995
April 3

1995

C-base, founded in Berlin, was one of the first hackerspaces in the world - an early form of coworking. That same year, Ralph Gregory founded Intelligent Office.

Image taken from Wikipedia C-base

1996
April 3

1996

John Arenas founded Stratis Business Centers (formerly Community Business Centers), later acquired by Regus in 2001.
1999
April 3

1999

The Wi-Fi Alliance was formed as a trade association to promote Wi-Fi technology and certify Wi-Fi products, leading to gradual acceptance and take-up of wireless Internet.

April 3

1999

HQ Business Centers and Omni Offices merged to become HQ Global Workplaces. It was later acquired by Regus in 2004 at a time when HQ had more than 300 business centers in the US and worldwide. That same year, Bernard De Koven launched the word "coworking" as a way to identify collaborative work, and 42 West 24 popped-up in New York City.

2000
April 3

2000 – 2002

Dot-com crash, which led to consolidations, exits, and bankruptcies in the serviced office industry.

April 6

2000

Flexible workspace brand, BizSpace, launched in the UK and currently operates close to 100 business centres offering a mix of office space, self storage, industrial units and workshops.
Evans Easyspace launched in the UK in the same year and was later acquired by Regus in 2014. In 2015, it was subsequently bought by investor Bridges Ventures for £84 million. Regus was retained under a partnership agreement and continues to operate the Evans portfolio.
Image grabbed from Evans Easyspace Facebook Page
2001
April 3

2001

Stratis was acquired by Regus. Stratis had 12 centers with 3 under development for a $10 million deal.

2002
April 4

2002

Premier Business Centers (officially Premier Office Centers, LLC) was founded in Irvine, California. Under CEO Jeff Reinstein, the company has grown from 9 locations to over 80 centers across 50 cities, and is the largest privately held provider of executive suites in the United States.

2003
April 3

2003

Office Evolution, a franchising workspace model, was founded by Mark Hemmeter. In the same year, Peter Kershaw, original founder of HQ Global Workplaces, bought back the European operations of HQ, which became known as Executive Offices Group (EOG), a high-end serviced office operator in London. EOG was subsequently sold in 2005 to Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund. In 2013, when EOG operated 28 serviced office locations in London, it was bought by Queensgate Investments and rebranded in 2014 to become London Executive Offices (LEO).  Today, LEO operates 35 business centres across Central London.

2004
April 3

2004

Around this time, there was accelerating adoption of personal computers, Internet usage, storage technology and data access speeds, which began to open new opportunities and greater acceptance of virtual and flexible working.

2005
April 3

2005

The official first "coworking space" opened in San Francisco by Brad Neuberg. That same year, the first Impact Hub coworking space launched in London. Today there are over 80 Impact Hubs across the world with more than 11,000 members.   Image via Industrious 
2007
April 3

2007 – 2008

The mobile revolution. Consumers and entrepreneurs used Wi-Fi enabled handheld devices at home, at work and on the go. It enabled business people to work seamlessly from virtually anywhere, and radically changed the business landscape. Around this time, coworking began to expand and the term "coworking" was seen as a trend on Google's database in 2007 for the first time.

April 3

2007 – 2009

Economic crisis and global recession. The credit crunch and ensuing financial crisis left a legacy of heightened cost efficiency measures. Arguably, many parts of the serviced office industry benefited from new-found business requirements for shorter office leases and greater flexibility. Yet business centers and coworking spaces weren’t immune to the recession, which left many with high vacancies and their own long-term lease deals to contend with.

2010
April 3

2010

Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey founded WeWork, a shared workspace company.   Image grabbed from Fortune.com 
2013
April 3

2013

In London, AIM-listed Serviced Office Group acquired Avanta Managed Offices, resulting in 37 properties as part of ‘Avanta Serviced Office Group’.  In the same year John Arenas launched Serendipity Labs, a coworking franchise model, and Industrious was launched by Jamie Hodari and Justin Stewart.

Image taken from Avanta Business Centres Facebook Page 

2015
April 3

2015

Regus acquired Avanta Serviced Office Group. In the same year, Regus made a significant move in the coworking sector by acquiring Spaces, a workspace operator founded in The Netherlands that’s now expanding across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. 2015 also saw the launch of Chinese coworking brand UrWork.

   
2016
June 23

2016

The UK votes to exit the European Union (‘Brexit‘) in a move that could significantly shake up the country’s flexible workspace market.
2017
April 11

2017

i2 Office took over Landmark Offices and Regus acquired Basepoint, while additional funding from Japan’s SoftBank Group took WeWork to $20billion valuation. Chinese coworking brand UrWork merged with NewSpace and later partnered with Serendipity Labs to take on the global market. Also in 2017, the commercial property industry broke ground in flexible workspace: Savills launched Workthere, Blackstone bought a majority stake in The Office Group, and British Land set up Storey.