It’s A Wrap: 11 Highlights From The Flexible Workspace Industry In 2017

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2017 flexible workspace industry highlights. We tell the stories, but you write the script.

As the year draws to a close, here’s a 5 minute wrap-up of flexible workspace highlights in 2017.

1. It was a year of international collaboration.

Our industry thrives on collaboration, and 2017 saw many new partnerships. Among them, Serendipity Labs joined forces with China’s UrWork to expand into New York City, giving Serendipity Labs’ members access to an extra 78 workspaces across China. However, UrWork’s name won’t be on the door after WeWork sued the Chinese company for trademark infringement. Still, far from upsetting UrWork’s ‘Big Apple’ cart, the new joint coworking space is set to go ahead early next year.

More international partnerships included Massachusetts-based Workbar joining forces with Japanese investor Apamanshop Holdings Co. Ltd, Singapore’s largest coworking provider JustCo obtaining funding from Thai real estate developer, Sansiri, and UK brokerage Instant partnering with Indian marketplace, Qdesq.

2. Speaking of India…

The South Asian country has enjoyed phenomenal activity within its flexible workspace market this past year, and according to various reports, demand is set to accelerate further in 2018. In May this year, Capital Market company, Sequoia India, invested US$20 million on India-based coworking company, Awfis, while JLL’s Ramesh Nair claims that coworking in India is “expected to receive $400 million in investment by 2018”.

Intrigued? Take a peek inside this unique coworking space in Mumbai.

3. Big players got a little bigger.

With its $20 billion valuation, WeWork may have dominated the industry headlines (again) this year, but flexible workspace is certainly not a one-horse race. Off the back of record demand, UK brand Citibase launched 11 new locations in 2017, The Executive Centre said it plans to double its Chinese portfolio within the next 4 years, Office Evolution made the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing companies in the US, and IWG’s Spaces revealed plans to triple its global presence by 2020.

4. And the industry expanded significantly, too.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and all that growth is having a knock-on effect on the industry itself. Instant named 2017 as ‘The Year of Flexible Workspace’, citing data that indicates coworking and hybrid space has doubled globally in four years. And in an earlier report released in June, Instant claimed that the global flexible office market has grown by over 18 per cent in just 12 months.

5. Independents and niche spaces continued to flourish.

One of the best things about our industry is its diversity. From the biggest players to the smallest coworking spaces, there’s room for an abundance of different workspace shapes and sizes. From medicine, law and media to construction, food and finance, this year we learned that there’s really no industry that can’t benefit from a dose of coworking. Oh, and just in case you’re into sub-zero surfing under the midnight sun, there’s a coworking space for that, too.

6. There’s room for some, er, unconventional diversification, too.

We saw a lot of toe-dipping this year. One company that decided to test the water in a completely different way was WeWork. Never one to shy away from bold moves, in 2017 we learned that WeWork recently bought a business that makes wave pools. Yep, we’re still scratching our heads over that one.

7. And how did our industry celebrate growth and diversity this year? By getting together.

With each passing year, the flexible space industry finds new and different ways to get together and celebrate the steps we’ve collectively taken. 2017 saw many inspirational events, from GCUC New York, GCUC Melbourne and GCUC Canada to the GWA’s Office Evolution Conference, the Future Offices 2017 event, and of course, International Coworking Day 2017. It was also a year of firsts, with Nigeria’s first coworking conference and New Zealand’s first national Coworking Day.

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Let’s keep the momentum going in 2018 — keep your eye on upcoming industry events here.

8. 2017 was all about the money.

What ‘F’ best describes our industry in 2017? FUNDED. This year, we saw investment reach operators and suppliers right across the industry spectrum. From fast-growing European brand Mindspace and savvy online marketplace Hubble to independent tech-focused coworking space ExtraSlice, and not forgetting WeWork’s astronomical $20 billion valuation, investors just couldn’t get enough of flexible workspace.

And for an industry that prides itself on collaboration, crowdfunding is a surefire way to bring in the readies, right? Well, not necessarily. Unfortunately this particular coworking campaign didn’t reach its goal. But that’s not to say crowdfunding doesn’t work. As with every business venture, it takes significant planning, timing, contacts, and resources. And even if it doesn’t go to plan initially, crowdfunding can be an amazing opportunity to capitalize (literally) on your fundraising efforts.

9. Corporates accelerated their move into the coworking world.

This year, we saw 162-year-old real estate giant Savills break convincingly into the flexible space sector with the launch of Workthere, its own coworking and serviced office search platform. British Land also launched its own dedicated flexible brand, Storey, and on the operator side, Blackstone bought a majority stake in UK brand The Office Group.

We’re expecting more of the same in 2018. In the words of Habu’s Ryan Chatterton, “the corporates are coming!” — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

10. A spanner in the (Bar) Works…

Of course, 2017 wasn’t all good news. Every pro has its con, and one particular ‘con’ involved Bar Works, whose disgraced CEO Renwick Haddow was accused of leading a fraudulent Ponzi scheme operation this year. Haddow has since been arrested and according to the latest updates (November 6th, 2017), “a group of Bar Works victims is suing JPMorgan Chase for $3 million over its role in the alleged Ponzi scheme.”

11. Above all, 2017 was all about community.

Happily, the aforementioned doesn’t seem to have blackened the name of coworking. Far from it, in fact. In 2017, community once again took centre stage in the flexible workspace industry. In a year that was riddled with devastating natural disasters — including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes — the coworking community stepped up and opened their doors to support those who needed it most.

Support presents itself in countless ways and in the case of coworking, it’s not just a temporary solution for emergency situations. One particular way in which coworking spaces offered support this year is by welcoming social impact organisations into their communities. This year, the All Good Work Foundation — a platform that matches nonprofit organizations with workspaces who have room to spare — has placed 25 social impact organisations in coworking spaces. It’s all thanks to generous coworking companies and big-hearted communities who open their doors to organisations like RiF (Refugee and Immigrant Fund) and BASE, giving them the support they need to expand their reach, help more people, and make the world a better place.

As we head into 2018, keep sending your stories and news announcements to the Allwork.Space Editors and don’t forget to connect with us on social media (Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook).

We tell the stories, but you write the script. So here’s to you – the community makers and the trend breakers who, together, are working to make our industry better, stronger, more supportive, and more inspirational than ever before. Our industry’s future is bright, and we can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

Happy New Year!