The flexible workspace industry has been decades in the making and today, there are tens of thousands of flexible workspace centers all over the world. The industry is home to a spectacular array of flexible workspace options providing everything from serviced and managed office space to coworking, hot desks, virtual office services, meeting room rental, and business lounges.
Around Allwork.Space, we’ve always heard that Fegen’s Law Suites were THE pioneers in our industry and the first to establish flexible office space 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.
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We’d like to know more. So if you have more information about the early pioneers of our industry, or any other noteworthy company or milestone that you’d like to see included, please drop us a line.
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Serviced Office History
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stratis was acquired by Regus. Stratis had 12 centers with 3 under development for a $10 million deal.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.