Tony Bacigalupo | I’m Outta Here!

It’s been fascinating to watch the coworking concept evolve over time. When I first learned about coworking, there were only a handful of coworking spaces in existence, and few of those had been open for very long.

Now, as coworking approaches its fourth year, we have dozens of spaces in dozens of cities- and many of them are succeeding. Some spaces have waiting lists. A handful are now actively exploring something as yet unprecedented in the coworking era: expansion.

Cubes & Crayons, the wildly successful Menlo Park space which combines coworking space with daycare services, is building its second location and has publicly stated its intent to expand to cities across the country.

Just today, Alex Hillman of sold-out Indy Hall announced a meeting for people interested in building a media-focused coworking space in Philadelphia. 

Here at New Work City, after riding a wave of interest following our opening, several people have already asked whether we intend to expand.

Here’s where coworking takes another step. Once-fledgling businesses, built on a budding need for community workspace, are now successful, established businesses, and the need for them has only continued to grow.

More than just a space

To date, we’ve described entities like Cubes and Crayons as “coworking spaces”, but this phrase is no longer accurate. They’re coworking companies, and they can have more than one location. 

Point of fact, the phrase “coworking space” was never an accurate way to describe one of these entities. A good coworking space is, first and foremost, a coworking community. And a community is not tied to a specific space.

Now, those communities are foraying into uncharted territory: what happens when a coworking community hits the point where it could have two spaces to call home?

Alex’s exploration into an industry-specific coworking space also advances coworking’s evolution. Coworking started out with an extremely open attitude: if you can show up at the space and do your work with whatever you carried in with you, you can cowork.

But now, as the coworking populace grows, the growth gives way to the more specific needs of particular sub-groups. Independent media folks, for instance, may need equipment and sound-proofed rooms. 

As the year comes to a close, we get a chance to reflect on 2008 and look forward to 2009. 2008 saw the continued growth and spreading of coworking to cities across the globe. 2009 will see that spread continue, but will also witness the rise of larger, more mature coworking companies.

Coworking Trends in 2009

  • Continued growth of number and size of spaces around the world
  • Emergence of more mature, more successful, multiple-location coworking companies
  • Beginnings of coworking spaces focused on specific specialties

This growth will be fueled by a growing population of laid-off former employees who will increasingly be turning to independent and virtual work. 

It goes without saying that coworking is an awesome concept. Its success to date has been fascinating to witness, and in 2009 we’ll see how it looks when it scales and matures.