In the early 2000s, the coworking landscape was relatively barren, with only a handful of spaces scattered across the globe. By 2008, this began to change, and among the pioneers leading this transformation was Conjunctured, one of the first 50 coworking spaces in the world and the first coworking house in the United States. Situated in Austin, Texas, Conjunctured emerged two years before the founding of WeWork, which would later become synonymous with the coworking industry.
To put this into perspective, WeWork, founded in 2010, rapidly expanded to become a global phenomenon, boasting a valuation of $47 billion at its peak in 2019. However, this meteoric rise was not without its pitfalls. By the end of 2019, amidst a series of controversies and a failed IPO, WeWork’s valuation plummeted, highlighting the volatility and challenges within the coworking sector.
In contrast, Conjunctured’s journey from 2008 to 2014 was a testament to the grassroots origins of coworking. It wasn’t just about providing a space; it was about fostering a community. Conjunctured’s approach was more intimate, housed in a converted residential property on the East Side of Austin, a neighborhood that itself was undergoing a cultural renaissance. This setting provided a unique atmosphere that large-scale operations like WeWork, with their corporate-style layouts, couldn’t replicate.
While WeWork was making headlines for its rapid expansion and high-profile investments, Conjunctured was quietly laying the groundwork for what coworking could be at a community level. It was part of the first wave of coworking spaces that set the stage for the industry’s explosive growth, which saw the number of coworking spaces worldwide increase from just over 600 in 2010 to over 18,000 by 2018.
Conjunctured’s story is not just a footnote in the history of coworking; it’s a reminder of the movement’s humble beginnings and the core values that fueled its growth. As the coworking industry continues to evolve, with giants like WeWork reshaping the landscape, it’s important to remember the pioneering spaces like Conjunctured that paved the way and defined what coworking could be at its best: a community-driven, collaborative, and innovative environment.