With a U.S. Fleet lawsuit looming, a coworking collaborative is forced to shut its doors.
BY CLIFTON ADCOCK
The Oklahoma City Coworking Collaborative, aka OKCCoCo, announced its closure Oct. 1 as the result of having run out of money defending against a lawsuit.
OKCCoCo officials said the membership-driven business had spent the last of its remaining funds in a suit by U.S. Fleet Tracking, which had given OKCCoCo a $23,000 sponsorship.
A gag order requested by U.S. Fleet Tracking was approved by a judge shortly after OKCCoCo issued a news release on the matter.
Since its founding in 2009, OKCCoCo has provided a professional work environment for freelancers, students and telecommuters who do not have a conventional workplace and don’t want to work from home.
Until March, it was located in Midtown. Then OKCCoCo began seeking donations to open a new location on Film Row downtown, a campaign that raised more than $29,000.
The Film Row site opened July 15.
In addition, the company was given $23,000 as part of a sponsorship agreement with the Edmond-based U.S. Fleet on Jan. 25. Four months later, U.S. Fleet sued.
According to court documents, U.S. Fleet owner Jerry Hunter met with OKCCoCo owners about the sponsorship and the new location, listed in U.S. Fleet’s lawsuit as being at N.W. 68th and Classen Boulevard.
The suit states that OKCCoCo failed to move into that spot despite promises it would do so, and then closed its doors.
OKCCoCo co-owner Derrick Parkhurst said his business stood little chance against a company with more than $20 million in annual revenue.
It makes me ill.
“It makes me ill. We put this together as a community effort,” he said. “None of the co-founders take any money for this. We do it on a volunteer basis. To see it wrenched from us by essentially an imbalance in the legal system — that big organizations can get whatever want if they’re just willing to push it in court until the costs go astronomical for any company being sued, whether or not they’re right.”
Named as a defendant in the suit, Parkhurst said OKCCoCo made several settlement offers, including returning the money with interest, but was told that Hunter would not settle unless Parkhurst was expelled from the company. OKCCoCo agreed, but the settlement still was rejected, according to Parkhurst.
As part of the court case, he produced emails from Hunter calling him “young and arrogant” and stating that he could have had a benefactor for life, but squandered the opportunity.
Parkhurst said he believes Hunter wanted OKCCoCo to move in with U.S. Fleet’s new business accelerator, Blueprint for Business, in order to promote the brand among the OKCCoCo crowd.
“I really didn’t think they would go this far trying to punish us for declining their offer,” Parkhurst said.
U.S. Fleet spokesman Sam Sims would not discuss the case, saying only that “we’re confident in the courts.”