Alan Bain ’64

The Big Idea

Summer 2009

As a mergers and acquisitions attorney for a computer leasing company in 1968,
Alan L. Bain ’64
often travelled to far-off destinations on the company dime. The travel part was great, but since his trips took place long before the advent of cell phones and WiFi, the U.K.-born Bain found conducting business outside the office frustrating.

“I had this idea germinating,” Bain says, “that there was an opportunity for a service industry to be set up for travelling businessmen.”

Bain’s big idea blossomed in 1970 when he launched World-Wide Business Centres (WWBC), a company that provides all the comforts of an office—from furniture to assistants to phone lines—for workers on the go. The company started with one office on Park Avenue, and by 2000, WWBC was operating in 25 different countries.

After 39 years in business, WWBC’s purpose has changed along with the times. Bain’s company now offers “alternative workplace solutions.” Each of its facilities is fully furnished and provides administrative, custodial, and telecommunications services, among other conveniences. The New York office is home to roughly 100 corporate clients at any given time, a roster that includes occasional visitors, long-time lessees, and start-up companies. One early tenant was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who launched Bloomberg LP in the WWBC offices. Three years later, the future billionaire had amassed 40 employees and secured the fiscal strength to break out on his own.

WWBC’s once cutting-edge concept has become a trend around the world, says Bain with a smile. Now, imitation is one more signal of success.