Two years ago I was introduced to Julien Smith, Founder / CEO of Montreal and NYC-based Breather, by my good friend Taylor Davidson. Taylor explained that Breather was building a new type of private cafe that could be accessed via mobile app. I thought the concept sounded crazy and unique at the same time so I agreed to take a meeting with Julien. When I first met Julien and he explained the concept to me, I believed he was absolutely nuts. For those of you who haven’t heard of Breather, it’s a network of private spaces you can access by the hour through an iPhone and Android app. Think of Breather as productive and private space on demand.
Breather quietly launched in NYC earlier this year and Julien encouraged me to give it a shot. I believe I was one of their first customers. In fact, I was so pleasantly surprised by the experience I decided to write a detailed post about what it’s like to work in a Breather space. I had never experienced anything quite like it. The company created a “full stack” experience that felt like magic. Pull out my phone. Activate the Breather app. Pick a location. Reserve a time slot. Invite colleagues. Turn by turn directions to the space. Arrive at the door. Access the space via the Breather app. And presto! I now have private space all to myself. Here’s where Breather is different: they own the end-to-end experience from the app all the way down to the look and feel of the spaces. The experience is carefully crafted and consistent throughout the network. You can tell the team deeply cares about the user experience. A well-known investor used the service after I encouraged him to give it a try. He texted me immediately afterwards and simply wrote, “It was flawless.”
During my first meeting with Julien I remember asking him, “what sane person would want to rent a furnished room without a bed by the hour?” Well, it turns out that thousands of normal people like freelancers, business travelers, artists, and actors see value in accessing productive space on demand. And the early numbers prove it’s working. Total hours booked in the network have nearly quadrupled in the last three months. Utilization and occupancy rates are increasing. Nearly all the spaces are profitable. Most importantly, the customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and consistent: We love experience and we want more spaces on the map.
I’m incredibly excited to announce that RRE Ventures has led a $6m Series A investment in Julien and the team at Breather. This continues our theme in investing in tech-enabled real estate (see Hightower and Floored). The funding will be used to enhance the mobile and offline experiences and expand locations on the map. It’s still early days for the company but Julien and I share the belief that the timing is perfect for a service like Breather to thrive. There are millions of locks globally which will soon be connected. Everyone has a computer in their pocket. More people are living and working in urban centers. Accessing real estate and space hasn’t changed in decades. Workers are now mobile more than ever before. Distributed organizations are en vogue. Freelancers are making up larger share of the labor pool. For the first time in history, a service like Breather is possible.
If Starbucks created the third space (the public cafe), Breather has created the fourth space. There are now more than a dozen locations to unlock in NYC and three locations just launched in San Francisco. I encourage you to give it a try and would love to hear what you think about the experience.