Breather Breaks into Beantown

A startup that provides on-demand private workspace is now in metro Boston.
Julien Smith, Breather

Julien Smith, Breather

Breather, a startup that provides on-demand private workspace, is now in metro Boston, supplying anyone wielding a credit card and a mobile device with a turn-key suite on a moment’s notice, and giving office building owners and leasing managers a way to capitalize on that pesky remaining 500 square feet that’s been collecting dust.

“[For building owners], it’s really compelling. You don’t have to do anything; we manage the entire space,” Julien Smith, co-founder & CEO of Breather, told Commercial Property Executive.”  Plus these 500-square-foot units are not really the most sought after spaces in real estate; a lot of the time they just stay empty.”

New York, San Francisco, Montréal, Ottawa and now Boston. For as little as a half-hour or as long as an entire day, for anything from a meeting to a moment of relaxation, Breather offers modernly-furnished temporary digs with chairs, table and lounge seating through reservations via the company’s website or app. The new Breather sites in Boston proper include a space in the 12,000-square-foot building at 715 Boylston St. and two options at 36 Gloucester St., a 5,000 -square-foot property. And in Cambridge, two suites at the 7,000-square-foot building at 1158 Massachusetts Ave. in Harvard Square are now available.

Breather’s target user ranges from, say, an executive seeking a quiet place for a power nap to an out-of-town shopper in need of a place to stash new purchases during a buying binge to an existing business desperate for the occasional extra conference-room space. Clients also include freelance professionals and digital nomads, who might otherwise be found conducting their activities in a café with other java drinkers peering over laptops from surrounding tables.

Local startups also commonly take a Breather. One new client in New York is a startup that just raised $40 million and with it, a need for a little additional space beyond its existing 30,000-square-foot office. “Of course they’re not going to go out and get another five-year lease for another 30,000 square feet, so we end up being their buffer space. We end up being this buffer space for a lot of different startups when they need it and then they give us space when they no longer need it. [The Breather concept] just reacts differently to the different economies,” said Smith.

When Breather first got off the ground in 2013, the company did business with building owners by signing leases with them, but revenue-sharing relationships have since become more common. As Smith explained, “The reason that’s interesting for them is because, for example, in San Francisco the rates are skyrocketing–it’s like $65 per square foot in San Francisco–but we’re able to make them like $200 per square foot in some cases.”

Also, building owners will find Breather a good selling point when courting tenants for larger spaces at an office property. “They end up becoming units that owners show off the same way they might say, Oh, we have a café on the ground floor. Oh, we have a Breather so if you ever run out of conference space you can use this one as well. It’s like a utility. It’s thinking about small spaces in a different way. Rather than giving someone an extra little corner that they wouldn’t use very well, it can end up being a buffer space for the whole building,” Smith added.

With the new Boston locations, Breather now has 70 locations in major markets in the U.S. and Canada. And of course, there are more to come.