When writer, Julien Smith, toured the country promoting his best-selling book, he had a difficult time finding a quiet place to work or relax. “I would find myself in cities… where I didn’t know a lot of what was around me, and I just wanted—I don’t want to say a sense of safety, but more like a sense of just feeling comfortable or feeling at home,” he told Inc. “So I would end up at Starbucks.”
Coffee shops like Starbucks proved to be too noisy for Smith, and he didn’t want to pay high hotel rates for just a few hours of privacy. This need for a familiar space in an unfamiliar city inspired Smith to co-found Breather, a company that rents out private office spaces in several major cities for between $15 and $40 per hour. In San Francisco, Breather currently rents 16 locations at a rate of $25 per hour, and they plan to add another eight to 10 more over the next month. The company recently secured a new flagship office on Mission Street near Transbay Terminal.
Breather spaces offer amenities like Wi-Fi, chargers, couches and access to bathrooms, and are well-stocked with complementary candy and books. Smith said that coffee machines may be added in the future. The tens of thousands of current Breather users include many travelers, but Smith said that the majority are local workers looking for a quiet place to be productive, like entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers. “We have this florist in Manhattan that just books the Breather locations in order to be able to put flowers in them for the whole neighborhood’s deliveries,” Smith said. “For them, they need a warehouse, but they’re not going to be able to get a warehouse part time.”
Similar office rental companies, like ShareDesk and WeWork, provide shared spaces and promote collaboration and networking, but Smith said that Breather is aimed at those who seek solitude. “It’s the opposite of a co-working space,” he told the San Francisco Business Times. “You may have an office, and it may have everything you want. Unfortunately, you don’t need to be productive in just one place. You need to be productive everywhere.”
Breather currently owns or leases almost 100 office spaces located throughout Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, New York and San Francisco. Smith said he hopes that more outside companies will begin to put their spaces on the Breather platform. He explained that Breather offers landlords an easy way to earn revenue on vacant offices under 500 square feet, which can be difficult to lease.
Breather has signed with large organizations like The Swig Company in San Francisco. Deborah Boyer, Swig’s senior vice president and director of asset management, said that Breather is all about flexibility. “Firms like Breather are playing an increasingly important role in the growth of our creative economy,” she explained. “As a landlord, it’s important that we respond to that fact in order to give our current and future tenants a broad range of options when it comes to space.”