In each Issue, we highlight a new(ish) company we’ve been digging lately. For No.2, it’s Breather, which is playing a growing role in the physical side of the future of the Web.
For many, perhaps most, it is hard to work from home. And when the pressures of a week’s workload fractures your focus at the office, and the din of keyboard clicking and hipster chatter renders the coffee shop too hectic, you need a fourth space: “a space of your own.”
Fortunately, private spaces of productivity are becoming available via the Breather app and they are likely more agreeable than your primary workspace. Beginning in Montreal, and now appearing in Ottawa, Boston, New York, L.A., Chicago, Washington D.C., Toronto, San Francisco and London, Breather offers refuge to everyone from the business traveler and office nomad, to those seeking a designy studio space for photography or yoga.These on-demand spaces run for around $30 an hour, and are even finding a lucrative niche as the go-to for off-site work sessions (while we wait for VR to catch up).
Don’t get too excited by the “rooms by the hour”offer. Whether it be during the work-day or not,“by the hour” lascivious activities are strictly forbidden by Breather, enforced by steep fines and lifetime bans. Unlike Airbnb and Uber, Breather is not a brokering app. It offers an end-to-end experience, beginning the moment you receive a PIN to unlock the door and ending with a cleaning service run by the company. In addition, rooms can be renewed from your mobile device—perfect for lofty creatives and passionistas whose flow can’t be interrupted.
Breather’s only threat may be its on-demand/in-demand ratio. We can expect nearly 50 percent of the N. American population to be self-employed by 2020, and many of the reasons are Web-related: waning HR departments, the Gig Economy and the simple fact that technology let’s you work from anywhere. With the growing freelance workforce and subsequent demand of a “fourth” space, supply can be scarce. Visit the location page and find that at 2pm on a Wednesday, all 84 locations in NYC and all 42 in San Francisco are booked. Procrastinators, take note.
The company says they are working on it. With their spaces split between leases and revenue sharing, Breather is moving towards a low-risk, revenue-sharing model with landlords. And this has its benefits: the company has the flexibility to try out different locations and different levels of design. Currently, one will find a small library of books and magazines, coffee machines, and bright natural light. And Tootsie Rolls—a bottomless supply. Breather knows virtual Tootsie Rolls will not suffice; they are working on a corporate sponsorship.