Breather: Become the Future of Office Spaces
Working at a coffee shop table may be instagrammable, but it’s far from practical. Business-wise, nothing contributes to greater productivity and efficiency like a superbly designed and designated office space.
Having run the majority of his career out of coffee shops, innovator Julien Smith had just about enough of the noise, chaos, and ineptness that came with the experience. Desperately craving a suitable business office but failing to find one urged Julian to think outside the box and develop Breather as an initiative of bringing purposeful business offices back in fashion!
Instead of actually looking for one, Breather enables businesses to book ready-to-use spaces for a few hours, a day, a month - or longer. With a range of highly-equipped workspaces, Breather introduces practical and attainable business solutions that turn office hours into happy hours!
Despite the shadow of doubt surrounding the platform, Julien’s desire to reinforce productive businesses worldwide made him the ultimate figure of personalized office spaces - and here’s how he accomplished it all!
Julien Smith, a Tech Genius to Be
Jullien Smith was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Even as a child, Julien had always been a tech-enthusiast who thrived on science fiction and dreamt big of making it even bigger in the business world. Following high school, his unripe yet certain ambitions led Julien to enroll in Bowdoin College, where he graduated honorably. As a born innovator and tech enthusiast, whose passion always revolved around the internet and high tech, in 2004, Julien took to podcasts in an effort to make a career out of the experience. Interestingly, in his first years of using social media, Julien became one of the first 10,000 Twitter users. As social media were not as widespread then as
today, Julien practically took advantage of the opportunity at hand and managed to hook the perfect business audience without having to advertise his business. Following his podcast success, Julien took the time to write three books: Trust Agents, The Flinch, and The Impact Equation, which later became a New York Times bestseller. His third book, The Flinch, offered career counseling to readers and was meant to be released as a free ebook.
Whenever writing a book, exchanging ideas, or collaborating on new material, Julien and his team would always meet up at a hotel room, where they would work in peace and elaborate on the content in detail. Initially, this was how Julien got the idea of creating separate and designated office spaces for eager employees. Although a successful author at the time, the idea of starting his own business - ideally as an office lender - was bugging Julien so intensely that, at the time, he even said: "I could have just kept doing what I was doing for the rest of my life if I wanted. Or I could take the extreme risk and try this completely insane thing!"
A Business Purpose
In 2012, Julien, along with his friend, Catherina Rizzi, took a sideway turn business-wise and decided to create Breather, a platform that gave global businesses a place to belong. Founded in the city of Montreal, Breather represents a platform that enables businesses to use their app and book office spaces of all sorts and for all business purposes. The best thing about Bretaher’s offices is that they are equipped to meet every business expectation. Best of all they are widespread in over 500 locations globally. Julian once said that 'the smaller the city you can succeed in, the more potential your idea has.'The catch was only to establish a business branch for which you have less competition, which is exactly what Julien and Catherina did. First and foremost, they needed to find a real estate provider. As every beginning is rough, Julien and Catherina didn’t want to overspend on estate deposits and decided to settle their platform in a smaller city, as a more profitable option.
Breather’s Service on Phones
Breather is a service application that provides offices to those in need of an apt yet less formal office-like space for working. Their catalog offers an abundance of workspaces that offer a productive atmosphere, all of them peaceful, aesthetically alluring, and
affordable. Breather’s spaces are also state-of-the-art equipped with the latest online tech and meet every renter’s requirements. Although initially established in Montreal, Canada, the brand later expanded to America and Europe. The financial costs of establishing and relocating were covered by Real Ventures, Mike Walsh from Uber, and some of Smith's friends.
People can rent the offices whenever they are available, and through the platform's app. When used, it first shows you available offices nearby, and once booked, it directs the users towards the location. Interestingly, customers can unlock the offices by only using their phones. Each office has an installed lock that operates on a network, and once it is activated it goes ‘on-air’. Customers can open the door by using the phone everywhere and anytime - if that room is available that is. It sounds futuristic, but it is not at all complicated once you get the hang of it.
In the first few months since the launch, Breather raised $45 million in funding. By 2018, the company had expanded to 500 locations including Canada, the USA, and Europe.
However, their partnership with Ascendas-Singbridge and Temasek secured a place for them on the international market which resulted in expanding to Asia as well. With the rise in the international market, the company operated with a total of $120 million in funding. In the beginning, the most prolific backers of Breather were Real Ventures, Mike Walsh from Uber, and Smith’s alleys.
COVID: A Breather’s Nightmare
When the pandemic broke, the entire world paused. Lockdowns, curfews, and quarantine were the prime measures against the contagious virus.
For a company that rents offices everyone can book, this was a nightmare because it severely affected the company’s financial state, at a time it was still unable to heal from the 2019 downfall.
Namely, in December 2019, Smith stepped down as company CEO and put his confidence in Bryan Murphy, the CEO to be. As for Julien, he remained the chairman of the company. Breather found its place on the top 10 Narwhal List and further expanded to North America’s West Coast since Murphy replaced Julien as a CEO.
Murphy had pivotal ideas for Breather and reduced the staff by 17 percent. Unfortunately, the pandemic broke at a time when the company was already financially fragile because they already announced overspending. Therefore, Breather had to further reduce their workforce, downgrading from 120 employees to merely 30. Their subsidiaries filed for insolvency to pull out from the leases, in over 365 offices.
Brighter Days Are Coming!
Although Breather went through thick and thin these past couple of years, the CEO and his team remain confident that they will overcome this problem. The CEO has different visions for Breather, or he tells it, the goal is to rebuild Breather with a precise focus on technology rather than leasing spaces. Although the company has faced many challenges and downfalls, chances are that we will need more flexible offices in the future, especially after the pandemic has its last say. With global immunization, the company will rise again.
It took Julien five minutes of his life to contemplate and envision the idea of his career. It was all about what the frustration of failing to find a decent workspace did to him. It pushed his creativity beyond the borders of the seen and urged him to think two steps ahead of his competitors to grace the world with the most practical, affordable, and outstanding offices that make working anywhere feel like home.