Breather was born out of Julien Smith’s need to limit workflow interruptions on business trips. Smith noticed how early hotel check-outs, distracting coworkers and noisy coffee shops put a dent in his productivity.
He partnered with friend and fellow Montrealer Caterina Rizzi in 2012 to create a solution: an on-demand service that offered short-term quiet workspace rentals. Together, they started Breather with a mission to make the world’s spaces connected, accessible and productive.
Just like their Montreal headquarters, each Breather rental space is beautifully designed. Without the need for a membership, they can be rented by anyone who needs a place to work, meet or focus – whether that’s for meetings, presentations, photoshoots, workshops or small events. All workspaces can be reserved for a day, week or month through the web or their mobile app.
Breather opened its first shared space in New York City in early 2014. In just a few short years, the Montreal-born company has grown to more than 250 employees and expanded to 10 cities including Toronto, San Francisco and Chicago. It recently added London, England to its list.
Breather attracts freelancers, on-the-go professionals and notable enterprise clients including Facebook, Spotify, Airbnb and Estée Lauder.
Today, Breather boasts a network of 400 workspaces and since its launch, the company has raised $75 million in funding. Its most recent Series C round secured Breather $40 million in December.
Just down Avenue De Gaspé, Breather’s Mile End office sits in the former heart of Montréal’s trendy garment district. The bright industrial space features polished concrete floors, woven rugs and pastel accents–a style that’s replicated in many of Breather’s rental spaces. Inside the factory building, the two-floor office is connected by a stunning spiral staircase.
Breather prides itself in not just being a technology company but what they call a multi-disciplinary effort to build an amazing experience for their customers. As such, their product, engineering, customer care, marketing and creative, sales, design and HR teams are all housed in their Montreal office.
Two full-time interior designers dream up each Breather space, curating furniture that fits within the company’s existing design palette. It’s not uncommon for this furniture to cycle through the Montreal office in a test-run of sorts.
There’s no shortage of areas for teams to lounge and collaborate. One of Breather’s unique spaces is a glass-enclosed stand up meeting room on the engineering floor.
Breather balances its array of healthy snacks with a pantry featuring crowd pleasing cookies like Oreos and Fudgeos. Every Friday, the team gets a fresh batch of Montreal’s famous hand-rolled bagels and local cream cheese.
Dispatch Coffee beans are kept stocked, competing with the neighbourhood’s killer coffee scene. Café Olympico, Café Club Social and are Néve all within walking distance and employees are encouraged to step out of the office, get some fresh air and grab a hot cup.
The team also isn’t far from some international fare. Just under Breather sits the trendy Café Falco. With hip decor and exposed pipes, Le Falco is where espresso–in this case Siphon coffee–meets Japanese delights.
Breather endorses eight values key to their company culture: contribution, ambition, service, independence, humility, candor, empathy and speed. They support employees to have a flexible work life which includes ditching the office–when suitable–to work wherever suits their team. This also means the employees enjoy access to any Breather space at any time as an alternative to the office.
Breather wants its employees to broaden their minds and do great work. As part of this initiative, any team member–who’s been full-time for six months–can apply to attend one conference each year for free that they feel will help them in their everyday work. In addition to advocating personal growth, they also host regular team lunch and learns.
With access to showers and bike storage in the building, a morning commute on two wheels is a great option in warmer months.
The company’s emblem–a tree–is also found throughout the office. For Breather, trees represent both an ecosystem and a place of refuge.
When we started Breather, we thought of trees as the lungs of the world, helping people breathe easy and be comfortable. As we grow, we like to think of ourselves as building a new kind of ecosystem, one that lets you breathe and connect and climb as high as you need to. — CEO Julien Smith
Breather hosts one large holiday party each winter where everyone–now more than 200 employees–get together for a few days of team building and fun. During the summer, Breather staff can join a sports teams for some competitive play.
No matter the season, the pet-friendly offices means your dog can curl up on one of the comfy couches or directly on your lap.
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