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Breather bets US$25 is a fair price for an hour of peace

Caitlin McGarry | April 10, 2014
New York requires Herculean focus to accomplish even the smallest tasks. Honking cabs, construction, chatty coworkers, and the general inescapable din of life in Manhattan all conspire to prevent you from getting work done. Last week when I found myself in a cozy lounge in the heart of SoHo that I booked for an hour with an app called Breather, I had difficulty concentrating for a new reason: It was almost too quiet.

New York requires Herculean focus to accomplish even the smallest tasks. Honking cabs, construction, chatty coworkers, and the general inescapable din of life in Manhattan all conspire to prevent you from getting work done. Last week when I found myself in a cozy lounge in the heart of SoHo that I booked for an hour with an app called Breather, I had difficulty concentrating for a new reason: It was almost too quiet.

Breather is billed as an Airbnb for work spaces; in this case, the analogy is fairly apt. The app offers quiet rooms in commercial spaces that you pay to use by the hour. (The "commercial" part also helps Breather escape Airbnb's pesky legal woes.)

In New York, where the app launched last month, the going hourly rate is $25. In the company's hometown of Montreal, rooms are $20 per hour. Breather currently has five spaces in Manhattan, with plans to add more locations each week, including a few in Brooklyn, but the startup's main purpose is providing tranquil spaces in busy places like Midtown and the Flatiron District. The company has its sights set on San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Toronto for future expansion.

A room of your own

These spaces are small, with just enough room for a few people to commandeer a couch, table or desk, and a few chairs for a meeting. If you're booking solo, the couch is an obvious choice for an hour-long nap. You can reserve a room using Breather's iOS app or website for a few hours at a time for intense studying or a planning session. (An Android version of the app is planned, thought there's no time frame on when it will come out.) Tapping on a Breather location in the app will turn up its availability. You can book weeks in advance or on the spot.

There are a few obvious benefits to using Breather instead of your corner Starbucks: Breather's rooms are quiet, buffered from city sounds, and you don't run the risk of annoying everyone nearby. If you care about social niceties like that.

Even big-name actors have booked through Breather for some alone time. "A-list people use this service because it's private," said Breather cofounder and CEO Julien Smith. "They're rehearsing."

Smith wouldn't say who his most high-profile users are, and it would be near impossible to find out. When you book a room on Breather, you don't have to meet an employee in person to get a key or have a doorman accompany you to the right room. When your reservation rolls around, just check in on the app and head straight to your room. You unlock the door with your phone: Breather generates a code for the electronic lock on the door. After you check out, your code is useless. In that way, Breather is a whole lot more convenient than Airbnb.

 

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