Breather raises $20 million in series B funding, promises Ottawa expansion

Workspace provider Breather is promising aggressive expansion in Ottawa and other cities after securing $20 million US in Series B funding.

The round announced Thursday was led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with additional investment from New York’s RRE Ventures, Ireland-based SOSV, San Francisco’s Slow Ventures and Real Ventures out of Toronto and Montreal.

In addition to adding more locations in the cities where it currently operates – New York, San Francisco, Boston, Montreal and Ottawa – Breather said it will also add more cities to its roster.

Breather, which launched its first location in Montreal in 2013, arrived in Ottawa last October. It now has more than 95 locations in five cities.

CEO Julien Smith said business in the capital has been “super strong” in Breather’s first year in Ottawa, adding the city is the perfect location for his type of company.

“It’s quite small, but at the same time, it’s a clear centre of activity,” he said, noting the strength of the city’s government and high-tech sectors. Breather counts the federal government and Shopify among its biggest local clients.

The original idea behind Breather was simple: sometimes a person just needs to get work done in a place that’s not a coffee shop or a hotel.

While Mr. Smith said there are no concrete plans for the Ottawa expansion, he is thinking big.

“We really believe this is a super, super, huge opportunity and maybe even can be as big as being in every commercial building because people really sometimes even use it as an extra conference room in a building they are already in,” he said.

There are three Breather rooms in Ottawa on MacLaren, Metcalfe and George streets. Using Breather’s mobile application, customers can reserve a room in three clicks: one for a location, one for a time and one to book. They are then sent a code that is used to unlock the door of the space at the assigned time.

Bookings can be as brief as 30 minutes or can last all day. The space is closed overnight.

Mr. Smith wouldn’t discuss revenue numbers, but he said the appetite for the company’s service is strong – and not just in Ottawa. It’s the company’s growth potential that attracted the latest investment round, he added.

With Thursday’s funding announcement – the largest to date in the on-demand private space category – Breather has now raised $28.5 million US, more than any other company in its space.

The promised expansion will soon bring a new Canadian city into the fold, Mr. Smith said.

“I think we’re already hiring in Toronto right now,” he said. “We don’t have spaces until we hire people first. Then we launch after that.”

Breather co-founder and CCO Caterina Rizzi will be among the speakers at AccelerateOTT, an event at Lansdowne Park on Sept. 24 that brings together entrepreneurs and investors. Her talk will focus on design and branding.