Media & Entertainment

Breather Raises $20M From Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures To Expand Its On-Demand Private Room Business

Comment

Image Credits:

Breather, the on-demand private room service has raised $20M led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures. The series B brings Breather’s full raise to $27M. This round also had participation from Real Ventures, RRE Ventures, Slow Ventures and SOS Ventures. Valar will join the board.

The Breather rooms were set up as “secret places” within cities like New York that allow you to get work done, have meetings or whatever you’d rather not do at a Starbucks. The best usecase is when you’re traveling, because sometimes you just need to sit down with some WiFi at a place that’s not a coffee shop or a hotel. Its app lets you find a room, pay and unlock the door.

I chatted with Breather’s co-founder and CEO Julien Smith about how far the business has come and what’s on deck next for the company that got through the initial giggles about what would be going on its rooms. The immediate plan, Smith says is: “New cities, marketing, growing existing cities. We really believe there can be a unit like this in every commercial building in America. Completely serious.”

Right now the average Breather is booked for 2+ hours, but can go from 30 minutes to an entire day. Smith also says “thousands” of bookings roll in weekly.

TC: how has the business changed since you started it?

4172101037_e57b931af9_o-1_3JS: Wow, so much. I had a lot of ideas about what the company would be before we began, but they were basically just guesses. We just had a thesis that private space would be useful to people (if it were affordable and nice) and we didn’t think with too much intent about what the audience would be.

The service basically took off immediately after we launched, so we clarified who we are speaking to really quickly. We know the audience better, we know how to talk about the product, we know what kind of spaces people want and for what reason, we know how the operations work, etc. etc. We started with a huge emptiness in terms of our understanding and just an optimistic idea. lucky for us, we turned out to be pretty right.

TC: Are there any surprise uses of breathers that you’re a fan of?

JS: Multiple people have proposed in breathers – that was a huge surprise. People use them for meetups all the time, and although that’s pretty commonplace, we were surprised to see it. Women use it to breast-feed, which makes sense, and there are church groups as well. Music videos and documentaries for Netflix have been shot in them. famous actors have used them to rehearse for big movies. Press previews and little fashion shows. All kinds of things. People even use them for training sessions for new employees.

TC: If someone else were to try to get into the space, what difficulty would they have?

JS: The network effects in this business are very, very strong, perhaps even stronger than Uber, because location, quality, and trust are so important to us getting a booking. A car can move, but rooms don’t, so the same way you always go to the closest, most convenient coffee shop, and won’t go if it’s too far away, we have to be very, VERY close to the user for the service to be effective for them.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 6.47.45 AM

TC: Are there changes coming to Breathers based on feedback you’ve gotten? More snacks? TVs? etc

JS: Yeah, for example I was strongly against technology inside breather locations for a super long time. I barely even wanted WiFi in the spaces at all. But now it became clear that traditional things like whiteboards, flatscreen TVs, and other business type amenities are pretty helpful. There’s a line we won’t cross – you won’t see any fax machines in breather locations anytime soon for example – but we really started to accommodate the user on things like this even though we started with a pretty strong stance against it.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 6.51.20 AM
———-

Every city in America? Sounds like a grand plan. Right now, Breather is available in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Montreal and Ottawa.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

12 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

14 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android