Peace, Quiet, & Launching a Startup with Breather Founder, Julien Smith

The typical New York City traffic filled the air with it’s usual cacophony of beeps and blares when the Skaled team arrived to an assigned address in Soho, delivered through an app on our phones.

We entered the building, made our way to the 12th floor, and opened the door to a quiet room with a couch, a long table, and a white board. The stress of the streets seemed a distant memory in this sun-filled escape.

The app that brought us this lovely retreat is called Breather.

Breather is a service that allows city dwellers to book space to do just what it’s called — breathe. They may also choose to nap, read, or most commonly, work.

We used our time away from our familiar office walls for some editorial brainstorming. The aesthetically comfortable design of the space was great for stretching out our legs and our creativity. We enjoyed the design books, draped over a clothes line along one wall. Flipping through the creative works of others is always a great way to ignite your own ideas. And then there was the jar of tootsie rolls — candy always helps the workflow.  Personally, I find that space plays a critical role in the quality and quantity of work I accomplish, and Breather founder, Julien Smith, strongly agrees.


I spoke with Smith after our stay, to get a better idea of where this idea came from, and how the process of launching his startup has gone so far.

Prior to launching Breather, Julien Smith was a successful writer. Published works include — The Flinch, a collaboration with Seth Godin on infusing our everyday lives with courage, and the NY Times Bestseller, Trust Agents, which examines why success on the web happens for some and not others.

As anyone who works outside of the traditional office environment can relate to, a challenge Smith often faced with his writing was simply finding a place to do it.

“Cities are getting denser and noisier,” Smith noted. “We knew there was an opportunity surrounding private space.”

While others have tried to make “crappy office space” work, Smith saw the value in the quality of space, which led to Breather’s focus on design.

When I told him we enjoyed our “experience” of Breather, Smith laughed. “That’s something we hear a lot that we weren’t expecting. People don’t say ‘their stay’ or ‘their time’. They comment on ‘their experience’.”

As for the experience of launching Breather? Smith says that finding the space has been the greatest challenge. There has been so much demand for rooms since they launched, that it’s often a matter of rooms being booked. Smith and his co-founder, Caterina Rizzi, along with their team are working on expanding to new cities and opening up more space in their current ones. Currently, Breathers can be found in Montreal and New York. They’ll be launching soon in San Francisco, and hope to expand to more cities in the near future.

The jump from writer to entrepreneur may seem like a big one, but Smith says he’s drawn to the experience of taking something that’s just a wild idea and turning it into a reality.

“When you sign your first book deal, it’s not real until you have that book in your hand.”

Working on the development of Breather has been a similar experience.

To  fellow entrepreneurs who’d like to see their own ideas turn into a reality, Smith offers one piece of advice.  “The best idea is probably the one you think is stupid.”

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