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We catch up with Tom Sleigh from Breather to find out how their rapid expansion is going

Meeting space provider Breather arrived in London last summer and has been expanding fast. The company has more than 300 spaces across North America, including more than 120 in New York and more than 65 in San Francisco.

Breather’s USP is to provide beautifully designed, functional spaces that any company can book via its app for as little time as an hour. Kontor has been helping Breather in its London expansion.

We caught up with Tom Sleigh, Breather’s Head of Real Estate – London, at its space in Staple Inn near Chancery Lane.

What is Breather’s growth story so far?

Breather was founded in June 2013 with a $1.5m seed round. We first opened in Montreal, quickly followed by New York, San Francisco and Boston. We raised $20m in series B funding in September 2015 and opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Toronto, and London in 2016. In December 2016, we raised a $40m in Series C funding. This most recent round was led by Menlo Ventures, the venture capital firm behind Uber, Tumblr, and Siri.

Why is there a market for Breather’s spaces?

Space for meetings is always difficult to find. Whether you’re a big or a small company there will always be a requirement for overflow space, or the desire for a change of scene or geography. There are arguments emerging that suggest working in private spaces is more effective than working in an open plan space, where you will be constantly interrupted. With no distractions, either as a team or as an individual, you can be more productive.

What were you looking for when you took this space?

Something light, an interesting space with character, ideally with a wooden floor, central, well-connected. At the time we were looking for single big spaces rather than the multi-unit spaces that we have elsewhere. Our meeting spaces range in size – the smallest has space for four people, this is the biggest with space for 25 seated.

Why did you like this space so much?

More than anything, the size of the space caught my eye. I love the windows, the high ceiling. People use our spaces for away days, to get out of the office, so they want something a bit different. Our team works very closely with many of our clients, so we learn all the time about how and why people use our spaces. You can book them for an hour, a few hours, and this one is frequently booked for the whole day by companies such as Marks & Spencer, PwC and Spotify.

I also loved the character of the whole building. It’s unusual, it makes a welcome change to your typical corporate office. Normally we don’t take spaces above the second floor if there’s no lift, but we made an exception for this space because we loved it so much.

Where in London are you looking for more spaces?

We’re looking for more spaces in London, period. We want 100 spaces in London this year and we’re doing very well so far – we’ve got 21 open and 36 in legals at the moment. Our target is every corner of London.

This is why I enjoy working with Kontor ; they understand what Breather is looking for and they’re willing to spend time looking through many options for us. Any agency could show me what’s on the market but Kontor finds clever angles on buildings. They take a longer-term view of the relationship and they are committed to growing with their clients. Because a lot of our early adopters are in the sectors that Kontor is strong in, there’s a natural synergy between what we like and what their other clients are looking for, which helps.

You’re expanding fast; how many properties have you looked at?

We’ve looked at a huge number of properties – across the ten cities we operate in, we’ve looked at more than 1,500 buildings in the past year. In London I must have viewed at least 250. Our parameters for what we’re looking for are changing all the time based on the demand of our users. Now we’re looking for bigger spaces than when we started and are excited to continue growing throughout the city.

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