Breather: A good wheeze

STARBUCKS is a familiar haunt for business travellers: you can find one nearly anywhere, and they have Wi-Fi, seating, power outlets and (naturally) coffee. They are tolerable options for travellers on the go. But they are far from perfect. The spaces are loud and often crowded, and sometimes you will have to wait quite a while to find a seat, especially one near a power outlet. Enter Breather, a startup that fills an obvious need by renting small, attractive office spaces by the hour (currently $25 in New York) in cities with a high demand.For tech-literate business travellers (and that’s most of us these days), finding and using a Breather space is a familiar process. It works almost exactly like a car-sharing app such as ZipCar—search for an office near you, pick an available window of time and make a reservation. You unlock the door using a code sent to your smartphone. As Bonnie Tsui notes in a long essay on the company in Atlantic Cities, part of Breather’s canniness is that it often uses spaces that would otherwise be left vacant. Offices are so small that they are usually unrentable to actual businesses (or, if you prefer the jargon, it “leverage[s] dormant real estate assets,” according to Mike Walsh, a venture capitalist who invested in Uber, a car-service app).The only real concern I have about this plan is whether the company will be able to balance …

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