News

Breather cuts staff by roughly 10 per cent

Bryan Murphy, CEO of Breather. Breather
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Breather, a Montreal-based flexible workspace provider, has laid off at least 21 people, representing an estimated 10 per cent of its staff.

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The firm, which provides office spaces in 10 cities in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., has clients including, Spotify, Apple, Uber, Tesla, American Express, Google and Facebook. The news was first reported by The Real Deal, an American real estate magazine.

In a December 5 LinkedIn post, Anja Jamrozik Otto, Breather’s former director of research, said she and others were leaving the company. “Today, along with so many talented, creative, and resourceful coworkers, I got laid off,” Otto wrote. Otto declined The Logic’s request for comment.

According to a spreadsheet posted on LinkedIn, those laid off include software developers, customer service representatives and account managers, the bulk of whom worked in Montreal. The list also includes two employees in Washington, D.C.; one in Toronto; two in San Francisco; and one in Chicago. The Logic has not been able to independently verify every entry on the spreadsheet. The company has almost 200 employees, according to its website.

Breather CEO Bryan Murphy would not confirm the layoffs to The Logic, noting instead that the company’s business has grown “over 250% in the past year.” 

Talking Point

The flexible workspace industry could contribute more than $13.7 billion annually to local Canadian economies in the next decade, according to the first comprehensive study of the space. But for now, the industry is struggling. Breather’s layoffs come a month after its main competitor WeWork laid off 2,400 employees globally as a cost-cutting measure. The Montreal-based firm has seen an executive overhaul this year. In January, CEO Bryan Murphy, formerly of eBay, took over from co-founder Julien Smith. In recent months, the company announced that Philippe Bouffaut, former head of engineering in Canada for Cision, would become its chief technology officer, and that former Regus executive Dan Suozzi would be its new head of real estate. 

“We have made changes to make sure that resources are aligned with our mission of providing customers with frictionless access to private, productive space as a service and to achieve profitability by the end of next year,” Murphy said in an emailed statement.

Breather’s layoffs come a month after its main competitor WeWork laid off 2,400 employees globally as a cost-cutting measure.

Breather has expanded globally in the last few years, adding new spaces in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London. Its co-working spaces can be reserved for as little as two hours, and private office spaces can also be booked on a month-to-month basis.

The seven-year-old company has raised $122 million in five years from investors like the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Valar Ventures and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. 

The flexible workspace industry could contribute more than $13.7 billion annually to local Canadian economies in the next decade, according to a November study by Regus. The analysis found that flexible workspaces are on the rise as big companies move away from a single, central HQ-structure, and the workspace moves further outside major metropolitan hubs. 

Murphy, a former eBay executive, started as CEO in January. In a March interview with The Logic, he said the company’s “hub-and-spoke” model separated it from its co-working competition.

Last month the firm hired a new head of real estate, former Regus executive Dan Suozzi. In August, Breather announced that Philippe Bouffaut, former head of engineering in Canada for Cision, would become its chief technology officer.

Murphy told BetaKit in July that the company would be focusing its services on long-term temporary real estate for businesses, and was seeking to raise another round of funding by year’s end.