Nothing Carl Pei Wants To Start A Smartphone Revolution (Again)
If the new operating system can make this rule-based interaction between devices palatable to the average person, then Nothing can happen. A statement Pei made in our conversation seems to be based on this idea as well, although nothing in the company’s announcement directly relates to this side of the technology.
“In terms of the consumer internet, these companies have become evil in our minds due to privacy issues, anticompetitive issues, and others. So in general, people are not inspired by technology and we want to be the catalyst to change that again,” said Pei.
However, if this is the unannounced basis of the Nothing Phone 1’s appeal in an extremely crowded market, it needs to work with a lot of different devices in one day.
“We want to partner with the top brands in the world and help them create products, and connect them with the Nothing ecosystem,” says Pei. “We are also building support for third-party products that we believe our users may need, like AirPods Pro or Tesla, so they can control Tesla components through via Nothing OS.”
On the value front, this again sounds quite ambitious. Even if Nothing Phone 1 is a huge success, its market share will be very small. It’s not easy to imagine how many third-party companies can or are willing to justify creating or optimizing phone-specific features.
Until Nothing is established, almost all the work for this will probably be on the Nothing side. Such efforts are often impossible for a phone-launching startup. Pei has an answer for that, too.
“There are two schools of thought to make products. One school is having a very small team in-house while outsourcing most of the work to factories — ‘they want this, I want that.’ There is another school, like Apple, where you have overqualified engineers and you have a lot of them. And you do everything yourself, and the factory just makes your order. They just do execution work. I am in second school,” said Pei. “We are not a team of 20 people, like other startups trying to make smartphones. We are almost a 300-man team.”
This approach is also the reason why Nothing should go hungry. With $144 million raised, it is second only to the smart ring maker Oura as the best-funded venture-backed hardware manufacturer, and Oura has made a significant mark in the wearables space.
Nothing has also announced a second wave of “opportunistic” crowdfunding. In February 2021 it increased 1.5 million dollars from the daily folk using the Crowdcube platform (in just 54 seconds), attracted 481 investors.
“Companies and consumers are becoming closer and closer. I think, in the future, that distinction might even disappear,” Pei said in another bold statement, honed by the media. This time, Nothing is opening up $10 million in investments to the public, although the mechanism of this has yet to be revealed. Let’s hope it’s not NFT.
The cash is flowing, and Nothing says it has 140 “ongoing negotiations with sales partners around the world.” Pei won’t be intrigued about whether they include cell service providers, but he will say Nothing has set up a “small team in LA for special projects.” While Nothing’s workforce is primarily spread out across London, Stockholm and Shenzhen, China, it may also keep an eye on the US market.
For the Phone 1, Pei hopes to repeat the tried and tested OnePlus starting formula of good mid-range design, high specs that have given him and Pete Lau so known. And, if he can pull it out again, he won’t forget that magic formula, unlike OnePlus.
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