When we hear the name of Carl Pei, one brand inevitably comes to mind: OnePlus. However, the co-founder of the company that invented the concept of the ‘flagship killer’ and the model of buying by invitation has been embarking on a new adventure with Nothing, the start-up of smart devices that he founded in 2020 and that last year gave birth to his first product, the Nothing Ear headphones (1).
But Carl Pei is not the only brain behind this new company, along with him we have David Sanmartín, also co-founder and responsible for South and Eastern Europe for Nothing. During our visit to Mobile World Congress 2022 we had the opportunity to chat with David about Nothing, his vision and what is to come. This is what he told us.
Nothing’s vision: a technology without barriers
We had several options. A couple made it to the finals, but we kept Nothing for various reasons. The first had to do with the philosophy of the brand; that technology goes into the background, that it is camouflaged, that it seems “nothing”. It also had to do with being like an anti-noun. It’s very easy to remember and it also has one more marketing part that almost seems to be trolling to the staff. Being able to say to an investor “Thank you for Nothing” is something I have done and it is very cool [risas]. Or when they tell you what do you do? and you say “Nothing”. I think it gives a lot of play, although the main reason has more to do with the philosophy of the brand.
Being able to say “Thank you for Nothing” to an investor is something I’ve done and it’s really cool.
Can you tell us any of the names that made it to the final?
No because we still use some little thing later.
In the ‘About us’ section that you have on the web, you say that your mission is to eliminate the barriers between people and technology. Do you think you have achieved it with your first product, the Nothing ear (1)?
No, this is long term. Let’s give ourselves a few years. The important thing in this first year was to establish ourselves as a European company based in London, to test if the equipment that is new worked well, if we can bring out products, the reception… Also the issue of design, which is very important to us, and the reception has been very good. We are very happy with how things have gone and we believe that we are heading in the right direction.
The particularity of the headphones is that they are transparent. Is this something we are going to see in more products? Is it going to be your hallmark?
Yes, although we are not closed to anything. We’re putting a lot of emphasis on design, we have a design team in Sweden that’s led by people from Teenage Engineering and we’ve just made a pretty big deal with Adam Bates who’s been working for Dyson for fifteen years. With it, what we are going to do is a design team based in London, with which we will have two design hubs that are going to produce different products because we have a lot planned for the next few years.
The future of Nothing: more devices and a lot of ambition
The next question goes a bit out there… What is the next step? Is the idea of Nothing is to have a wide catalog or can we expect something simpler? Tell us a little about where you want to go.
Our ambition is to be a company that has a complete ecosystem of products. That means entering people’s homes, but also outside, in the office, fitness… It’s a bit early and we want to go little by little. Obviously, being a new company, we can’t roll our heads and make a zillion telephones, a zillion televisions and a lot of other things. Other companies can do it anyway because they have financial support behind us that we don’t have right now. We have a very new company, some investors who are the milk, the truth, but we have only been around for a short time and we have only sold headphones until now. At the capital level, we want to go step by step and not start putting out products right and left, but do it with a bit of head.
Carl Pei is known for founding OnePlus, so bluntly: When are you going to launch a mobile?
I can’t comment on that. The only thing I can say is that Qualcomm makes chips for many types of products and we have a strategic agreement with Qualcomm. We hope to release products with Qualcomm chips soon.
I think that being so small it is difficult to compare with one of the big ones, but obviously the competition is Apple.
Who is your competition? Or rather: Who do you want to be your competition?
Let’s see, it’s a bit complicated to define a single player or someone main. I think that being so small it is difficult to compare with one of the big ones, but obviously the competition is Apple. I mean at the design level, to create an ecosystem that works very well… That would be a bit of the idea. We want to be able to compare ourselves with Apple, but in a European version.
Where do you want Nothing to be in five years?
If we manage to get any person to go to a store like El Corte Inglés for a product and say “I want the one that is transparent” and the seller knows how to say “oh, the Nothing”, we will be in a good place.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism