In a world dominated by smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung, a young startup called Nothing is poised to disrupt the Android market. Led by co-founder Carl Pei, Nothing aims to bring a fresh perspective to the industry, focusing on innovative software design and bold hardware style. With their recent $100 million funding round, Nothing is ready to make waves and challenge the status quo.
Founded in 2020 by Carl Pei, Paul Yu, and Jesper Kouthoofd, Nothing was born out of a desire to break free from the “boring sea of sameness” in the tech industry. The team set out to create unique smartphones and earphones with a strong emphasis on design and user experience. Their first phone, simply called Phone (1), garnered attention with its transparent casing, sustainable materials, and LED lights that added a touch of flair. Priced under $400, it quickly gained a cult following and won several design awards.
Building on the success of their first phone, Nothing is set to launch Phone (2) on July 11. This device takes a different approach compared to other smartphone manufacturers. Instead of focusing on supporting and growing the mobile app industry, Nothing aims to de-gamify smartphones and help users exercise self-control. The operating system, Nothing OS, offers a minimal and monochrome user experience, stripping apps of their vibrant colors and constant notifications. By removing these addictive elements, Nothing encourages intentional smartphone usage and helps users regain control over their digital lives.
Nothing’s Phone (2) goes beyond just software changes. The device itself features a unique design that sets it apart from the competition. While other phones have plain backs, Phone (2) boasts 900 LED lights arranged in geometric patterns. These lights serve a functional purpose by displaying key information when the device is face-down. Messages from select contacts cause a bar of lights to glow gold, and important callers trigger unique LED patterns. Additionally, other sections of the phone can gradually fill with light to indicate the completion of a timer or the proximity of an Uber driver. These design choices allow users to stay connected and informed without constantly opening apps and falling into addictive loops.
Nothing’s innovative approach has caught the attention of investors. In a recent funding round, Nothing secured $100 million, led by Highland Europe. Previous backers, including Google Ventures and music stars Swedish House Mafia, also participated in the round. This brings Nothing’s total fundraising to an impressive $250 million. Investors see the potential in Nothing’s focus on design, hardware, and attracting the younger generation. Tom Hulme, Google Venture’s head of Europe, believes that Nothing appeals to technophiles and fills a gap in the Android ecosystem that lacks excitement and exclusivity.
While Nothing remains a niche player compared to industry giants like Apple, they have achieved significant success in a short period. In 2022, the startup sold 750,000 Phone (1)s and earbuds, generating $200 million in revenue. However, Nothing’s ambitions go beyond their current offerings. With the recent funding, they plan to develop new phones and earbuds to expand their product lineup. Carl Pei acknowledges that they need to invest in long-term technology differentiation to continue their growth and establish themselves as a major player in the industry.
To understand the driving force behind Nothing, we must delve into the journey of co-founder Carl Pei. Born in Stockholm to Chinese immigrant parents, Pei grew up with a passion for gadgets. His early experiences with devices like the first-generation iPod and iPhone sparked his interest in technology. Pei’s career in the hardware industry began when he joined Meizu, a former MP3 player maker, in 2008. Later, he moved to Oppo and co-founded OnePlus with Pete Lau, where they disrupted the market by offering premium phones at an affordable price. Pei’s international division at OnePlus contributed significantly to the company’s success.
Starting a new venture like Nothing comes with its fair share of challenges. Despite Pei’s decade of experience in the hardware industry, building a startup from scratch presented unique obstacles. The team had to learn finance and supply chain management on the fly. Launching during a pandemic further complicated matters, with limited factory capacity and parts availability. However, their determination and micromanagement paid off. Nothing has shipped over 1.5 million phones and earbuds to date, and their rapid growth has attracted top factories to manufacture their design-centric products.
Nothing’s vision extends beyond creating innovative smartphones. They aspire to be more than just a hardware company; they want to empower technological landscapes with diversity and global reach. Nothing aims to challenge industry norms and bring excitement and exclusivity to the Android ecosystem. By prioritizing intentional smartphone usage and user control, Nothing is on a mission to reshape the way we interact with our devices.
With their unique approach to design and user experience, Nothing is poised to disrupt the Android market. The $100 million investment they recently secured is a testament to the confidence investors have in their vision. As they continue to develop new products and expand their lineup, Nothing’s impact on the industry is set to grow. By empowering users to regain control over their digital lives, Nothing is paving the way for a more intentional and mindful smartphone experience. Keep an eye out for Phone (2) and the future innovations that this ambitious startup will bring to the market.
First reported by Forbes.d