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Nothing founder Carl Pei on Ear 1 and building a hardware startup from scratch – TechCrunch

The mobile industry vet discusses pricing, features, and venture backing. On July 27, Nothing will debut its first product, wireless earbuds dubbed Ear (1). Despite releasing almost no tangible information about the product, the company has generated substantial buzz around the launch — especially for an entry into the already-crowded wireless earbud market. The hype, however, is real — and somewhat understandable. Nothing founder Carl Pei has a good track record in the industry — he was just 24 when he co-founded OnePlus in 2013. The company has done a canny job capitalizing on heightened expectations, meeting information about the product like pieces in a puzzle. We spoke to Pei before the upcoming launch to get insight into Ear (1) and the story behind Nothing.

Carl Pei

CP: Actually, it was due to our design. Maybe you’ve seen the concept image of this transparent design. There’s a reason why there aren’t many fine consumer tech products out there. It’s hard to make it high-quality. You must ensure that everything inside looks as good as the outside. So that’s where the team has been iterating, [but] you probably wouldn’t notice the differences between iterations. I think the main issue has been getting the design ready. It could be getting suitable magnets — as magnets are usually designed to go inside a product and not be seen by the consumer — to figure out the best type of glue. If you have a non-transparent product, you never have to solve that problem, but what kind of glue will keep the industrial design intact? And we’re super, super close. Hopefully, it will be a product people are excited about when we launch.

So, there were no major supply chain issues?

Not for this product category. We’re pretty okay with true wireless earbuds—no major issues. We had a point that we started from zero — so no team and no partners. But step by step, we finally got here. We have a lot of products in the pipeline. Earlier this year, we did a community crowdfunding round where we allocated $1.5 million to our community. That got bought up quickly. But as part of that funding round, we had a deck with some of the products in development. Our products are code-named as Pokemon, so there are a lot of Pokemon on that slide [Editor’s note: The Ear 1 was “Aipom.”]. We have multiple categories that we’re looking at, but we haven’t announced what those are.

Why were earbuds the right first step?

I think this market is screaming for differentiation. If you look at true wireless today, I guess the entire market followed after Apple came out with the AirPods. Everybody wears different clothes. This is something we wear for a large part of the day. Why wouldn’t people want different designs? We’re working with Teenage Engineering — they’re super, super strong designers. True wireless is a place where we can leverage that strength. Also, from a more rational business perspective, wireless earbuds are a super-fast-growing product category. We will reach 300 million units shipped worldwide this year for this category.

And your first product category should be one with good business potential. If we take a step back and think about it from a consumer perspective, we feel that consumer tech is quite dull. Kids used to want to become engineers and astronauts and all that. But if you look at what kids want to become today, they want to be TikTokers or YouTubers. Maybe it’s because technology isn’t as inspiring as before. We talked to consumers who don’t care as much as they did a few years ago. If you look at what brands do in their communication, it’s all about features and specs.


I have always enjoyed writing and reading other people's blogs. I started writing a journal as a teenager and have since written numerous books and articles. My blog is a place where I can write freely about my personal interests and those of others.

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