Nothing: Carl Pei’s London-based startup all set to disrupt global audio market


With the growing penetration of feature-packed smartphones, consumer preferences toward high fidelity audio sound are skyrocketing. Ever since the removal of the 3.5mm audio jack (audio plug) in smartphones, the audio market for wireless Bluetooth headsets has started growing rapidly. 

According to various reports, the global wireless audio devices market, particularly headphones, is expected to witness high growth potential over the next six years. 

“The UK market will register high gains in the coming years due to increasing demand for high-quality audio systems across the region,” says a report from Global Market Insights

Utilising this chance, the smartphone and audio equipment manufacturing companies are accelerating towards a world without audio connectors and cables. 

In line with the trend, modern headphones/earphones are going towards physical miniaturisation while maximising the functionality and user experience. And that category is True Wireless Headsets (TWS). 

At present several companies, from smartphone manufacturers to audio equipment leaders, are pushing towards capturing the TWS market. As a result, industry players are focusing on new product development strategies to strengthen their product portfolio and increase their customer base. 

Meet Nothing

Meet Nothing, a London-based consumer technology company founded by the OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei. Nothing is the latest company to join the TWS bandwagon with its yet-to-be-launched Ear (1). 

What’s interesting here is even without a single product launch, Nothing has done a fabulous job in building hype around its product. And even more impressive is the fact that Nothing has offered close to zero information about its upcoming offerings. 

What’s the mission of Nothing? Who are all on board? Any funding? What’s the first product all about?

Nothing Ear 1
Image credits: Nothing

Beginning, Mission, and Funding

Last year, Car Pei, the OnePlus co-founder, parted ways with the company for unknown reasons to start his new venture, “Nothing.”  

Within a short period, Nothing managed to create a buzz after securing an investment of $7 million (approx £5 million) from iPod inventor Tony Fadell, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and YouTuber Casey Neistat. 

According to Carl Pei, Nothing’s mission is to remove barriers between people and technology by designing intuitive and smart tech that improves lives without getting in the way of it. 

Earlier this year, Nothing secured $15 million (approx £11 million) in a Series A round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) to expand its team and operations, invest in R&D, and launch its community and products. To date, Nothing raised around $22 million (approx £16 million) in funding.  

Partnerships and Hires

In February, soon after the funding, Nothing announced that it would be teaming up with teenage engineering, a Stockholm-based company to drive the design aesthetics. 

On top of that, Nothing appointed Teenage Engineering’s co-founder and CEO Jesper Kouthoofd as creative lead and the visionary behind Nothing’s design world, while Tom Howard has been appointed as Head of Design of Nothing. 

To reiterate, Swedish electronics company Teenage Engineering is known for its range of beautifully designed audio products. Notably, the company’s emblematic first product, the portable wonder synthesiser OP-1, was launched in 2010 and is still used by world-famous musicians today.

Last month, the company announced a partnership with retail solution Smartech and London-based Selfridges to launch its debut product ear (1). 

“Selfridges is an iconic shopping destination for us to launch ear (1),” said Carl Pei, CEO, and Co-founder of Nothing. “Thanks to Smartech, the partnership will provide us with the platform to showcase Nothing’s uniquely designed tech to consumers who value quality and new ideas.”

Nothing Concept 1
Image credits: Nothing

Products, IP’s and Launches

Nothing’s first product is dubbed Ear (1) and will be launched at a virtual event on July 27th. At present, we don’t have much information about the product yet, except for its design. Previously, Carl Pei confirmed that Nothing will use “custom made” components in its products right from the start. 

The company teased the product on various social media handles with a vague image that’s hard to read much into.

In the official blog, the company says, “Design is still top secret but what we can tell you is that ear (1) combines notes of transparency, iconic form, and refined functionality.”

In an interview with Techcrunch, Carl Pei said the Ear (1) will come with features like Noise cancellation and great build quality. Further, the ANC will arrive via three high-definition mics. Pei also revealed the Ear (1) will be sold predominantly online at €99/$99/£99, which far lesser than Apple’s AirPods Pro. 

Talking about purchasing the IP from Essential, Pei said, [B]efore we were called Nothing, ‘Essential’ was one of the names we were brainstorming, internally. So that’s why we’ve acquired the trademark. We don’t have any plans to do anything with Essential.”

As far as product launch concern, Nothing will announce its debut pair of TWS, the Nothing Ear (1) at 9 AM ET on July 27th. 

Nothing ear (1) will be available at Selfridges London via Smartech and at Selfridges.com. 

In another interview, Carl Pei said that Nothing is currently focused on simpler products as the team is being built. He also confirmed the plans to release products across multiple categories, with the eventual aim of building up an ecosystem of devices. 

Can Carl Pei replicate his success in Nothing? Do let us know your comments below!