Nothing Technology Limited is a London-based company removing the barriers between people and technology to create a seamless digital future. Their smart devices will not only be functional but will be the one that feels like Nothing. Nothing was set up by Carl Pei, the former co-founder of manufacturer OnePlus.
The editor of VAR magazine, Srijith KN, met with Akis Evangelidis, the co-founder and marketing head of Nothing Mobile, during his recent visit to Dubai. And in the full-length cut of our interview with him, he emphasized the importance of being the third important player in the middle eastern region and also explained the opportunities Nothing Mobile will be presenting to the dealers and suppliers here.
How did Nothing come into being?
We feel that there is no true good alternative to Apple’s ecosystem. With Nothing, we have the ambition to build a sort of productive ecosystem. We had been thinking about what the ultimate user experience should be like, once everything we make comes together and works perfectly. There should be Nothing that restrains you in terms of using. Carl was the one who came up with the name ‘Nothing’.
In the beginning, we needed to figure out how to work things out. We started talking to friends and investors. Many of them knew what we needed to do to start things off! We then readied a good team and happened to have quite a few co-founders in different specialties – hardware, software, marketing, sales, and operations. After that, we raised $7 million in seed capital from people like Tony Fadell, the inventor of the iPod, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and YouTuber Casey Neistat. These successful business owners wanted us to give it a try! As soon as this occurred, Google Ventures became excited and decided to invest with us.
Mr. Akis, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I have always been quite a tech enthusiast. You should know that I had an iPhone at first, an iPod, and so on. I studied in London. Usually, there, you would end up going into finance or consulting. I wanted to work for a consumer electronics company. So, I enrolled in Sony’s two-year graduate program.
After that, I joined One plus as the marketing manager for France, but then they hadn’t extended into Europe yet. I met Carl in our early days at One plus, but we went separate ways within the company.
Do you believe that Nothing has shaken the smartphone industry?
Shaken is a big word! I think that we have enabled us to have a proper shot. Now we deserve a seat at the table. In the last two years, we’ve sold over 1,000,000 units across all our products, which is rare for a start-up.
We are now introducing our own in-house software, so the experience will be much better. This will be something that we will be on building upon. Phone 1 was a great starting point, and I would like to let you know that more exciting stuff is to come!
What excites you about ?
Phone 2 is going to be a more premium device. More advanced on the specification and in features. The phone 1 was our flagship product, and this will still be available in the market. Now phone 2 will have a great user experience, especially with the new in-house software that we are building. This is all I can tell you at this moment.
How committed is Nothing to the low-end smartphone market?
Our mission statement states that we would be making products that we’re proud to share with our friends and families. For us, it is never so much about doing value products. It is more about doing great products.
Currently, there is hardly any innovation that is exciting. But nowadays you can see a new kind of specification war happening. Adding more modules to justify higher and higher price points, and that too with absolutely little value to the end user! This is where we have been able to provide users with good competitive pricing. We think from a user standpoint, and as a user, we always want a great user experience, but eventually at an affordable price point.
What business opportunities for small-scale vendors here in the Middle East?
There hasn’t been any real alternative to the lights of Apple and Samsung. And to me, Samsung who’s gradually losing market shares to Apple. There is no real third player, especially here in the middle east. There was Huawei at one point of time in the past. But they sort pretty much out now.
We see that we could be that third brand in the Middle East, building long-term partnerships with our partners. We have launched a partnership with Sharaf DG in over 30 stores. They are super excited in terms of the products that we are coming up with and in terms of the road map we have for the future.
The signs are quite good as well in terms of demand, and we are here for a long-run play. The GCC is a priority market for the whole company this year. We hired our first headcount, our new business development manager, Mr. Rishi Kishor Gupta, who’s heading up sales here in the region, about one-half month ago. He has already signed up with a few partners. We will announce more partners in the coming weeks. Sharaf DG was our first partner. We are here to build and value long terms relationships.
What is Nothing’s sustainability vision?
Since day one, we have been tracking the carbon footprint of all the products we have been making. We have been able to introduce recycled materials for building our products. On Phone 1, the mid-frame of the phone is made of 100% recycled aluminum. About 25 components in Phone 1 have been made of bio or recycled plastics. We have only sourced about 13 of those components on the supply chain side. A lot of things to be done there.
Ear one was a carbon-neutral product. And we are working to improve our carbon footprint on all our products. It’s going to be a step-by-step journey, but definitely that we are committed to it.
As you mentioned, there are many major players in this market. So, how important is it to build trust with the region’s consumers?
We have partnered with Sharaf DG because they are renowned. Their service level is excellent as well. This was a key criterion for us. As I understand, this user trust comes from a great user experience.
I want to say we are never going to be the best value for money because actually pulling off those designs and features. It does take a lot of R&D.
Please tell us how that best user experience will be achieved with Phone 2.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell you much, but the key will be the software. Last year, we spent a lot of time on the hardware to pull it off with a unique design. This year it will be the software. But we have a few ideas on how to take the android user experience to the next level.
And the expected launch of phone 2?
Later this year, with a unique software experience!