The implication, then, is that Nothing will be the one to close that gap. Indeed, in its invites for this week’s launch event in London, the company characterized the event as “an invitation to unlearn everything the industry has taught us.” In a recent interview, Pei said Nothing is aiming “to bring people back in time to when they felt more optimistic about gadgets.” No pressure then.
It’s a level of promise that I’m not sure any device could live up to, but I’ll be damned if I was going to be the one who missed out if Nothing succeeded. Sure, prior to the event, there were already signs that we were about to see something less like “a consumer tech revolution” and more like “a smartphone”— a midrange one, in fact, that wouldn’t even be sold in the US. But maybe the in-person event would shed more light on Nothing’s revolution.
That’s what led me, on one of the hottest days of the year, down a series of nondescript alleyways in London trying to find the inauspicious location where Nothing had decided to hold the in-person portion of Tuesday’s launch. When you’re promised a revolution, your thoughts might turn to huge stadiums, the Brandenburg Gate, or perhaps a Parisian café. Nothing’s revolution would take place at its London design studio in Camden.
If Pei’s good at one thing, it’s taking every opportunity to create “edgy” marketing. Ahead of the launch, Nothing plastered various European capitals with street posters that sat alongside advertisements for local gigs and festivals. The implication? This is more of a cultural event than a simple phone launch. I even spotted a few in my suburb of south London, while across Twitter, people posted photos of posters appearing in Paris and Berlin (all helpfully retweeted by Nothing’s social media team).
As I approach the event, I bump into another attendee, who it turns out is one of Nothing’s several thousand community investors, who between them have plowed millions of dollars into the company, according to funding platform CrowdCube. That’s in addition to more traditional institutional investors like Alphabet’s GV and other notable names in tech, including “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and YouTuber (sometimes) Casey Neistat.
Nothing’s relentless commitment to hype has attracted some impressive celebrity investors. And, more impressively still, the involvement of these investors has gone on to create even more hype around the company. In total, CrowdCube reports that Nothing has attracted over $150 million in funding across seven funding rounds. Not bad for a company that, to date, has only released a pair of kinda okay earbuds.
The Nothing investor declined to tell me how much he’s put into the company (he would only say that it’s less than £10,000 and above £2,000) and is open about the fact that his Nothing shares are just one of the investments he holds. “There are certain things it’s very hard to get investments into,” he says. “How often do you have a new phone brand launched with quite good people behind it?” But despite putting a significant chunk of money into the company, he seems relatively cool on Nothing’s products themselves. He admits he hadn’t bought the Ear 1 earbuds last year and said he’d probably pick up a Phone 1 but only as a second device.