Carl Pei, who co-founded the smartphone giant OnePlus in his 20s, is leaving the company, two sources familiar with the matter told News.
Pei played an instrumental role in designing the OnePlus smartphone lineup over the years, including the recently launched OnePlus Nord, which has been the company’s biggest hit to date. Outside Shenzhen, China, where OnePlus is headquartered, Pei has also been the face of the Chinese firm, appearing at trade conferences, interacting with loyal customers and giving interviews to the media.
In the early years of OnePlus, Pei devised various marketing strategies for best positioning the company’s products and creating hype about them. In 2014 and 2015, when OnePlus struggled with scaling its inventories, the company sold its phones through invites and several other clever marketing techniques, including one in which people were required to destroy their current phones to buy a new OnePlus smartphone.
In the early days of OnePlus, Pei lived almost exclusively in low-cost hotels in China and India to better understand the market and easily travel to new cities. OnePlus is now one of the most successful premium smartphone makers in India and several other markets.
“We didn’t have proper product management. What we lacked in experience, we made up in hours,” he said in an earlier interview. He talked more about the company’s early days and the state of the smartphone market at Disrupt 2019.
Once he publicly asked Samsung to hire him so that he could learn more about overseeing operations and logistics. “So, Samsung, today I have a proposal for you: let me be your intern. Seriously. I would be honored to learn from your team about how you’ve been able to scale, run, and manage your business so successfully,” he wrote on his personal blog.
Pei reached out to Pete Lau in 2012 through social media. The two started OnePlus a year later. “He said, ‘I want to change the world.’ I thought this kid has ambitious thoughts and dreams. I think it comes from the heart and it’s very important. I think he has tenacity,” Lau recalled in an interview in 2015.
Years before they started OnePlus, Pei collaborated with a friend and sold white-labeled MP3 players in China.
Pei, 31, is not joining Samsung, but has clarity on what he wishes to do next. He is starting his own venture, according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak with the media. Pei did not respond to a request for comment early Monday.