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OnePlus' Carl Pei wants to intern at Samsung

In a rather surprising blog post, Carl Pei - of OnePlus fame - has apologized for his company's management of the OPT and offered to intern at... Samsung?

Published onSeptember 30, 2015

Carl Pei chair

OnePlus is a profoundly fascinating company to say the least. Despite last year’s stellar debut into the smartphone arena, the company ultimately drew more attention not for the OnePlus One hardware itself, but the inability to make it available. Rather than go with a more traditional method of purchase such as letting customers simply buy the product, an awkward invite system was employed along with misogynistic marketing stints. The end result was that outside of China – where the phone was freely available – interested customers had to wait to get arguably one of the best phones of 2014.

2015 saw no shortage of PR hubris, with the company’s follow-up, the OnePlus 2 being toted as a “2016 flagship killer” and essentially promising the world. Unfortunately the product has received a surprising backlash due to its lack of NFC, lack of Fast Charging, problematic camera software, buggy Oxygen OS, and – once again – availability. Whereas some companies have been known to blame the users for its problems, OnePlus’ public face and Co-Founder Carl Pei, is not only offering his sincere apologies, but even going as far as to ask Samsung for an internship.

“Here’s an idea”

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

On Mr. Pei’s personal blog, he writes that the company “learned a very important lesson with the launch of the OnePlus 2 by not getting units shipped out as soon as they should have been. Now, we are working harder than ever to get the OnePlus 2 in your hands. We’ve ramped up the invite rollout, and will soon hold a one-hour open sale for those of you looking to purchase the OnePlus 2 without any hassle.”

The sheer mention of a “one-hour open sale” may further irritate some readers, though bigger changes are seemingly in-store for the future as Mr. Pei adds that, “the real change will come as we adapt and progress our operations and logistics. We are a growing company facing high demand from around the world. It’s not easy to make a smartphone; it’s also not easy getting it from our factory into your hands as quickly as you deserve.”

Then, in a rather candid statement, he addresses the very issue of his company’s success itself: “There’s a lot of talk lately about how the ‘new guys’ (like OnePlus) are coming in to disrupt the ‘giants of the smartphone industry’ (like Samsung, who’ve had a few less than stellar quarters). We’ve seen a lot of speculation and analysis about if and how one player can dominate the market. Well, we fully agree that the industry is evolving, but we think there’s room for all of us to compete and learn from each other.”

Most surprising however, is the next bit:

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. In turn, I would be happy to share what we’ve learned about how to engage with our community and implement their feedback to deliver a better user experience.
Better yet, let’s do an intern swap. I would be honored to visit your headquarters, and, in turn, we would be happy to host one of your own executives here to show you how we work at OnePlus.

Mr. Pei then includes a link to his Twitter feed in hope that Samsung will indeed, reach out.

A shockingly sincere sentiment or just another PR spectacle?

Truth be told, the candid commentary that Carl Pei has offered the world is rather shocking, if only for the fact that he is not only acknowledging and accepting that there are major problems with his new product, but even going as far as to suggest his company’s organization is not where it should be. His words highlight the fact that, while the outside world sees companies like OnePlus – or perhaps even its domestic rival Xiaomi – as these mega successful startups, there might be some big issues going on behind the scenes that are the inevitable as a very small company is instantly propelled into a major manufacturing position. Especially true of OnePlus (and Xiaomi) is the extremely thin profit margin that goes into the sale of each product, a problem that companies like Samsung, LG, and of course Apple, have never had to deal with.

Still, it is difficult to make heads-or-tails of the sincerity of Mr. Pei’s offer to intern at Samsung. Given the theatrics that OnePlus itself likes to put on, it could very well be another PR spectacle designed to get people talking. Given his resume however, we are more convinced he is truly sincere:

Karl Pei Linkedin

As many have already pointed out, according to his LinkedIn profile (above) Carl Pei has worked at a total of 4 companies in the past 5 years. In fact, aside from his current job at OnePlus, he had essentially never spent more than one year in any position at his three previous companies.

While his resume clearly indicates a quick progression to the top of corporate ranking, it may indeed be the case that he requires more experience with the industry and with management itself to better serve his current company. The situation is arguably furthered by the listing of Mr. Pei’s BSc at the Stockholm School of Economics as “unfinished”.

The Samsung situation

oneplus 2 vs samsung galaxy s6 aa (11 of 25)
2 of Hearts, two hearts that beat as…One?

While some may be willing to consider Mr. Pei’s internship proposition positively – especially as it appeared on his personal blog and not Twitter and not OnePlus one’s homepage – the question is if Samsung would ever entertain the possibility. While OnePlus could very well stand to benefit enormously from insight and wisdom at a 77-year old conglomerate like Samsung, there is a much more obscure understanding in just what the Korean OEM could gain from a start-up that is better known for its mishaps than anything else.

Samsung’s problem is, arguably, that it simply doesn’t want to enter a competitive price war with Chinese OEMs. Given the specs and build quality of some of its lower end hardware, the value proposition becomes one of the Samsung brand name and TouchWiz skin, and one of Samsung itself wanting to make a clear profit from hardware sales, however diminished they may be. Given how much has been written about OnePlus and its domestic rivals, the most obvious secrets of success – online-only sales and low price points – are not exactly mysteries that would require Carl Pei’s internship candidacy to solve. (At the same time, he may have other insight that could be quite valuable).

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-23
Samsung’s pursuit of profits is clearly not in-line with the more sell-at-cost structure of companies like OnePlus.

Perhaps the greatest barrier of all could be the actual threat that Pei’s proposed stint at Samsung could entail. It is a well known fact that corporations guard their secrets close and that defection is often a very public skeptical that is met with much criticism and analysis: just look at the sheer volume of content written about Stephen Elop. If Samsung were to let a clear rival in on its inner doings, it might very well end up building the very harbinger of its own eventual demise. Or it could work out beautifully.

Wrap Up

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While the ultimate success of OnePlus – the company – is an outstanding offering of the new corporate China that is quickly winning its way into the world consumer’s hearts and minds, today’s piece suggests that the path to progress is not without setbacks and disappointments.

Despite the negative press and consumer reaction to the OnePlus Two, we still found it to be a very good piece of kit. While Carl Pei and his company may be receiving a lot of flak at the moment, there is no question that the OPO’s successor is still a worthy consideration as your new smartphone. The real one, it seems, is just what will come of this rather unprecedented offer?

We would love to hear your comments! Do you feel OnePlus truly deep-sixed the Two? Has the phone gotten a bad rap due to the internet’s tendency to hate on success or was it a legitimate disappointment? And what about Carl Pei’s offer to intern at Samsung?