The OnePlus One caused a bit of a shake-up to the affordable Android phone market: it's off-contract, runs Cyanogenmod, features good hardware at a reasonable price — and rather than being designed in Silicon Valley, it hails from Shenzhen.
OnePlus was founded in 2013 with the mantra of "never settle", and the multinational team strives to deliver the best devices they can without compromise. Co-founding the company and serving as the director of OnePlus Global is Carl Pei. We spoke with Carl to learn a little about how he communicates with the team, including those far-removed from the Shenzhen headquarters, and how he works.
Location: OnePlus HQ, Shenzhen Current Gig: Co-founder and Director of OnePlus Global Current mobile device: OnePlus One Current computer: 27-inch Apple iMac
What apps, software, or tools can't you live without? Why?
We've been using a few tools since the first day of OnePlus that have been really helpful for us as we grow. One is WeChat, a messaging app that's especially useful for large group chats. It's an easy way to send pictures, voice notes, and "tag" people to get their attention in large chats. It also lets us stay connected and informed when people are away from the office.
Google Drive is also a key tool for our company. We're a very collaborative team that travels frequently so the real-time editing function and ability to save your work to the cloud and pick it up on another device is crucial.
The most important tool I have personally is my phone; probably no surprise that I use the One. Recently, It's the easiest way to keep everything in one place and has great battery life.
I used to wear Google Glass as well but haven't seen the development that I think most people were expecting, so I sold it.
What's your workspace setup like?
My workplace is actually very messy. I'm trying to get all my work done in the office and not take any home. Oftentimes, it means staying very late and having a lot of stuff on my desk.
My workplace setup consists of a 27-inch iMac with a Magic Trackpad left of the keyboard. For music, I use a nuForce u-DAC 2 and a Graham Slee Solo amp together with the Sennheiser HD650s. It's bliss.
I also have a little figurine of Steve Jobs that has followed me through my career thus far. I like having it there; it reminds me to strive for perfection and never settle.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I've tried many different types of hacks, but haven't been able to commit long term to any. A huge help lately has been the addition of a gym in our office. It's quite small, no bells and whistles, but it's a huge time saver to just walk a few feet rather than having to drive somewhere. It also serves as a good way to clear my head and step away from my work, ultimately making me use my time more efficiently.
If I've learned anything in the past year, it's that there are no shortcuts when you're in the early stages of a startup; you've just got to put the time in to be impactful. I think anyone who in a startup who says otherwise either isn't being effective enough or has gotten past the early stage and is confident in their short term survival.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
My email inbox and calendar are my primary to-do lists. When we were smaller, a lot of things happened in person or over messenger apps. We're trying to be better organised and document things better with tools like Asana, Trello and Jira; we're still experimenting and open to suggestions!
Things are constantly changing for us and I find lately, most of my time is spent talking to people so I have less need for personal to-do lists at the moment and more need for a very well organised calendar.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
I've been spending a lot of time with my Kindle Paperwhite as of late. It's much better than staring at a bright screen, and volume wise such an improvement over traditional books!
I like to try the latest gadgets but often end up giving them away if I don't really love them. I gave up on Glass after a couple of months and haven't found a smartwatch that I love yet, although a lot of people in the office have the Moto 360. I've been learning more about photography lately, so my last major tech purchase was a Leica M240.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
Our company has dozens of foreign colleagues working at our headquarters in Shenzhen. Many of our Chinese colleagues speak English, and actually many foreign colleagues speak Chinese very well, but sometimes our deeper meaning can get lost in translation.
I was born in China, moved to the US for a couple of years, and then grew up mostly in Sweden, so I find I am able to communicate intricate nuances or colloquialisms well across languages.
What do you listen to while you work?
Music quality is important to me, and I try and listen to as much lossless music as possible. Currently, I'm really enjoying Coldplay's latest album, Ghost Stories. I also listen to a lot of John Mayer.
I also listen to a lot of Pandora and Spotify radio. I've been turned on to some great music through generated playlists that I never would have found on my own.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished The Hard Thing About Hard Things, a book written by Ben Horowitz on his experiences in the difficulties of startup companies. We're facing the same scaling issues as a lot of other startups, and it's great to see how others have dealt with them.
As we grow, we are also finding the best ways to manage our team as we become a more global, and more geographically spread out, company. I found How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg to be really inspiring. It included a lot of novel ideas for running any business but particularly best management practices for companies trying to survive in the modern tech industry.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
It really depends on what I'm doing. I get bored easily, and may seem distant at times. But if it's something I'm interested in I'll be super engaged.
What's your sleep routine like?
I generally try to sleep at midnight for eight hours, and use my phone as an alarm. As I'm travelling more, I'm having to find ways to cope with jetlag. The best techniques I've found so far are to stay awake long before my flight and have a glass of wine as soon as I get on the plane so I can try to sleep through most of the journey. I've also tried small doses of melatonin to try to get on the right time zone and stay out in the sunlight as much as possible.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Jeff Bezos. He thinks long term and has built an incredibly strong business. I want to know how he juggles it all!
What's the best advice you've ever received?
It's a Steve Jobs quote, actually, from his famous Stanford commencement address. He said, everything around you was created by someone at some point. If others can create and change things, so can you. It has stuck with me since I heard it and has given me the courage to entertain and realise some of my more outlandish ideas.
We've asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we'll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.