Brian Yoon, Nov 10, 2017 : Never Settle. These are the words we started with, in our dream to make better smartphones. Like many startups, we entered the world a little starry-eyed. We knew there would be challenges in the market and that we'd spend many nights in the office perfecting our software. But we believed our idea was worth it. We learned with time and experience that chasing the dream takes more than belief and hard work. To be up front with you – we haven't made it to the top yet. We're sharing all we've learned so far, but we've still got a ways to go in our journey. Every Company Begins for a Reason With OnePlus, we started with a singular vision – create better smartphones. Too many phones on the market were sloppy on the details, or filled with bloatware. We wanted to make a no-frills product that empowered our users to effortlessly do what they want, when they wanted to. Achieving clean and fast software would require us to master the details. A tall order, but not impossible since we had experienced engineering talent (our CEO @Pete ) leading our ranks. It was an exciting time, with Cyanogen as one of our key partners for the development of OnePlus One software. Highly respected in the developer community, CyanogenMod was hailed as the people's OS and poised to change the face of the mobile industry. OnePlus One software was ahead of its time, with features that even stock Android had yet to official introduce. To the shock of our tiny marketing team, word of mouth about the OnePlus One took off at an insane pace. We were the only smartphone maker trumpeting a Never Settle attitude toward technology, and techies were eager to support our cause. The flow of feedback was fast and intimate, due to the size of our community, and we were buzzing with energy to listen and improve. We took it all in, and were confident that with time, we could address all the feedback we were getting. Then, as we were working on the OnePlus 2, we had to become more independent. The transition wasn't easy, with long arduous nights and flare-ups of frustration. It felt like a race against time to produce a second flagship that would keep our fans happy, before we were left in the dust of irrelevance. Never Settle continued to be our mantra as we worked top coders from the developer community to create a simple version of the Android experience. We felt rushed, but knew that our whole team had pushed themselves to the max, laboring over each detail. We were confident that the OnePlus 2 would be the world's next flagship killer. And were smacked in the face for our hubris. Feedback for the OnePlus 2 was far more mixed than we would have liked. Our techie niche had expected the best from us because of the talk that we had talked, and not everyone was happy with the walk we walked. Somehow, we had listened without hearing. Creating Better Smartphones After some months, we came to a few realizations. We needed to slow down and regain perspective. Details were king, but not only in the way that we thought. To create a better smartphone, we needed to look deeper and improve the details of how we worked. Keeping our fans happy was important, but if we truly wanted to Never Settle, we couldn't let outside pressures drive the pace of our work. During the development of the OnePlus 2, we had seen the need to grow in order to meet fan demand. And we hired the passionate and the talented, without paying enough attention to how our organizational needs were changing. The result was a software team that was bigger, but also more fragmented and inefficient. We needed to reorganize and unify to recapture the spirit of our OnePlus One days. Around this time, I joined OnePlus as the Head of ROM. This was shortly after the release of the OnePlus 2, and I had worked tirelessly to address the internal divisions that had sprung up. It was crazy. For more than three months, my everyday work was meetings to refine requirements and sitting in the middle of the room, mediating between different groups. Reorganizing was at times tedious and painful, but the newly unified software team worked faster and more efficiently than ever. Everyone slowed down, and took more time for testing and tweaking. Thinking as one, the software team went from a feature-driven development cycle to a bug-driven one, outputting new builds more frequently. Thanks to these improvements, the software of our third flagship was unlike any we had ever produced. OxygenOS on the OnePlus 3 was truly streamlined, clean, and beautiful. Critics and fans alike loved the tweaks we had made to OxygenOS, but we had learned from the OnePlus 2 not to get complacent. With a unified team behind the OnePlus 3, we launched the Beta program, working directly with testers from our fan community to ensure stable software. Having our ears to the ground, while keeping our frontal lobe on, turned out to be a winning strategy. And we made sure to bring this mindset to the OnePlus 5 and 5T. In some ways, we are doing what we've always done: listening and implementing changes. But slowing down and working at our own pace with a unified mindset, gives us time to address user demands with wisdom. Listening feedback is important, but it's just as important to ask the right questions when you process that information. As Pete once put it to Wired Editor David Rowan: we "make products based on asking 'why?' -- why does it exist? Why doesn't it change?" Our latest flagship, the OnePlus 5T, answers the whys. Why one global version? To address bugs even faster, regardless of regional differences. Why have we made some apps independent of our software code base? To create better apps even faster. Why so much emphasis on our Beta program? Because our community is powerful. The OnePlus 5T is our best flagship yet. Software has never been more stable. The consensus among critics and techie users alike is that OxygenOS is a very good OEM ROM, fast and streamlined with no bloatware. And yet our best is always changing. Because our goal isn't just to be stuck at 'our best.' It's to create a phone that's better than everything that exists. To Never Settle. Living Up to Never Settle As humans, it's natural to want to study success, and learn fail-safe formulas. But unlike calculus class, plugging in the right elements doesn't always deliver the results you want. Mastering the details is not a formula to success, but rather a key part of getting there. Between the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2, we learned that listening and working hard is only part of the process. Every detail can be perfected and stunning to look at, and your user experience can still miss the mark. Our success with the OnePlus 3 helped us bring the lesson home for the OnePlus 5T: learn from what you hear and take time to truly consider what is best for your endeavor as a whole. We share our story, to encourage others who also have ideas like we once did. Keep improving on what users love, and be brave in the details where you need to be. Listen, grow, and improve. Do all of that good stuff. But when there are many voices around you, it’s important to remember what you came to do. Bringing an idea to life requires resilience. Because every startup begins with someone who truly believes in their dream. But not everyone is willing to take hits, learn and take risks continuously so that their idea survives. Those that do, will make an impact in this world. Many thanks to all of you.