Segway Is Now a Chinese Company
Not everyone thinks Segways are funny.
Beijing-based competitor Ninebot just bought Bedford, N.H.-based Segway, the electric two-wheeled personal transportation vehicle. Terms of the deal were not made public, but in addition to the acquisition, Ninebot did say that it has received an $80 million cash injection from investment houses MIUI Technology, Sequoia Capital, Sunwei Fund and Sequoia Capital.
After the acquisition, Segway and Ninebot will continue to operate as their own brands.
The first Segway came out in 2001 and was invented by Dean Kamen. At the time, hopes were high that the personal transportation vehicle would be a blowout success. With a price tag well above $3,000 -- out of reach for the everyday consumer who was find getting around on foot anyway -- along with a design that earned it an awkward reputation, the Segway was largely considered a fail. (Speaking of fails -- if you haven’t ever seen any of the Segway blooper videos on YouTube, here’s one.)
Still, Segway has 250 distribution points in 80 countries. And that’s something to take seriously.
Being under one umbrella now, Segway and Ninebot will share technology and research notes. “It creates a development opportunity for the short-distance transportation industry, which the combined company will lead by widely applying a series of technologies, such as electric driving, mobile internet and human-computer interaction, on future products,” said Lufeng Gao, founder and CEO of Ninebot, in a statement.
Founded in 2012, Ninebot makes two-wheeled electric vehicles similar to the Segway as well as one-wheeled unicycles. Oddly enough, it was one of the companies accused of patent infringement by Segway last year.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.