Ninebot, China’s Segway Copycat Maker Buys Segway

APR 24 2015 BY TDILLARD 21

What can you do if you get sued for copying tech?  Well, one option is to buy the company suing you.

In a story originally from Reuters, the basic details:

Chinese transportation robotics firm Ninebot said on Wednesday it has acquired U.S. rival Segway Inc, the company behind the self-balancing scooter that became a technological marvel when it was launched in the early 2000s but whose hype then faded.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but Ninebot Chief Executive Gao Lufeng said at a press briefing in Beijing that Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc and venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China, among others, had invested $80 million into Ninebot to help finance the acquisition.

New backers of Ninebot, which began producing scooters two years ago as a crowdfunded project, also include Xiaomi Chief Executive Lei Jun’s personal private equity fund Shunwei, Gao said.

The acquisition comes about half a year after Segway named Ninebot in a patent infringement complaint in September 2014.

This purportedly represents a new direction for Chinese companies:

“I have long thought Chinese companies should have more courage,” said Shen, one of China’s most prominent tech investors. “This acquisition is a display of Chinese self-confidence.”

This puts Segway at the end of a 14-year line that started with huge buzz, and slowly fizzled out as a very expensive, mildly practical self-balancing tech gadget that steers by the rider shifting their weight.  It was developed by inventor Deah Kamen and built in the New Hampshire (US) facility.

There has been a lot of coverage, but one of the more interesting stories is on the Shanghaiist: Chinese ‘Segway copycat’ company buys Segway.

If Ninebot sounds familiar, you may remember our piece: Silly Scooters, Seg-Things, Ninebot One, and Big Chuck in China (and videos), but this deal will give Ninebot “the most comprehensive lineup of products in the industry”, according to Ninebot Chief Executive Gao Lufeng.

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21 Comments on "Ninebot, China’s Segway Copycat Maker Buys Segway"

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The dot that most people miss with this event, is that GM and Segway collaborated on a 35 mph two seater Electric vehicle (Project PUMA), which GM later created a number of self-balancing prototypes based on Segway’s Technology, called the EN-V:

GM has since removed that tech, and just added two more wheels to make very bland versions of the original concept vehicles. They will still likely be computer guided for city use, with built in collision avoidance, etc.

But, now that NineBot owns all of Segway’s Patents, prototypes, R&D, Branding, etc., the door is now open for the current owners to revive such transportation concepts, and bring them to market.

Funny how I see this story… GM bought it to avoid serious competition for cars in cities. They strictly did nothing to sell or expand this promising market for all these years… Who killed the electric Segway?

It wasn’t murder; death of the Segway was due to natural causes.

A vastly over-expensive scooter you can’t even sit down on, one that’s too heavy to lift and put into a car or truck. Where’s the market? How could this possibly compete with more traditional, and significantly less expensive, two-wheeled scooters configured with fore-and-aft wheels, like a bicycle? The -only- advantage to the Segway was that it could be ridden by those who never learned how to balance on a bicycle.

I found it rather incredible (in both senses of the word) that the original Segway ads confidently predicted that cities would be redesigned to make use of the vehicle! Why would cities need to be redesigned? Because the Segway is engineered for use on sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways, but it moves too fast and is too heavy to be safe there, which is why many cities banned it from their sidewalks.

The Segway serves as a perfect object lesson as a project for which someone, somewhere along the line, -should- have stepped back and looked at, and realized that it was a product with no real market, one that wasn’t worth spending money to develop and promote.

Actually, it’s the other way around — Segway invested a _lot_ of money in lobbying to the extent that laws got passed in many cities allowing it’s use before it was available to buy. It was always a bad idea, and a “solution” to a nonexistent problem. I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden on one — if you haven’t, do so if you get a chance, it’s instructive. First of all, it is actually nowhere near as stable as they have you believe. It does require body inputs when traveling on it, just different ones than a bicycle, and the “lean to control speed” method is far from intuitive (saying this as someone who has experience with motorcycles, bicycles and skiing). Trying to negotiate Even a 1-inch height difference between a path and a sidewalk, slowly, can easily cause it to overturn. Unlike a bicycle, which you can walk while on it in such cases, it’s impossible on a Segway, and if you get off, it’s too heavy and awkward to lift by hand. Unlike a bicycle, it can’t be carried up stairs, so it always has to be left on-street (with no way to physically lock it to… Read more »

Life is really unexpectablel!

And I don’t know what but I keep having dreams where I do something important with Elon. Strange but there seem to be a

an intertwine. Probably just a coincidence of interests but at quiet amazing odds. Perhaps just a generation match. Do others have that too?

Delusions of grandeur is not all that uncommon, and belief that we are all special is very common, especially with our education system driving home the point.
The real truth is that true genius is rare.
Various studies have show that those tend to overrate their abilities under-perform their peers, while those who think they are lacking talent actually outperform their peers. Perhaps they just try harder.

Thanks for the dream interpretation, that’s interesting.
Well perhaps there is some Narcissism but that’s ok it it drives to try to achieve more, there are so many people that just don’t have dreams and settle for the standards or take the present impossible for permanent. In any case, if expectations are reasonable, dreaming for the better is rather good and family, friends and colleagues will sure remind you of going to far off limits.
Childrens are particularly good for reality check when they ask pragmatic questions or give pragmatic answers on what you think or do.

Far be it from me to rain on your dream parade. Musk represents something to your subconscious that is appealing, and interacting with that is something you desire.
So keep dreaming, but be like Elon and turn those dreams into reality.

A display of Chinese self confidence? Confidence that they can reverse engineer any product, or software for that matter. Then build something others made first and call it their own. Yes, that is quite a stretch to call that a self confidence building exercise.

The article is pure anti Chinese racism. Segway never had a worldwide monopol right for two wheeled vehicles nor can you patent a type of vehicles.

You’re ill informed opinion has nothing to do with the specific brand-based criteria with which Segway based its lawsuit upon.

Your, sorry.

Segway had a unique gyroscopic mechanism that permitted control to be made through the driver’s leaning. This was the patent, and this was the issue of the lawsuit. Exactly how does the article have anything to do with racism. (Other than in your own mind.)

It’s not “racism” to note that Chinese industry is notorious for flagrant violations of international patents, nor is it “racism” to observe that China is every much in the business of stealing industrial secrets from other nations. The Chinese government even uses military hackers to steal industrial secrets from other countries!

And it may be embarrassing to the Chinese to note that in general they have an abysmal record of inventing compelling products or developing cutting-edge tech, and that’s one reason they spend so much of their efforts on copying technology invented in other countries. Embarrassing to the Chinese, but still not “racism”. Just observing the facts.

It’s also not “racism” to observe that if Ninebot had been able to develop a compelling competitor to the Segway without stealing Segway’s patents, then they would have had no need to buy out Segway.

P.S. — It’s true that you can’t patent the idea of a two-wheeled scooter, but you most certainly -can- patent certain specific technologies Segway uses to balance and guide its scooters.

Oh … what ? some would make a parallel between the then big buzz around Segway , and gigabuzz for … Tesla ?

I finally had the opportunity to try a Segway, for a few minutes, several years ago in an electric assist bicycle shop. An amazing waste of advanced technology. Made for a niche somewhere between a pair of sneakers, and a Razor scooter, mind numbingly pointless.

That center bar looks as misplaced as the shiny tank of a Hodaka Combat Wombat.

Hopefully this will enable them to bring the prices down to where they should have been day one. Currently, @ 3-5k for this toy is a total rip off IMHO.