Chinese seize control of geek icon

cover_derbyGeek icon Segway has been bought out by a Chinese backed start-up called Ninebot.

Ninebot is backed by the mobile outfit Xiaomi and makes electric-powered personal transportation products.

Segway made a two-wheeler upright scooter which looked so daft that it became a bit of a running joke – especially when they became popular amongst security staff in malls who could not be bothered walking anywhere.

They were trademarks of geeks who felt that walking was beneath them and best left to those who could not afford technology.

In 2003, the US president George W. Bush fell off a Segway and in 2006 all of the company’s 23,500 vehicles had to be recalled due to a software glitch which caused the wheels to reverse.

Generally though Segway’s failed to take off in any useful way, but Gao Lufeng, chief executive, said there is still some value in the Segway.  He has written a cheque to buy the US company for an undisclosed amount. Lufeng confirmed that Ninebot had also secured $80mn in funding from Xiaomi and venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.

This is a strange end to the story, given that Ninebot was being sued last year by Sedgeway. The US International Trade Commission agreed last November to look into the Segway complaint which sought to block imports of Chinese Ninebots into the US.

Now it seems that Segway president Rod Keller is fully behind the deal. With the new deal between the two rivals it is unclear how the investigation will unfold.
“The strategic alliance with Ninebot will enable us to provide more intelligent and valuable products for our customers,” he said.