Ninebot buys Segway…for the patents!
It was announced on 15 April that Chinese Electric Unicycle company Ninebot bought self-balancing vehicle pioneer Segway. Interestingly, prior to the take over, Segway was suing Ninebot for patent infringement.
And possibly even more interestingly, Ninebot’s take over was financed by Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Xiaomi (The third largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world!) to the tune of $80mio and by Californian venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which indicates that these two power houses expect a significant growth in the market for Electric Unicycles.
Bejing-based Ninebot was only founded in 2012 and is therefore in the world of big companies still an insignificant start-up, nevertheless they got Xiaomi and Sequoia Capital on board!
Segway was founded in 2001 and was sold a number of times since. The last time before this take-over, Segway was bought in 2013 by Summit Strategic Investments.
For a variety of reasons, it can be said that Segway commercially failed. They managed to create some amazing transport device, but due to pricing and due to legal constraints of Segway use on public roads, the visionary device never delivered the hard cash. Consequently it is very unlikely that the Segways in their current form will get much future support from Ninebot. Instead the extensive network of resellers and most importantly the more than 400 valuable patents interested the new owners.
Website Tech in Asia translated and published a really interesting interview that Ninebot’s co-founder Wang Ye gave Chinese Tech blog 36kr and you can read it here.
Ninebot manufacture Unicycles and also two-wheeled self-balancing transporters that are very much like Segway’s.