Segway acquired by Ninebot, Xiaomi-backed Chinese start-up
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Segway acquired by Xiaomi-backed Chinese startup Ninebot

Segway acquired by Xiaomi-backed Chinese startup Ninebot

Beijing based transportation robotics firm Ninebot announced on Wednesday that it has acquired U.S. rival Segway Inc, manufacturer of self-balancing electric scooters.

Once the deal is completed, Ninebot will use electric driving, mobile Internet and man-machine interaction technologies for upcoming products, Ninebot chief executive officer Gao Lufeng said at a press conference in Beijing. Both companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

The announcement came after Xiaomi Corp, the Beijing-based mobile and media company that owns part of Ninebot, joined in an $80 million investment round for Ninebot that included US venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and the Shunwei Foundation. According to its website, Ninebot was established in 2012 as a crowd-funded project and its products are currently available in more than 38 countries, with manufacturing facilities in China.

Segway President Rod Keller said in a video message that Ninebot is an upcoming short-distance transportation company supported by popular investors. The integration of Ninebot and Segway will bring together industry-leading research, development, production and engineering, he added.

Bedford, New Hampshire-based Segway owns more than 400 patents that are related to the devices and Ninebot's buyout includes all of Segway's assets.

Founder Dean Kamen launched the Segway in 2001 and began selling it to the public in 2002 claiming that his invention would revolutionize transportation. However, sales of the electric scooters could not successfully take off and it earned a crazy reputation due to some high-profile mishaps. This isn’t the first time the company has been purchased. In 2013, Segway was acquired by Summit Strategic Investments, LLC, according to the company.

Segway's products are mostly used by police and tour groups, while sales to individuals have been hindered by an exorbitant price tag and limitations by cities on where the devices can be driven.

The two companies had been at odds in November 2014. The US International Trade Commission agreed to look into a claim by Segway that Ninebot and several other Chinese firms were infringing upon its patents.

Ninebot also manufactures a single-wheeled device called the Ninebot One. In the US, the Ninebot is available for US$3,199, while the Ninebot One sells for US$850, according to the company's website.

China's largest smartphone maker, Xiaomi is backing other start-ups to expand into web-enabled smart home devices and consumer electronics. The company has taken stakes in 27 such companies under plans to invest in as many as 100, Xiaomi Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun has said.

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