Segway Inc., the developer of two-wheeled, electric-powered people movers, was acquired by China-based competitor Ninebot Inc.
After allying with Segway, Ninebot will use electric driving, mobile Internet and man-machine interaction technologies for future products, Gao Lufeng, Ninebot chief executive officer, said at a press conference in Beijing. The companies didn’t disclose terms of the April 1 transaction.
The announcement came after Xiaomi Corp., the Beijing-based smartphone maker that owns part of Ninebot, joined in an $80 million funding round for Ninebot that included Sequoia Capital and the Shunwei Foundation. Ninebot began two years ago as a crowd-funded project and its products are now available in more than 38 countries, with production facilities in China, according to its website.
“Ninebot is a fast-growing short-distance transportation company backed by well-known investors,” Segway President Rod Keller said in a video message shown at the press conference Wednesday. “The combination of Ninebot and Segway will bring together industry-leading research, development, engineering and manufacturing.”
Keller said Segway holds more than 400 patents related to the devices. Ninebot’s Gao said the purchase included all of Segway’s assets.
Inventor Dean Kamen introduced the Segway in 2001 and began selling it to the public in 2002 with hopes of revolutionizing urban transport. He sold the company, which was later bought by Summit Strategic Investments LLC in 2013, according to Bedford, New Hampshire-based Segway’s website.
Segway’s products are used by police and tour groups, while sales to individual consumers have been hampered by a high price tag and restrictions by cities on where the devices can be driven.
The U.S. International Trade Commission in November agreed to investigate a claim by Segway that Ninebot and several other Chinese companies infringed on its patents. Segway had been seeking to block imports of the transporters in an investigation that would probably have taken 15 to 18 months, according to an ITC statement in November.
The China-based company also makes a single-wheeled device called the Ninebot One. In the U.S., the Ninebot sells for $3,199, while the Ninebot One can be purchased for $850, according to the company’s website.
Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone maker, is expanding into web-enabled smart home devices and consumer electronics by taking stakes in other startups. The company has backed 27 such companies under plans to invest in as many as 100, Xiaomi Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun has said.
Xiaomi holds a controlling stake in Ninebot, Lei said Wednesday. He declined to provide the size of the shareholding, or to comment on how much Ninebot paid for Segway.
— With assistance by Edmond Lococo