From learning to crawl to taking those first steps, the most basic forms of mobility are something able-bodied people tend to take for granted. Segway aims to create an even simpler way to get around, and in just 20 years it has achieved a great amount of success in pursuit of that goal.
Getting Around Without Getting Tired
The Segway motto, “simply moving,” speaks to the company’s goal: creating a simpler way for consumers to travel around short distances, to minimize fatigue and make movement more accessible for everyone.
A two-wheeled, scooter-type vehicle with a platform to stand on and handlebars for steering, Segways have faced periods of opulence and decline in their 20 years on Earth.
The Ebb and Flow of Segway
Segway was invented and founded in 1999; two years later, the earliest version of the Segway debuted on Good Morning America. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Segways were utilized to transport delegates, as they were an easy and emission-free mode of transportation, and it seemed that the young company was well on its way to achieving massive success.
However, by 2013, the company was barely scraping by. A new owner turned things around by updating company culture and improving upon bugs, before selling the company to a firm called Ninebot. One of Segway’s biggest barriers for success had been its perceived status as a joke; Ninebot remedied this perception by introducing Segway scooters.
This shared scooter system caught on quickly, and inspired such companies as Bird and Lime to place their own scooters in major cities. Near ruin just 6 years ago, Segway can hardly keep up with demand for its scooters now.
Competing in Uncharted Territory
Since Segway is now receiving the bulk of its profits from scooter rentals in cities, the outlook for the industry is unclear due to its youth. All the same, there’s money to be made in rentable scooters for the time being, and Segway is capitalizing on that option—but so are a few other savvy brands.
Namely, Bird and Lime Scooters also take up space in this emerging industry, but it’s worth pointing out that Ninebot (who owns Segway) supplies a great deal of Lime scooters; so although the two companies are in direct competition, Segway still stands to benefit from Lime’s success in a roundabout way.
By October 2018, Bird had made an estimated $250 million in revenue. Segway expected its revenue to reach $458 million for the entire year, so while Bird may dominate a greater market share, Segway is certainly not hurting for cashflow.
Exposure That Helps or Hurts?
One of Segway’s greatest drawbacks was something that ex-owner Roger Brown referred to as its nerdiness. This was exemplified by pop culture appearances like in the movie Paul Blart Mall Cop, where a Segway appears as the central mode of transportation for an ineffectual security guard.
However, time has been kind to Segway. Even influencers like model Emily Ratajkowski aren’t ashamed to hop on one of the vehicles. Now, police in large cities use the original model as a means of transportation, and scooter ride sharing provides constant visibility for the brand. When a Segway scooter graces most corners in major cities, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this company is enjoying a resurgence.
Moving Forward Steadily
Aside from allegations from Lime Scooters that Ninebot (their scooter supplier and Segway’s owner) supplied defective products, Segway has enjoyed largely positive press in recent years as it continues to unveil new products and services.
In recent years, Ninebot (and by proxy, Segway) has gone from obscure Chinese startup to ranking with Forbes as a company that may prove a global force.
From obscurity to glory, Segway has run the gamut of situations in its short life, but the future is looking bright.