Segway R.I.P.

Segway Was Overhyped and Destined to Fail. Current Owner Ninebot Announced It Is Ceasing Production.

The Segway personal transporter was introduced just as the dotcom frenzy was topping out. At a time when hype was flowing like Bud Lite at a Super Bowl, the Segway was the most hyped product in the history of hype. Steve Jobs said it would be bigger than the personal computer. Others predicted that cities would be redesigned to accommodate it. Yes, serious people seriously said that cities would be changed to fit Segway. Otherwise smart people failed to note that Segway was twice as wide as a bicycle and wouldn't fit comfortably on either sidewalks or roads. They failed to note that it cost as much as a used car but had limited range and didn't have heat, ac, trunk or protection from rain and snow.

Segway was a brilliant product with fantastic innovations that are incorporated in many other products today. But it's also a lesson of what happens when an inventor has unlimited resources. Dean Kamon is one of the most successful inventors of our time. He was able to spend $100 million developing and commercializing the Segway without justifying his expenditure to anyone. Blinded by the amazing technologies he and his team were developing, he failed to consider and acknowledge commercial realities and argued, as many inventors do (as I have too many times) that Segway was different, that the rules didn't apply. In the end, like gravity, the market didn't care what he and others thought.

Invention City uses the Segway as a benchmark in the Brutally Honest Review. As part of the review we do an analysis with our Inventicator and generate a numerical score that indicates a likelihood of success. To help inventors understand the meaning of their invention's score we reference Segway:

"By way of comparison, the Segway® scooter scores with poor odds (ICQ=35). Segway was the most hyped invention of the past twenty years - some people said it'd be even bigger than the Internet, that cities would be redesigned to accommodate it - but even after all of the hype and nearly two decades of effort it has failed to achieve real commercial success."

Now we'll have to change that to the more definitive: "... it failed to achieve commercial success and is no longer in production."

I respect what Dean Kamon did in creating the Segway and truly appreciate the lesson it provides to all innovators.

Read more about the end of Segway at Fast Company.

- Mike

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