Steve The Woz Wozniak Arrives at WWDC Via Segway
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak arrives at WWDC via Segway, but even this didn't help the electric vehicle gain popularity (Twitter)

Segway, the often-mocked personal mobility device, has been sold to Chinese startup Ninebot which has received $80m (£54.3m, €75.5m) in funding from backers including rising smartphone giant Xiaomi.

Described by Steve Jobs as being "as big a deal as the PC" the Segway has never lived up to the hype which surround its launch in December 2001. Amazon's Jeff Bezos said cities would be built around it and investor John Doerr said Segway would be the fastest company to reach $1bn in revenue.

Over 13 years later and while exact figures are hard to come by, the $100m investment in the research and development of the two-wheeled electric vehicle has unlikely been recouped, with the latest sales figures available suggesting that somewhere around 50,000 units had been sold by 2009.

Segway was invented by Dean Kamen, but he sold the company to UK-based CEO Out in 2010, which subsequently sold it to Summit Strategic Investments in 2013.

Future products

Interestingly, Kamen filed a complaint in 2014 against Ninebot claiming the company - along with other Chinese companies - were infringing patents belonging to Segway in its own personal mobility device - the Ninebot One - which is an electric, self-balancing unicycle.

Announcing the deal, Gao Lufeng, Ninebot founder and CEO said the deal will allow the company to "widely apply a series of technologies into its future products, covering electric driving, mobile internet and man-machine interaction." The company said the Segway brand would continue to be used alongside Ninebot.

Lufeng added: "This combination creates great opportunities for the development of the short-distance transportation industry. We believe that this alliance will promote the short-distance transportation industry to develop and grow on the intelligent mobile robot platform. The alliance of our well-known brands will provide more convenient and environmentally-friendly travelling solutions for customers."

As well as announcing the deal to acquire Segway, Ninebot also announced a $80m round of funding led by Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, Sequoia Capital and Shunwei Foundation.