Segway CEO Jimi Heselden’s Cause of Death Sounds Too Ironic to Be True
When he died, Jimi Heselden was the CEO of Segway, an EV company that produced self-balancing electric scooters. His fatal accident was so bizarre it’s hard to believe it’s true. Here’s a look at the company behind the scooter, what caused the Segway CEO’s death, and what happened to the business after he died.
The company’s beginnings
Dean Kamen, a medical device inventor, and Doug Field, a lead engineer, designed and built the original Segway unit in the company’s early days. Their prototype debuted on Good Morning America in 2001. It allowed riders to zip along at up to 12.5 mph.
The two American engineers envisioned cities doing away with most automobiles, replaced by scooters. But despite the innovation, the two-wheeled vehicle cost almost $5,000, which was too steep for most consumers. Also, the Segway became synonymous with nerds after appearing in the 2003 sitcom Arrested Development and 2009 movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
In 2009, English entrepreneur Jimi Heselden bought Segway to turn it around and popularize the scooters. However, the company struggled to pull in revenue. And one year later, he died in a bizarre accident.
Segway CEO Jimi Heselden’s ironic death
Confidence in the scooter took another hit when Heselden went for a jaunt on his Segway unit in September 2010. A dog walker was approaching the executive from the opposite direction on the same footpath above the River Wharfe in the English village of Boston Spa. It’s believed Heselden courteously reversed his scooter to make way for the dog walker to pass, the BBC reported.
Sean Christie, the dog walker, saw Heselden reverse the scooter, stumble, and disappear. Christie soon spotted Heselden 42 feet below, face-down, in the river. Authorities pronounced the Segway CEO dead at the scene. They believe he fell off the cliff where he was last seen.
Investigators found no signs of foul play. Also, Heselden had injuries consistent with a fall while using a gyro bike. The coroner said he apparently died due to an “act of courtesy” and recorded the death as accidental, the BBC reported.
Officials also analyzed the scooter and found it to be in good working order. They don’t believe the Segway unit was at fault. Still, the tragedy sparked safety concerns among members of the public.
What happened to the company after the Segway CEO’s death?
Following Heselden’s death, his estate sold Segway to another entrepreneur, Roger Brown, in early 2013. He saw a golden opportunity for the scooters despite the lingering nerd stereotype and safety concerns. The company barely made any money.
But Brown brought on new employees to change the culture surrounding the scooter and set out to redesign the machine so that it could be sold at a much lower price. A year later, the company turned a small profit for the first time. Then 2015 came, and Brown sold the company to Ninebot for $75 million, according to CNN Business.
The new owners made the company even more profitable by moving the newly designed scooters into the market, triggering a ridesharing craze. Companies like Bird and Lime launched in 2017 with fleets of Segway scooters. Both services shot to the top, positioning Segways in over 100 cities. The company also began selling other personal transport vehicles.
But in 2020, Segway-Ninebot announced the company would discontinue the Segway scooter and concentrate on other projects. Two newer products include a dirt eBike and a robotic lawn mower.
The Segway scooter was an innovation ahead of its time. CEO Jimi Heselden tried to turn the business around, but his bizarre death only triggered controversy over the vehicles’ safety. Not until his successor redesigned the unit did the company finally become profitable.