Product: An electric, self balancing human transporter with a computer controlled gyroscopic stabilization & control system.
Potential Customer: 1.Delivery guys (US Postal Service, Fedex Courier) 2. Police Department 3. Daily Short Distance Commuters 4. Fun Groups.
USP: A battery operated machine, a faster way to get from here to there but also a solution to urban congestion, air pollution, and dependency on fossil fuel. Dean Kamen predicted in “Time” that the Segway “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.”
Product Development: Dean Kamen is a great name in field of innovation. He is an entrepreneur and innovator from New Hampshire/ America. It almost took a decade for Dean Kamen to ideate, innovate, and speculate & finally launching the product. The machine’s development was the object of much speculation and hype after segments of a book quoting Steve Jobs and other notable IT visionaries espousing its society-revolutionizing potential were leaked in December 2001.
Product success forecast: Before even launching the product Kamen blithely forecast that by the end of 2002, his enterprise would be stamping out 10,000 machines a week.
Publicity: Media hyped about it, celebrities discussed it, Steve jobs & Jeff Bezos liked it, and Venture capitalists predicted that Segway would rack up $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history.
Manufacturing Plan: To prepare for the forecast demand, Kamen leased a 77,000-square-foot factory near his home in Manchester, New Hampshire, and began working through the logistics of running round-the-clock shifts.
Policy change: He hired scores of lobbyists, who spent much of 2001 trying to persuade state legislatures to rewrite their laws to permit his scooter to operate on city sidewalks.
And within few months after much hyped launch, Dean Kamen’s super scooter started to face problems. Here is all why it happened:
It was a product not a solution. The product works well but it lacked a support context. Where can you park it? How do you charge it? Do you use it on roads or sidewalks? Our cities are designed for pedestrians or speedy vehicles and this was neither so it had no proper infrastructure to support it.
It was an invention rather than an innovation. The Segway was patented and kept under wraps until its launch. There was no user feedback or iteration in the process. Its inventors were then surprised when people criticized or ridiculed the design for being ‘dorky’ rather than cool.
- Target Customer
No clear need or target market. Who was the target market? Who really needed this? It was an appealing novelty but there was no compelling need for anyone to buy it. It’s an important factor in whether new ideas, products, and services succeed. They have to be ready for consumers, and consumers have to be ready for them.
- Cost & Accessibility to customer base
Company announced that consumers could purchase a Segway on Amazon for $4,950. But at that price, the scooter seems doomed to life as a yuppie plaything. Heralded as one of the world’s most important inventions, when it hit the market, it was simply out of reach for the common man. If Segway actually could have changed transportation forever, that might not be so bad. But for a souped-up scooter that can’t withstand the elements, it’s too much.
For any products and services you introduce, it should not only resonate, but also be available to, your customer base. If prototype versions or initial runs wouldn’t fit into those price constraints, keep refining production until they do. Otherwise, no matter how excited people might get about what you’re offering, it can’t truly take hold.
- “Keep them Guessing” Aura before Launch
Before it was officially introduced to the public, the Segway’s allure came entirely from its mystery. Media, Steve jobs & Bezos lauded it but nobody knew a thing about the product.
To an extent, the keep-’em-guessing technique is a viable one. It gets people talking, and makes sure they’ll tune in when you finally kill the suspense by sharing your new idea. But Segway’s developers went overboard and didn’t rein in the outrageous attention they got. In anticipation, Consumers’ and industry analysts’ minds ran wild, and when Segway finally saw the light of day, it couldn’t measure up.
Initial speculation about the Segway (then known by code names IT and Ginger) suggested it would pioneer new technology in its engine. Kamen even registered domains including that engine’s name. But the Segway the public saw unveiled, perhaps prematurely, in 2001 didn’t match up.
- Know how about product functioning
Then there are the pesky issues that sneak up on you when you’re trying to change the world. Like training. The company promised it would require buyers to go through a minimum of four hours of hands-on coaching before they would be turned loose on the vehicles. But how do you teach the subtleties of operating a vehicle sold only over the Web?
Each solution which Dean Kamen planned sounded more expensive and convoluted than the one before.
- No marketing partner
With each invention, Kamen could have held on to the rights and manufactured and sold the device on his own. Instead he chose to partner with health-care behemoths like Baxter International, which produced his dialysis device. “You can have a great new machine, but unless you have the resources, the distribution, and the reach, you risk it becoming nothing but a science fair project,” Kamen says. He sensibly decided to maximize his time at his workbench and leave the mundane operational details to his corporate partners.
Since the decision to go it alone, for Segway, Kamen’s life has been jammed with harsh reminders of why things are simpler when you license your stuff to others who have experience manufacturing, selling, and distributing products.
With no marketing partner & distribution network to support its sales, Segway was destined to fail.
The Segway fell afoul of regulation in many countries where it was banned from sidewalks and roads because it did not fit any existing categories.
This is a problem for a truly revolutionary product – but it was not properly anticipated.
- Ahead of its time
Segway was a scientific innovation with an aim at changing the way of public transport. It takes time for any product to get maturity in eyes of customer. By sticking to corporate and municipal clients, Kamen hoped the vehicle would avoid being cast as a dangerous toy with the reputation of the Razor scooter for mayhem. But most of the trials were failure as Segway was heavy to handle, had a poor battery which ran for just 45 minutes in one charging and with some health problems as well.
We will not say that Segway is a failure. As one of Segways fan adds up “It’s a step in the right direction, but only a first step. We’re not a Hall of Fame for inventions so much as we’re interested in the process. We have a whole lot of failures and a small number of successes.”