Paul Graham: It Was too Easy for Segway

So why hasn’t the Segway taken off? Why hasn’t it delivered its promise of providing personal transportation for everyone? Paul Graham thinks he has the answer: it makes things look too easy:

The reason you look like a dork riding a Segway is that you look smug. You don’t seem to be working hard enough.

Someone riding a motorcycle isn’t working any harder. But because he’s sitting astride it, he seems to be making an effort. When you’re riding a Segway you’re just standing there. And someone who’s being whisked along while seeming to do no work—someone in a sedan chair, for example—can’t help but look smug.

Here’s an example: look at the video below, and tell me you almost don’t feel satisfied about the unfortunate operator planting her face:

Graham also goes on to say that if Segway (the company) had some difficulties getting off the ground, they would’ve come up with a better product. As Segway had an easy time raising money, they weren’t able to benefit from customer feedback.

With limited funds, Segway would’ve been forced to pay attention to what people were saying about their product, and make the necessary adjustments. Without lots of cash to burn, they would’ve soon gone out of business if they went full steam ahead with their current, totally uncool, wheel-platform-and-a-stick configuration.

Ironically, if Graham is right, this would be a case where throwing lots of money at a problem actually kept a project from achieving its objectives. Retaining its high price tag and slowly growing reputation for dorkiness, the goal of personally affordable transporation seems so far away for the Segway. The cash, a representation of the belief people had in the Segway’s vision, kept it from attaining critical mass and ultimately its primary goal.

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