This is a welcome article that corrects the record and will dispel misconceptions and false credit. It also raises Micro in my estimation. They’re a more serious player than I thought.
These recollections are detailed in a 2003 paper from the University of St. Gallen, “Micro Mobility Systems: Realizing the Scooter Dream,” which chronicled Oubuter’s pioneering role in scooter history. In 1996, he launched a company called Micro Mobility Systems Ltd. (or micro™, for short) to build his zippy creations, which he called “micro-scooters”—or just “micros.” Then, he says, he partnered with a Chinese bicycle manufacturing company, JD Corp, to produce them. In 1999, sales began in Japan.
At this point, the scooter-genesis story gets somewhat murky; some reports, like this 2001 Bloomberg piece, credit Gino Tsai, JD Corp’s president at the time, with the critical lightbulb moment. At any rate, Ouboter says that JD Corp. ended up selling a licensed version of his design as the Razor, and Razor USA was founded in 2000. (Razor USA declined to comment specifically on the who-invented-it question.) A slew of copycat brands quickly joined in, and suddenly the world was seized in a scooter frenzy.
“Maybe you know the Razor scooter in the U.S.?” Ouboter asks me over the phone from a Greek island, where he’s vacationing; he still lives in Switzerland. “A lot of people don’t know that the Razor comes from me—from that Swiss guy.”
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Aha! China. That explains everything.
It’s the Unofficial Chinese Second Rule of Acquisition:
Once you have their idea, steal the living shit out of it.