The millionaire tech inventor ‘thrown away’ as a baby

Freddie Figgers was given his first pc on the age of 9. It was outdated and did not work but it surely was the beginning of a love affair with know-how that turned him into an inventor, entrepreneur and telecoms millionaire – a future that few would have predicted after his powerful begin in life.

a boy posing for a photo


“Do not let your circumstances outline who you might be.”


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Only one piece of recommendation 31-year-old entrepreneur Freddie Figgers want to go on to others.

When he was eight years outdated, he requested his father, Nathan, concerning the circumstances of his delivery, and the reply was unforgettable.

“He mentioned, ‘Hear I will shoot it to you straight, Fred. Your organic mom, she threw you away, and me and Betty Mae, we did not wish to ship you thru foster care and we adopted you, and also you’re my son.””

Freddie had been discovered deserted as a new child child subsequent to a dumpster (a big garbage container) in rural Florida.

“When he informed me that, I used to be like, ‘OK I am trash,’ and I felt undesirable. However he grabbed my shoulder and he mentioned, ‘Hear, do not you ever let that hassle you.””

Nathan Figgers was a upkeep employee and handyman and Betty Mae Figgers, a farm employee. They lived in Quincy, a rural group of about 8,000 individuals in North Florida, and have been of their 50s when Freddie was born in 1989.

Freddie Figgers sitting on a table: Nathan Figgers, and Freddie with Betty Mae (right)

Nathan Figgers, and Freddie with Betty Mae (proper)

That they had already fostered many kids, however determined to take Freddie in when he was two days outdated, and undertake him as their very own son. Freddie says they gave him all of the love he may ever need – however different kids in Quincy may very well be brutal.

“Youngsters used to bully me and name me, ‘Dumpster child,””Trash can boy,””No one needs you,””You are soiled,”” he says.

“I bear in mind getting off the college bus generally and youngsters used to only come behind and seize me and throw me in a trash can and snigger at me.”

It reached a degree the place his father would look forward to him on the bus cease and stroll him residence, however the kids mocked Nathan too, Freddie remembers, “saying, ‘Ha ha, have a look at the outdated man with the cane.””

As far as Freddie was involved, Nathan and Betty Mae have been heroes, and nice position fashions.

“I noticed my father all the time serving to individuals, stopping on the aspect of the street serving to strangers, feeding the homeless,” he says. “He was an unbelievable man, and for them to take me in and lift me, that is the person I wish to be like.”

a person standing in front of a building: Betty Mae and Nathan Figgers

© Getty Photos
Betty Mae and Nathan Figgers

At weekends Freddie and Nathan would drive round “dumpster diving” – on the lookout for helpful issues that had been thrown away by their homeowners. Freddie significantly had his eye out for a pc.

“It is an outdated saying, ‘One man’s trash is one other man’s treasure,”” says Freddie, “and I used to be all the time fascinated by computer systems. I all the time wished a Gateway pc, however at the moment we could not afford one.”

Lastly, in the future when Freddie was 9, they went to a second-hand store known as Goodwill, the place they got here throughout a damaged Macintosh pc.

“We persuaded the gross sales affiliate,” says Freddie, “and he mentioned, ‘Hey, I am going to give it to you for $24,’ (£17), so we took the pc residence and I used to be simply so ecstatic.”

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He was already keen on tinkering with the gathering of radios, alarm clocks or VCRs that Nathan had collected, and the damaged Mac now grew to become the main target of his consideration.

“Once I received it residence and it would not come on, I took the pc aside,” says Freddie.

“As I used to be trying in it I noticed capacitors that have been damaged. I had soldering weapons there and I had radios and alarm clocks, so I took elements out of my father’s radio alarm clock and I soldered them into the circuit board.”

After about 50 makes an attempt, he says, the pc lastly switched on – and at this second Freddie says he knew that he wished to spend his life working with know-how.

a boy and girl posing for a photo: Freddie Figgers as a young child

Freddie Figgers as a younger youngster

“That pc took away the entire ache of getting bullied,” he says.

Every time he was being picked on in school, he says he was all the time considering, “I can not wait to get residence to play with my pc.”

He was 12 when his expertise grew to become seen by others. At an after-school membership, whereas different kids have been taking part in within the playground, Freddie set to work repairing damaged computer systems within the college’s pc lab.

“If the laborious drive was corrupt I’d swap it out. If it wanted extra reminiscence I’d add extra RAM. If it wanted an influence provide, I’d change it out,” he says.

The director of the after-school programme was Quincy’s mayor and when she noticed that he was bringing damaged computer systems again to life, she requested him to come back to the town corridor together with his mother and father.

“Once we get to metropolis corridor, she reveals me all of those computer systems within the again, oh gosh, possibly 100 of them stacked up, and he or she says, ‘I would like these computer systems repaired.””

From then on, Freddie hung out each day after college mending this pile of computer systems, for $12 (£9) an hour.

“It wasn’t even actually concerning the cash,” he says. “I had a possibility to do one thing that I liked to do and it was simply so enjoyable to me.”

Freddie Figgers sitting on a table: Freddie Figgers with that first Macintosh

© Freddie Figgers
Freddie Figgers with that first Macintosh

A few years later, a coding alternative arose. Quincy wanted a system to test the town’s water strain gauges, and an organization had quoted $600,000 (£432,500) to develop a pc program.

Freddie remembers that the town supervisor known as out, “Hey, Freddie’s a pc dork, he may most likely assist with this.”

“So I mentioned, ‘Sir, pay attention, if you happen to give me a possibility, I may construct the identical program. So he gave me that chance and I constructed that program precisely to the specs that they wanted. I did not receives a commission $600,000, I received my common pay cheque and went residence.”

It was an important turning level in Freddie’s life. He was solely 15, however he now determined to depart college and begin up his personal computing enterprise – a lot to his guardian’s dismay.

“They believed in training, work, retirement, and I wished to interrupt that chain, I wished to do one thing totally different,” he says.

Freddie’s enterprise was going from power to power when a few years later, Nathan began quickly growing Alzheimer’s illness.

One disturbing symptom was that he would get up within the night time and re-enact issues he had seen on tv earlier within the night. This led to what Freddie calls “probably the most traumatising factor that ever occurred to me”.

graphical user interface, application

© Offered by BBC Information

“It was about two o’clock one morning, and my father used to love this outdated western known as Gunsmoke, and he got here into my bed room and he thought he was [the main character] Matt Dillon. He had a rifle in his hand and he informed me… ‘I will want you to get out of city.””

Freddie says there was a “little bit of a tussle”, however he received the gun out of his father’s hand, took him again to mattress and tucked him in.

When he awoke within the morning, nevertheless, Nathan was gone.

This was one other symptom of his Alzheimer’s and it had occurred earlier than. Generally he would overlook to get totally dressed earlier than wandering off, although he all the time placed on his footwear.

This prompted Freddie’s first worthwhile invention.

“So I received my dad’s footwear, I reduce the only real of the shoe open, I constructed the circuit board and positioned it inside the shoe with a 90 megahertz speaker, a microphone and a wired space community card,” says Freddie.

“I built-in that with my laptop computer – this was earlier than Apple maps or Google maps – and I built-in that by the TomTom, Garmin platform.

“My father may really get lost and I may press a button on my laptop computer and say, ‘Hey Dad, the place are you?’ I’d are available as a loudspeaker on his shoe, and he would say, ‘Fred, I do not know the place I’m!””

Freddie may then hint his whereabouts through the GPS tracker and go and fetch him. He says he had to do that about eight instances.

Freddie Figgers standing in front of a door: Freddie Figgers as a teenager

Freddie Figgers as a teen

When Nathan’s situation deteriorated additional, some relations wished him to enter a nursing residence, however Freddie refused. As an alternative he took his father with him to enterprise conferences.

“He did not abandon me, so I wasn’t going to desert him,” Freddie says.

When he visited potential purchasers, he would go away Nathan within the again seat of the automobile with the air con on, the radio taking part in and a lock on the steering wheel.

“One time I used to be in a gathering and I seemed out the window and… oh my gosh, my dad had let the again window down and climbed out,” says Freddie. “So I used to be in panic mode and it was embarrassing, however I used to be like, ‘Hey, I’ve to go.””

Freddie ran out of the assembly and was relieved to seek out his father sitting in a close-by automobile park.

Freddie was 24 when Nathan died, aged 81, in January 2014.

“It actually broke me,” says Freddie, “as a result of all I ever wished to do was make my dad blissful.”

Freddie had offered his shoe tracker invention for $2.2m (£1.6m) and had been ready for the funds to clear. Nathan had all the time wished to personal a 1993 Ford pick-up truck and a fishing boat however now that Freddie may afford to purchase them, it was too late.

“That basically opened my eyes and taught me that cash is nothing however a instrument, and I will do all the things in my energy to attempt to make the world a greater place earlier than I go away it,” says Freddie.

“Realizing my father, he wasn’t a wealthy man in any respect, however he [made an impact on] so many individuals’s lives and I wish to simply do proper by everybody I meet and assist everybody I can.”

Freddie Figgers sitting at a table in front of a laptop

© Freddie Figgers

By this stage, Freddie had invented one other intelligent gadget, additionally impressed by a private expertise – this time a go to to Georgia when he was eight years outdated, to go to his mom’s uncle.

“Once we received to his home my mom and father have been knocking on the entrance door and he would not come to the door,” says Freddie. “So my father mentioned, ‘Hey Fred, are you able to climb by the window and open the entrance door?””

Freddie received inside, unlocked the door. He may see his relative sitting in a chair by the hearth and thought all the things was advantageous.

“My dad walked as much as him and I bear in mind these phrases – my dad known as my mum and he mentioned, ‘Betty Mae, he is useless.””

Freddie’s relative had fallen right into a diabetic coma and died.

“When you consider any person with diabetes, once they test their blood sugar they’ve to put in writing it down and take a log of it, and within the case of my mom’s uncle, even when he wrote it down, for the agricultural space that he lived in, there was no-one to maintain an account of that,” Freddie says.

So on the age of 22, Freddie constructed a sensible glucometer that immediately shares an individual’s blood sugar stage with their closest relative and provides the readings to their digital well being file, which a health care provider can view. If an individual’s blood sugar stage is irregular, it sends out an amber alert notification as a warning.

However Freddie had additionally begun work on a much bigger undertaking. He was conscious that many elements of rural America had no entry to the 2G or 3G community, and in Quincy individuals have been nonetheless utilizing dial-up web on the time, with its distinctive symphony of crackly white noise and excessive pitched ringing.

He wished to deliver up-to-date communications to those rural areas and in 2008 made the primary of many functions for an FCC (Federal Communications Fee) licence to start out his personal telecoms firm.

“I needed to petition to indicate that the larger telecom carriers usually are not going to come back in and make investments their infrastructure right into a rural space with populations of lower than 1,000,” he says.

It wasn’t straightforward. In reality, he says, it took 394 makes an attempt, and price an enormous amount of cash. However in 2011, on the age of 21, Freddie grew to become the youngest telecoms operator within the US. In line with NBC Information, Figgers Communication stays the one black-owned telecommunications firm within the nation.

Within the early days Freddie did many of the work himself – from laying the concrete for his first cell phone tower, to putting in fibre optic cables.

a person standing in front of a building talking on a cell phone: Freddie Figgers, his wife, Natlie, and their daughter

Freddie Figgers, his spouse, Natlie, and their daughter

He began out offering companies in rural areas of north Florida and southern Georgia, not removed from Quincy, and the corporate has steadily grown. In 2014, Freddie launched a smartphone, the Figgers F1, with a tool that detects movement and switches to “secure mode” above 10mph, stopping individuals from texting whereas driving. The Figgers F3, which went on sale in 2019, comprises a chip designed to allow wi-fi charging each time the cellphone is inside 5 metres of a “tremendous base charger” – a tool that has been awaiting approval by the FCC.

The advertising and marketing of the F3 brought on controversy, with some bloggers arguing that not the entire first mannequin’s options have been as up-to-date as they mentioned that they had been led to imagine. Freddie informed the BBC: “Our objective is to supply honesty and transparency whereas we offer high quality and superior merchandise at an inexpensive value.”

Freddie’s mom, 83, has now additionally begun to develop Alzheimer’s. He says she’s very pleased with what he has achieved, and realises that the glucometer, which could have saved her uncle’s life, is “one thing particular”.

Freddie married Natlie Figgers, an legal professional, in 2015, they usually have a bit of lady. In addition to his companies, he runs a basis that invests in training and healthcare initiatives and helps deprived kids and households. Current schemes have included donating bicycles to kids in foster care, and PPE to individuals on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

Freddie says crucial recommendation he would give his little lady about life can be to “by no means hand over, regardless of how chilly the world might look,” and attempt to make a optimistic influence on the life of each individual you encounter. It is a message Freddie’s father and primary supporter, Nathan, would have solely agreed with.

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