- A millionaire computer guru, Freddie Figgers, was discarded into the dumpsite by his birth mother when he was two days old
- A kind man found him with his placenta almost intact and adopted him and sent him to school where he was bullied and called names
- Freddie Figgers moved from being bullied to becoming an inventor millionaire and is the only black man in America that owns a telecoms company
Freddie Figgers was discovered at a dumpsite at two days old, which earned him the name ‘dumpster baby’ by bullies at school.
He was abandoned to the vicissitudes of life until a kind man discovered him with his placenta almost intact in a dumpster in rural Florida, according to a BBC report.
A devastating discovery
At eight years old, he asked his father, Nathan, about the circumstances of his birth.
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His father did not hide things from him.
"He said, 'Listen I'm going to shoot it to you straight, Fred. Your biological mother, she threw you away, and me and Betty Mae, we didn't want to send you through foster care and we adopted you, and you're my son.'"
Even though his adopted parents have fostered many children, they didn’t want Freddie to grow up thinking he was abandoned so they adopted him and gave him their name.
Freddie said when he heard that he was thrown away by his birth mother, he thought he was trash but Nathan Figgers told him not to allow that bother him, BBC report said.
"When he told me that, I was like, 'OK I'm trash,' and I felt unwanted. But he grabbed my shoulder and he said, 'Listen, don't you ever let that bother you.'"
Freddie said he was the centre of jokes in school. Many children called him derogatory names like trash baby, dumpster baby to the point that he felt worthless.
At one time, he said, some of the kids would grab him and throw him into dumpsters until his father started waiting for him at bus stops after school. He said the jesters started mocking his father, Nathan Figgers.
A turnaround moment
When he turned nine years old, Freddie said his father and him used to drive around dumpsters looking for scrap metals and old, discarded electronics but Freddie said he had his eyes on any computers.
One day, he walked alongside his father into a shop dealing in old electronics. They saw an old Macintosh computer and Freddie said he was overjoyed and his father bought it for him for N9,960 ($24).
The Mac was not working but since he is good with electronics, he took it apart and started looking for where the fault is.
"When I got it home and it wouldn't come on, I took the computer apart. As I was looking in it I saw capacitors that were broken. I had soldering guns there and I had radios and alarm clocks, so I took parts out of my father's radio alarm clock and I soldered them into the circuit board."
He said he tried to fix it about 50 times. Finally, the computer switched on and Freddie was ecstatic. He could not wait to get home to play with his computer.
He said the computer replaced all the taunts and pains he felt at school.
When he was 12 years old, his skills were noticed by his school and they started asking him to fix old broken computers at the school for N4,980 ($12) per hour.
He never minded what people said about him. He buried himself in work.
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According to him, If the hard drive was corrupt he would swap it. If it needed more memory, he would add more RAM. If it needed a power supply, he would switch it out.
The director of the after-school programme was Quincy's mayor and when she saw that he was bringing broken computers back to life, she asked him to come to the city hall with his parents.
"When we get to city hall, she shows me all of these computers in the back, oh gosh, maybe 100 of them stacked up, and she says, 'I need these computers repaired.'"
A few years later, a coding opportunity came up. His town, Quincy, needed a system to check the water pressure gauges and a computer company had quoted about N24.9 million. The town said they could not afford the amount. Freddie volunteered and got the job done to specification. He did not get the amount quoted by the computer company.
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A defining moment
Freddie decided to quit school and start his own company, much to the displeasure of his father who he said believed in education.
His business was going from strength to strength until his father developed Alzheimer's disease. He said his father would wake up in the middle of the night and want to reenact scenes he had watched on television. One day, he almost shot Freddie with a double-barrel gun.
He would wander off sometimes half-dressed but he would not forget his shoes.
Freddie said he came up with an idea and built what he considered to be his most profitable invention.
"So I got my dad's shoes, I cut the sole of the shoe open, I built the circuit board and placed it inside one of the shoes with a 90 megahertz speaker, a microphone and a wide area network card. I integrated that with my laptop - this was before Apple maps or Google maps - and I integrated that through the TomTom, Garmin platform. My father could actually wander off and I could press a button on my laptop and say, 'Hey Dad, where are you?' I would come in as a loudspeaker on his shoe, and he would say, 'Fred, I don't know where I am!'"
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Freddie could then trace his whereabouts via the GPS tracker and go get him. He says he did this about eight times.
When his father’s condition became worse, some family members suggested he put him into a nursing home, but Freddie refused. Instead, he took his father with him to business meetings.
"He didn't abandon me, so I wasn't going to abandon him. One time I was in a meeting and I looked out the window and... oh my gosh, my dad had let the back window down and climbed out," says Freddie. "So I was in panic mode and it was embarrassing, but I was like, 'Hey, I have to go."
Freddie ran out of the meeting and was relieved to find his father sitting in a nearby car park.
When Freddie was 24, Nathan died at the age of 81, in January 2014.
The journey into millionaire's club
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Freddie had sold his shoe tracker invention for N913 million.
The young man really opened his eyes and taught himself that money is nothing but a tool, and he is going to do everything in his power to try to make the world a better place before he leaves it.
He later invented a system, a smart Glucometer, that reads diabetic peoples sugar levels, stores, compiles and transmits it to doctors or loved ones.
But Freddie started also to work on a bigger project. He was aware that many parts of rural America had no access to the 2G or 3G network, and in Quincy, his town, people were still using dial-up internet at the time, with its distinctive symphony of crackly white noise and high pitched ringing.
He wanted to bring up-to-date communications to these rural areas and in 2008 made the first of many applications for an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) licence to start his own telecoms company, BBC report said.
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"I had to petition to show that the bigger telecom carriers are not going to come in and invest their infrastructure into a rural area with populations of less than 1,000."
In 2011, at the age of 21, Freddie became the youngest telecoms operator in the US.
He started by providing services in rural areas of north Florida and southern Georgia, not far from his town, and the firm has continued to grow. In 2014, he invented a smartphone, the Figgers F1, with a device that detects speed and switches to "safe mode" above 10mph, stopping people from texting while driving. The Figgers F3, which went on sale in 2019, has a chip made to enable wireless charging whenever the phone is within five metres of a super base charger.
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Family man and philanthropist
He is married to Natalie Figgers, a lawyer, in 2015, and they have a little girl.
Apart from his businesses, he runs a foundation that invests in education and healthcare projects which helps disadvantaged children and families.
The man's newest projects have included donating bicycles to children in foster care, and PPE to people on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nigeria's youngest millionaires
Legit.ng reports that it is said that no matter the current state of an economy's health there exist those who still profit and make their money and Legit.ng have narrowed those persons into 5.
Check out below, our top 5 young persons who are making their marks in their chosen careers and the stories behind their large accumulation of money.
39-year-old Jason Njoku comes in at number 5. The businessman is the founder of Spark, a $2 million worth business outfit, according to nigeriafinder.com, that is concerned with making investments in local internet start-ups.