Freddie Figgers was 9 when he entered the world of computers. From repairing computers, he went onto establish a telecommunications empire.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 9, 2021. It has since been updated.
Computer science educator Randy Pausch once said: "It's not about the cards you're dealt, but how you play the hand." Some people just know how to make the best out of the situation they are in and emerge with flying colors. Freddie Figgers was not dealt the best cards in life but he turned his fate around through passion and determination. Abandoned by his birth mother as an infant near a dumpster in rural Florida, Freddie was left to die before he was discovered by a passerby who alerted the police. He was then placed in foster care with an elderly couple who decided to adopt the 2-day-old child.
When Freddie was 8 years old, he heard about the circumstances of his birth for the first time. His father, Nathan Figgers told him, "'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." Freddie was disheartened by this revelation. "When he told me that, I was like, 'OK I'm trash,' and I felt unwanted," he told BBC. "But he grabbed my shoulder and he said, 'Listen, don't you ever let that bother you.'"
Freddie grew up being bullied by his peers who resorted to name-calling. They taunted him by referring to him as a “dumpster baby” when they learned that he was discovered next to the garbage as a newborn. “It's a rural area, so after it happened, everybody heard about it,” Friggers recalled. “My parents told me the truth about what happened as I grew older. I thought about it a lot as a kid, and I'd have to say it was embarrassing when I was younger.” His parents were in their 50s when Freddie was born in 1989. His father was a maintenance worker and handyman and his mother, Betty Mae Figgers, was a farmworker. To him, they were heroes and great role models.
Freddie's life took a turn when he turned 9 and entered the world of computers. He had wanted a computer for a while and finally found an old discarded Macintosh computer at a Goodwill, which he and his dad brought home. "It's an old saying, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure,' and I was always fascinated by computers," he said. "I always wanted a Gateway computer, but at that time we couldn't afford one." The computer was not in working condition but after much tinkering and soldering, Freddie somehow managed to get the computer to work. It was at this moment he knew he would spend his life working with machines and technology.
By the time he turned 13, Freddie was already working repairing computers and by 15, he was an entrepreneur. He started the computer repair company Figgers Computers in his parents’ living room. He also started helping clients store their data on the servers he created. "When I was 17, I had 150 clients that needed websites and storage for their files. I just kept building from there," he told The Washington Post. He decided to skip college since his client base seemed to be expanding. But his big break came in 2012 when a GPS tracker program he made was purchased by an undisclosed company for $2.2 million. At the age of 23, Freddie was a millionaire.
He developed the GPS tracker built into a shoe when his father developed Alzheimer's. It had Google maps which would help track the person wearing it. It also had a two-way communication and when someone would call it, they could lean down and respond to the shoe. “I could pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey Dad, where are you at?’ and he doesn’t have to do anything, just lean down and talk into his shoe and I can track his location,” Freddie explained to LA Sentinel. His father died in 2014 at the age of 81. "It honestly broke me," he said, "because all I ever wanted to do was make my dad happy."
At 31, Freddie is now the CEO of a $62 million telecommunications company and the proud owner of a number of patents for his inventions. “My adopted parents took me in as their own and raised me to be who I am today," he told CBS 12. While he now lives in a luxurious home with a collection of expensive cars and fancy toys, he does not forget to always extend a helping hand. He has founded The Friggers Foundation and donates to a variety of causes, including relief efforts after natural disasters. He even sponsors college scholarships for high school students and helps with school supplies as well.