Figgers was found in a dumspter as a newborn baby. Today, he is a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and telecoms millionaire.
As a newborn baby, Freddie Figgers was discovered abandoned in a dumpster by his adoptive father. Now, he is 31 years old and a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and telecoms millionaire. Few could have predicted how his life turned out, least of all his parents Nathan and Betty Mae Figgers. They raised him as their own son, nurturing him and encouraging all his passions. At age nine, his father bought him his first Macintosh computer, which inspired the interest Figgers currently holds in technology. The entrepreneur now has a daughter of his own and spends his time investing in education and healthcare projects as well as helping disadvantaged children and families, BBC News reports.
Figgers first learned of his background when he was just eight, he asked his dad about the circumstances of his birth. He recalled, "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.' When he told me that, I was like, 'Okay, I'm trash,' and I felt unwanted. But he grabbed my shoulder and he said, 'Listen, don't you ever let that bother you.'" At the time, his adoptive parents lived in Quincy, a rural community of about 8,000 people in North Florida.
While his parents gave him all the love he could ever want, his classmates were not as kind. "Kids used to bully me and call me, 'Dumpster baby,' 'Trash can boy,' 'Nobody wants you,' 'You're dirty,'" Figgers shared. "I remember getting off the school bus sometimes and kids used to just come behind and grab me and throw me in a trash can and laugh at me." It reached a point where his father would have to wait for him at the bus stop and walk him home. To Figgers, his parents were his greatest heroes. He stated, "I saw my father always helping people, stopping on the side of the road helping strangers, feeding the homeless. He was an incredible man, and for them to take me in and raise me, that's the man I want to be like."
On weekends, he would go dumpster diving with his parents. Figgers always kept an eye out for an old computer. "It's an old saying, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure,'" he said. "And I was always fascinated by computers. I always wanted a Gateway computer, but at that time we couldn't afford one." One day, they went to their local Goodwill, where they spotted a broken Macintosh computer. The entrepreneur explained, "We persuaded the sales associate and he said, 'Hey, I'll give it to you for $24,' so we took the computer home and I was just so ecstatic." This is when his love for tech grew.
He was already tinkering with the collection of radios, alarm clocks, and VCRs that his dad had accumulated. The computer quickly became his newest interest. "When I got it home and it wouldn't come on, I took the computer apart," Figgers said. "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." After 50 attempts, the computer finally switched on. That was when Figgers knew he wanted to spend his entire life working with technology.
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Figgers soon joined an after-school club where he repaired broken computers in the school's computer lab. The program's director was the Mayor of Quincy. When she saw the then-young boy bring computers back to life, she invited him to city hall with his parents. "When we get to city hall, she shows me all of these computers in the back, maybe 100 of them stacked up, and she says, 'I need these computers repaired,'" he recounted, sharing that he would spend time every day after school mending the pile of computers for $12 an hour. "It wasn't even really about the money. I had an opportunity to do something that I loved to do and it was just so fun to me."
He went on to build a system to check the city's water pressure gauges (his first big coding opportunity) and decided to leave school to start up his own computing business at the age of 15. However, Figgers's first profitable invention was a GPS tracker to help patients with Alzheimer's. When his father began rapidly the condition, he would often leave home and get lost. The entrepreneur explained, "So I got my dad's shoes, I cut the sole of the shoe open, I built the circuit board and placed it inside of the shoe 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!'" Figgers would then use the GPS tracker to find and pick him up.
Since then, Figgers has invented many more important devices, such as a smart glucometer. He also became the world's youngest telecoms operator at age 21 when he set out to expand access to the 2G or 3G network in parts of rural America. After 394 attempts and a large capital investment, he successfully established Figgers Communication. The company remains the only Black-owned telecommunications company in the country. In 2015, Figgers married Natlie Figgers, an attorney. Together, they have a little girl. He has one piece of advice for her: "Never give up, no matter how cold the world may look."