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His mother threw him in the Florida trash, and he grew up to become a millionaire

Freddie Figgers got his first computer at the age of nine. The gadget was old and did not work, but this marked the beginning of his passion for technology, which turned the boy into an inventor, entrepreneur and millionaire. Few could have imagined such a future after a difficult start in life. More about the story of the abandoned child told the publication with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

Circumstances don't define a person

“Don't let circumstances dictate who you are,” is the advice 31-year-old entrepreneur Freddie Figgers would like to give others.

When he was eight years old, he asked his father Nathan about the circumstances of his birth, and the answer was unforgettable.

“He said, 'Look, I'll tell you straight, Fred. Your biological mother threw you out, and Betty May and I didn't want to send you to guardians, so we adopted you and you are my son. "

Newborn Freddie was found next to a landfill in rural Florida.

“When he told me this, I replied:“ So I’m rubbish, ”and I felt unnecessary. But he grabbed my shoulder and said: "Listen, never let this depress you."

Nathan Figgers was a maintenance worker and handyman, and Betty Mae Figgers worked on the farm. They lived in Queens, a rural community of about 8000 people in North Florida. And in 1989, when Freddie was born, they were over 50.

They had already raised many children, but they decided to take Freddie, who was two days old, and adopted him. The guy says that his adoptive parents gave him all the love he could desire, but kids in Queens have been violent.

“They used to mock me and call me 'junkyard boy', they called me dirty and useless,” he says.

“I remember how sometimes I got off the school bus, and the children just came up from behind, grabbed me, threw me into the trash can and laughed at me,” recalls Freddie.

It got to the point that his father was waiting for him at the bus stop and took him home, but the children mocked Nathan too, Freddie recalls, and said: "Ha-ha, look at the old man with a cane."

But for Freddie, Nathan and Betty Mae were heroes and role models.

“I saw how my father always helped people, stopped at the side of the road, helped strangers, fed the homeless,” recalls the young man. “He was an incredible person. This couple took me and raised me, and this is the person I want to be like. "

One weekend, Freddie and Nathan drove to nearby landfills in search of useful things that their owners had thrown away. Freddie paid attention to computers.

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“The old saying goes:“ One person's trash is another's treasure, ”says Freddie. “I've always been fascinated by computers. I really wanted a Gateway computer, but at the time we couldn't afford it. "

First computer and work

One day, when Freddie was nine, they went to the Goodwill thrift store, where they came across a broken Macintosh computer.

“We convinced the seller,” recalls Freddie, “and he said,“ Okay, I'll give it to you for $ 24. ” We took the computer away and I was absolutely delighted. "

He already had a collection of radios, alarm clocks, and VCRs that Nathan had assembled, and his broken Mac was now his focus.

“When I brought it home, and it didn’t turn on, I disassembled the computer,” Freddie recalls.

“I looked into it and saw damaged capacitors. I had soldering irons, as well as radios and alarm clocks, and I got the parts from my father's alarm clock and soldered them into the board, ”he explained.

According to him, after about 50 attempts, the computer finally turned on - and at that moment Freddie realized that he wanted to work with technology all his life.

“This computer took the pain of bullying away from me,” he said.

Every time he was teased at school, the guy thought, "Can't wait to get home to play with my computer."

When the boy turned 12, others began to notice his skill. After training, while the other children played in the playground, Freddie took on the repair of broken gadgets in the computer class of the school.

“Whenever I found a damaged hard drive, I replaced it. If I needed more RAM, I increased it, ”he explains.

The after-school group was led by the Mayor of Quincy. When she saw that the guy was bringing broken computers back to life, she asked him to come to the mayor's office with his parents.

“When we came to the mayor's office, she showed me all these broken computers (somewhere around 100) and said: 'I need to repair them.'

Since then, Freddie has been fixing this junk every day after school for $ 12 an hour.

“It's not even about the money,” he says. "I had the opportunity to do what I loved, and I loved it."

After a couple of years, there was an opportunity to prove yourself. Quincy needed a system to test water gauges in the city, and the company offered $ 600 to develop a computer program.

Then the city manager said: "Freddie is a computer genius, he could probably help with this."

“I said:“ Listen, if you give me the opportunity, then I’ll create that very program. ” And they gave me such an opportunity - I created this program according to the specifications they needed. I was not paid $ 600 - I got my regular salary and went home. "

It was a defining turning point in Freddie's life. He was only 15, but now he decided to leave school and start his own computer business - much to the disappointment of his parents.

“They believed in education, work, retirement, and I tried to break this chain, I wanted to do something else,” he explains.

Father's illness and the first invention

Freddie's business was developing successfully, but within a few years Nathan's Alzheimer's disease began to progress rapidly.

One of the troubling symptoms was that he woke up at night and replayed what he saw on TV earlier in the evening. This led, according to Freddie, to "the most traumatic event of his life."

“It was about two o'clock in the morning and my dad liked an old western called Gunsmoke. He walked into my bedroom and imagined that he was the main character, Matt Dillon. He had a gun in his hand when my father said to me: “I need you to get out of town.”

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Freddie was able to take the gun away from his father and took him back to bed.

However, when he woke up in the morning, Nathan was not there.

Thus, another symptom of his Alzheimer's disease manifested itself, something like this had already happened. Sometimes he forgot to get fully dressed before going somewhere to wander, but always put on his shoes.

This was the precondition for Freddie's first invention, which brought him a profit.

“So I took my father's shoes, cut the sole, made a board and put it inside the shoe with a 90MHz speaker, microphone and network card,” Freddie said.

“I integrated this with my laptop - this was before Apple Maps or Google Maps - via TomTom on the Garmin platform. My dad could wander somewhere, and I had the opportunity to press a button on my laptop and say, "Hey, dad, where are you?" He heard me through the loudspeaker in his boot and answered, "Fred, I don't know where I am!"

Then Freddie tracked his location using a GPS tracker and went to pick up his father. According to him, he had to do it about eight times.

When Nathan's condition worsened, some family members wanted to send him to a nursing home, but Freddie refused. Instead, he took his father with him to business meetings.

“He didn’t leave me, so I wasn’t going to leave him,” argued Freddie.

When he met with potential clients, he left Nathan in the back seat of the car with the air conditioner on, the radio turned on, and the steering wheel locked.

“Once I was at a meeting. When I looked out the window, then, my God (!): Dad lowered the back window and got out, ”says Freddie. “I panicked, it was embarrassing, but I said,“ Look, I have to leave. ”

Freddie ran out of the meeting and was relieved to find his father, who was sitting in a nearby parking lot.

Freddie was 24 when Nathan died at the age of 81 in January 2014.

“It broke me,” remarked Freddie. "Because all I ever dreamed of was to make my father happy."

Money is a tool

Freddie sold his shoe tracking invention for $ 2,2 million and waited for his money to be paid. Nathan always wanted a 1993 Ford pickup and a fishing boat, but now that Freddie could afford to buy them, it was too late.

“It really opened my eyes and taught me that money is nothing more than a tool, and I will do everything in my power to make the world a better place before leaving,” Freddie said. "My father was not a rich man, but he influenced the lives of many people, and I just want to help everyone I can."

At this stage, Freddie, inspired by personal experience, invented another smart device. To visit his mother's uncle, he had to make a voyage to Georgia. The boy was eight years old at the time.

“When we got to his house, my mom and dad started knocking on the door, and he still didn’t come to her,” recalls Freddie. “Then my father said, 'Hey, Fred, can you crawl through the window and open the front door?'

Freddie went inside, opened the door. He saw his relative sitting in an armchair by the fireplace, and thought that everything was in order.

“My dad came up to him. I remember how he called my mother and said: “Betty Mae, he's dead,” says Freddie.

A relative fell into a diabetic coma and died.

“When it comes to a person who has diabetes, when he checks his blood sugar, he has to write it down and keep statistics, and in the case of my mother's uncle, even if he wrote it down, in the countryside where he lived, simply there was no one to keep records, ”explained Freddie.

Other inventions and projects

Therefore, at the age of 22, Freddie developed a smart glucometer that instantly shares a person's blood sugar level with the next of kin and adds the readings to an electronic medical record that a doctor can review. If a person's blood sugar level is high, the gadget notifies about it.

Freddie started working on a big project. He realized that many rural areas did not have access to 2G or 3G, and people in Queens were still using the Internet via modem at the time.

He wanted to establish modern communications in these rural areas, and in 2008 filed the first of many applications for an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) license to set up his own telecommunications company.

“I had to file a petition to show that big telecom operators are not going to come and invest their infrastructure in rural areas with a population of less than 1000,” he says.

It wasn't easy. In fact, he said, it took 394 attempts and cost a lot of money. But in 2011, at the age of 31, Freddie became the youngest telecom operator in the United States. According to NBC News, Figgers Communication is by far the only telecommunications company run by a black man.

In the beginning, Freddie did most of the work himself - from concreting his first mobile communications tower to installing fiber-optic cables.

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He began providing services in the countryside of northern Florida and southern Georgia, near Quincy, and the company grew steadily. In 2014, Freddie invented the Figgers F1 smartphone with a device that detects movement and switches to "safe mode" at speeds over 16 km / h so people don't write text messages while driving. The Figgers F3, which went on sale in 2019, contains a chip designed to charge wirelessly when the phone is five meters from the charger.

The F3 model's entry into the market sparked controversy, with some bloggers claiming that not all of the features of the first model were as modern as claimed. Freddie replied, "Our goal is to ensure honesty and transparency while we offer quality and improved products at an affordable price."

Freddie's 83-year-old mother also began to develop Alzheimer's disease. Although, he noted, the mother is very proud of her son's achievements and realizes that the glucometer that could have saved her uncle's life is "something special."

In 2015, Freddie married lawyer Netley Figgers, and they had a daughter. In addition to his business, he runs a fund that invests in education and health care, helping children and families in distress. In particular, they donated bicycles to children in foster families and personal protective equipment to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freddie says that the most important piece of advice he would give to his daughter is “never give up, no matter how cold the world is,” and try to positively influence the life of every person you meet. Nathan, Freddie's father and main supporter, would fully agree with such a call.

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