Interview with Freddie Figgers: How America’s Only African-American Telecommunications Company Owner is Improving Health and Wellness One Invention at a Time
Each year during Black History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans past and present and their contributions to the culture.
Freddie Figgers, Founder and CEO of Figgers Communications has distinguished himself as a modern-day historical figure worthy of recognition.
At just 30-years-old, the technology inventor, telecom company founder, software engineer and philanthropist currently runs the only African American-owned telecommunications company in the United States, and the youngest person in America to own and operate a U.S. based wireless telecommunications company.
Now worth more than $62 million, Figgers Communications includes Figgers Wireless, an FCC-regulated telecom and electronics company offering cellular, mobile broadband, home phone, international calling solutions, and smart TVs; Figgers Health, which aims to improve the lives of chronic health patients with innovative technologies; and Figgers Foundation, whose mission is to inspire change, bring awareness and provide solutions to real life issues with a focus on education, self-sufficiency and wellness.
His journey to success began at the age of 9-years old. After being abandoned at birth next to a dumpster and adopted by a retirement-aged couple from an under-served community in Quincy, Florida, his adoptive father bought him a used Macintosh from the Goodwill after Freddie’s pleads for a computer after being awestruck while watching a Gateway commercial. One he realized it was inoperable, Freddie He was determined to get it to work. He applied his young brain to it, read the manual, opened it to see what was wrong, replaced some parts with parts from his dad’s old radio–and got it to work successfully.
From there, Freddie spent countless hours learning how to repair, program and become proficient with it, and his love for technology grew from there. When he was 12, his parents enrolled him in an after-school tech program with the city. After demonstrating an exceptional aptitude for computers, the city of Quincy hired him as a tech. He worked there for the next three years, eventually helping support telecommunications for the city government, fire department and police department, and later went on to start his own computer repair business at age 15.
By the time Freddie had turned 24-years old, he had over 80 custom software programs designed, built, and executed. Even more, he had sold every one of them.
And the rest is history.
Fast-forward to today, and Figgers holds nine U.S. patents and has received national attention for his inventions, which include the first smart phone to feature an automatic safety mechanism disabling data and text while driving over 10 mph. He has even helped physicians with an invention that helps doctors monitor patients remotely. Each invention, product, and service Freddie has created covers various technologies to improve people’s lives in some way.
Committed to making the world a better place by donating a percentage of the company’s profits to pro-social efforts through The Figgers Foundation, the organization has participated in relief efforts following natural disasters, supported cancer patients and survivors through organizations such as the American Cancer Society, and provided college scholarships to more than 30 deserving students pursuing higher education, among other efforts.
“I want to leave a legacy behind,” Figgers shared in a recent CBS interview. “If something happens to me today, I want to be known as the guy who wants to change the world for the better.”
As a software developer, Freddie Figgers’ work has evolved out of his passion for problem solving, and it all started with that old broken MacIntosh gifted to him from his father many years ago. His extraordinary journey has inspired many, and the emerging telecom guru continues to prove himself as a young leader and pioneer in the technology industry, creating products and services to improve people’s lives in the areas of health and well-being. He is indeed a modern-day Black History hero.
I spoke with Freddie Figgers, Tech Inventor, President and CEO of Figgers Communications, Inc. to discuss more about his company – and particularly how his inventions are helping to improve the healthcare industry, how he turned adversity into triumph, and his advice for African American males who aspire to follow in his footsteps.
Congratulations on all of your success! You’re a self-taught software engineer and Cloud computing wiz, but not because you came from privileged beginnings. Your personal journey from childhood until now has truly been extraordinary. Share with us how you went from being, and I quote, a “dumpster baby” to now a multimillionaire.
Yes, so it came about because of my father. When I was adopted, I was adopted by two loving parents that was going into their seventies. Due to their advanced aging, physically they were not able to take me outside and play with me, throw a football, or take me to the park. So I’ve always been fascinated with technology around the house.
I always wanted a computer. So my father bought me a non-working 1989 Macintosh from the Goodwill. I took it home, played with it a couple times, took it apart, took parts out of other components that were around the house and got it working.
Your company Figgers Communications includes Figgers Health and the Figgers Foundation, both of which aim to improve health, wellbeing and self-sufficiency through technology. Tell me a little more about those two divisions.
Figgers Health was designed to be the solution to many problems in the healthcare industry. With Figgers Health, we have a telehealth platform that doctors are able to schedule a video transmission from interactions with patients from 2-300 miles away so the patient physically does not have to be there.
Also in Figgers Health, we built a smart glucometer. When you think of a glucometer that’s on the market now, as soon as someone checks their blood sugar, to keep a log or record of it, they have to write it down and take it to their next doctor visit. That’s a thing of the past. With the Figger Smart Glucometer, as soon as you check your blood sugar, it instantly shares the results to your cell phone, with your closest relative, as well as in electronic health records, and with your doctor.
For instance, if a patient’s blood sugar is spiked or became abnormally low, it will automatically send an ‘Amber Alert-type’ notification to everyone that’s on the patient’s profile. Then the doctor will get that information on a pop up on the electronic health records. If your doctor is unable to contact the patient by phone, the doctor can then press one button and it will automatically transmit in to the patient via two-way communication. Using the two-way communication technology, the doctor can check on the patient’s condition, and even scedule an appointment for an office visit. But before the communication session ends, a five digit verification code will pop up on the glucometer to verify that the patient did speak with the doctor at such and such time. So it keeps the patient compliant and it keeps the doctor in compliance as well.
Your HIPA-certified glucometer is one of nine patents that you hold. Another is a GPS monitoring system that actually served as a precursor to Life Alert and PetSmart dog collars. You touched upon it a little bit, but I want you to share what inspired you to create these two specific devices.
When I was about 16 years old, my father started developing dementia Alzheimer’s, and some mornings he would just wander off. He would just leave home and would walk maybe 10-12 miles and get lost. So I had to figure out a solution to protect and save my father.
While my father might forget other things, he would always remember to put on his shoes. So, I built a chip set and put it inside of my father’s shoe that had a SIM card and a large Hertz speaker so I could come in and say, “Hey Dad, where are you?” He would look around, I would say, “Dad, just talk into your shoe.” As soon as he talks into his shoe, I would have aerial satellite imagery and a 360 imagery of where he is. The notification will pop up on my phone. I could see exactly where he is. I would get in my car and drive to him and pick him up.
In addition to the patents that you have now and what you have already created, we know that February is not only Black History Month, but it’s also American Heart Month. Tell us if Figgers Communications has any projects on the horizon to help with the heart health industry.
I’m actually working on something in the heart health field right now — it’s amazing that you said that. I’m working on a cardiovascular pump where people would have fluid around the heart. So that’s something that we’ve been working on for about a year now and it’s still going through a testing phase right now.
That’s amazing! You have a lot on your plate right now with all that you’re doing and there’s no signs of slowing down for you anytime soon. Tell us what other upcoming projects and products are you working on in addition to what you just mentioned and what can we expect to see from Figgers Communication in the future?
Hopefully in the third quarter of this year, our wireless inductive charger will be on the market. I created a wireless conductive charger, so as soon as the Figgers phones get five meters within range, your phone will automatically start charging. There’s no cords, there’s no cables, there’s no anything. Leave your phone in your pocket, your purse, walk into your home, sit down on the couch, take a nap, wake up, your phone is fully charged.
Also, I designed and developed a motorcycle helmet for accidental prevention. So when you look at some bikers today, they have to look behind them to crossover and switch lanes. I built the helmet that has a 360 camera in the back of it so you can automatically see everything that’s around you with just a 4.5 inch LCD panel on the right side of the helmet.
On the left side, a 2.8 inch screen that controls AM-FM radio and Sirius satellite radio and it also turns your phone into a Bluetooth so you can receive text messages, respond to text messages, and answer phone calls on the helmet keeping everything hands free.
I want to personally thank you for creating that helmet. Years ago my brother was riding his motorcycle and got into a really bad accident where he was hit from behind without warning. I’m pretty sure if he would’ve had that helmet to be able to see behind him, like you mentioned, the accident could have been avoided. So I appreciate you for creating the helmet because it’s going to save a lot of lives and prevent a lot of motorcycle injuries.
All of our products and services that have been designed to help people since day one, and even touching upon Figgers Foundation, I believe in paying it forward. So 20% of all of our gross revenue goes to support our foundation.
We support young African American males at risk to go to college. We’ve got 30 plus right now that’s in school — not just for one semester, but for four years. We support breast cancer survivors. Additionally, we support a women’s wellness group.
We also have a school that’s also in Zambia that we support, that has an enrollment of 309 girls. We went in and got involved to save the school in order to help prevent the girls from being exploited to sex trafficking. So there’s so many different things that we are doing to pay it forward and trying to make the world a better place.
You mentioned young African American males a few moments ago. We have schools across the country right now that have after-school technology programs for young males. In fact, you participated in an after-school technology program while you were in school.
My 12-year old son is currently in a technology program at his school. What advice would you like to share from your expert point of view for schools to improve their technology programs, and even incorporate more technology into the curriculum?
Every child is different, and that’s when the teacher has to learn the child individually. Some children may like gaming, some children may like design and art, some may like web coding. So every child is unique, and you have to make learning fun. If you learn that child and learn their skills and learn what they like, then we could maybe incorporate different programs and say, “Hey, I can help this child with this, but learn the child first.”
Earlier you shared how you became fascinated with technology at a young age and it became your passion. What inspiring advice would you like to offer right now to young African American males who want to pursue a career in technology who are currently around the same age that you were when you first started?
I would say find what you’re good at and capitalize on that. Don’t seek money, don’t run after money. Find what you’re good at and have a passion for it, love it, create a skillset, become stronger, more knowledgeable at it, and money will come. Everybody has challenges in life, but don’t let your circumstances define who you are, otherwise you’ll get sucked into it.
I love that advice. Thank you. And what advice would you have for young African American males who, like you said, want to pursue a career in technology but their current environment or circumstances, may be preventing from gaining access to programs that specialize in technology, or to the equipment that we mentioned earlier?
What I personally did, I used the resources and the knowledge of other people that I was around to go about going through those different programs. If those programs are not available, there’s other things. Going to the public library, learning that skill set, and then pursuing. You don’t have to physically go anywhere. You could just go on your computer and learn computer coding. You could teach yourself HTML, you could teach yourself different ASP, Microsoft Framework Family coding. So there’s so many different options that’s available.
Thank you for answering that question. I asked you that [question] specifically because you are living proof that you really can do and achieve anything that you put your mind to regardless of your background, your circumstance, your existing situation. You are living proof of that and we honor you for that, not only for Black History Month, but from this day forward.
Thank you for developing products and software solutions to help make people’s lives better. You truly are a modern-day black history hero, and I wish you much continued success in the years to come.
For more information about Figgers Communications, the company’s product and service offerings, visit www.figgers.com. You can also learn more about the Figgers Foundation by visiting www.Figgersfoundation.org