By: Curtis Bunn | Aug 6, 2020
In building a technology empire, Freddie Figgers has operated under one mantra: People over profits.
One of the youngest Black owners of a telecommunications company in America, Figgers, 30, used his resources and technological expertise to help countless people in underserved communities across the country during the pandemic — and continues to do so.
Early in the pandemic, when medical professionals and individuals lacked personal protective equipment, Figgers said he purchased 640,000 N95 masks from vendors around the world, 200,000 face shields, 300,000 disposable masks, 80,000 12-pack bottles of hand sanitizer and 50,000 gloves. Once the supplies arrived at his south Florida office, he used seven of his semi-trucks to deliver the items to coronavirus hotspots across the country.
All told, he said he spent close to $2 million in this effort, continuing his legacy of giving that began when he started his company nearly a decade ago. Figgers was in his early 20s when he built cellphone towers in rural areas across the United States and formed Figgers Wireless, which produces cellphones and other accessories and high-definition flat-screen televisions, among many other products. Today, the self-taught tech whiz and inventor said his company has been valued at $62.3 million.
After his PPE effort, Figgers created The Doctor Now, a virtual platform that allows virtual appointments between physicians and patients, which has proven useful during stay-at-home orders.
And because coronavirus patients were quarantined and not allowed to have visitors while in hospitals or other facilities, especially senior facilities, the platform was adjusted to allow users to connect with family and friends through video calls, with a simplified interface for the less technologically savvy.
“It was important for me to help families who are suffering and can’t visit hospitals or special needs facilities and aren’t able to see each other,” he said. “It was important to make it easy to use — one click. I saw a grandmother break down crying because she was able to see her grandchild. It was so emotional. And it confirmed that it is serving a good purpose during a very tough time, especially for Black people.”
Patrick Carnegie, president and CEO of MRC Health, the leading nonprofit health care system in Florida, said he was impressed that Figgers partnered with his organization and developed the virtual platforms swiftly after the pandemic grew.
“When COVID-19 hit, it was critical for our patients to have access to the more than 250 facilities we have across Florida,” Carnegie said. “Freddie was able to develop The Doctor Now platform in about 30 days and we were able to roll it out across the state and continue to provide service to patients when no one could come inside the building. He was a blessing to us.”
Curtis Richardson has known Figgers since he was 12, when he worked as the psychologist at Shanks Middle School. “And he’s as humble now as he was then,” said Richardson, who helped Figgers fill out his first job application. “I call him a child prodigy. I knew he would do great things. But what he’s doing in the community is all about his heart, his desire to do for others.”
Figgers recently released a glucometer to measure blood sugar, because diabetes affects a disproportionate share of Black Americans. Still, Figgers said he will keep looking for ways to merge tech and health care to help marginalized communities. “I want to expand in health care development,” he said. “There are diseases and so many that impact Black people. I want to help and there is lots of work to do.”