The news of Fahim Saleh’s tragic death has struck raw nerves across several parts of the world. Not only is the techpreneur known for his exploits in the African techspace, his name is now associated with innovation, the same innovation he once said is all about shortening processes and eliminating middlemen.
Born in Saudi Arabia to Bangladeshi parents, Fahim lived with his family in the Middle East for a while before they started moving around. They eventually settled in New York as immigrants. It was here, in New York, that he had his education. As a child, he would spend hours in hiding playing video games. This soon spurred his interest in technology.
Fahim built his first websiteSalehfamily.com before he turned 15, and it was hosted on AOL Hometown. When his parents threw family parties, his father would encourage relatives to visit the website. This ‘marketing strategy’ helped the young boy to garner an average of five unique visitors to his website on a monthly. Although this was laughable, Fahim was very encouraged.
Quite naughty as a youngster, young Fahim would often go out to play and end up using rocks to scratch people’s cars. He recalled that his moment of awakening came when his actions caused his parents to spend one-third of the family savings, to fix one of the damaged cars.
“I remember that night vividly; my Mom was crying because our only option would be to move back to Bangladesh. Luckily, the next day my Dad got an offer from a university to teach computer science,” he later recalled.
Even then, Fahim decided that he needed to start making some money for himself. As a teenager, Fahim self-schooled himself on coding and started developing apps. He was quite a boisterous and lively teenager, and apps soon became a means of expressing this. He built teen-hangout.com, at age 15, a social network which many have now described as “too-early-for-its-time”.
He made some pennies from it, enough to encourage his efforts. He would ask his friends to publish articles on it, and it soon became a community-oriented blogging forum, allowing him to place ads and generate $2-$3 a month through his trial and error approach.
“That showed promise that it could actually be successful and I could make money off this” he later said.
His first company in high school generated over one million dollars in revenue. He created websites targeted at the young demographics such as AIMdude.com, iconfun.com, msndollz.com, icondude.com, and was generating $100k-$150k in profit from such websites. One of his websites was later sold on eBay for $2,000.
“I would stay up super late, work on it and would be worried my Dad would catch me. He thought it would hinder my schoolwork, which it didn’t. Then, I got my first paycheck from Google for $500 as a teenager and showed it to my Dad. He was like, ‘Okay, let’s open an account,” Saleh recounted in an blog post.
After college, he taught himself how to program and started KickBack Apps, garnering over twenty-million downloads. By the time he graduated from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachussetts, where he studied Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), he created an app – PrankDial, for the purpose of making prank telephone calls. A recent tweet showed that the app had successfully executed over 300 million prank calls since 2010.
He realised early that for busy commercial cities in the world, where workers were always in a hurry to get to work, that a bike hailing service would bring some sort of ease into the system, and this fuelled his interest in starting a bike-hailing service or a motorcycle taxi.
In 2015, he co-founded Pathao with Hussain M Elius and Shifat Adnan, now said to be the largest bike-hailing service in Dhaka Bangladesh. The company later pivoted into logistics and food deliveries, and is valued to be worth over $100 million. Encouraged by the success of the company, Saleh went solo and founded Gokada.
Gokada started operating in Lagos (arguably the busiest state in Nigeria) in 2017 and raised $5.3 million in venture capital in June 2019. This sum, Saleh had said, would help the company expand its fleet and offer goods and services to its drivers.
The company raised even more funding in subsequent rounds and was set to break even by January 2020, until the Lagos state government ban of bike hailing across thousands of roads in the state, affected its operations.
His LinkedIn profile reveals that the 33-year-old has over 15 years entrepreurial experience dating back to high school. Fahim is also an active investor in emerging markets, investing first in Colombia’s largest motorcycle ridesharing company – Picap, recently valued at $15 million.
A sad end!
Late Tuesday afternoon (New York time), the dismembered body of a young man was found in luxury apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Officials later confirmed this body as belonging to that of the 33-year old Saleh.
The homicide investigations are still on, but the Police Department says that they are yet to find any motive for the gruesome murder of techpreneur, and dismembering the body with an electric saw.
The building was a 10-story, glass-and-brick structure at 265 East Houston Street near Suffolk Street, with condos in the area estimated to fall within an asking price range of $2 million to $2.5 million. Most of the residents are said to be well-off professionals in their 30s and 40s.
Saleh clearly had no idea about what was coming his way, and had even tweeted in June “Have a very good feeling about 2020”.
Whatever else this is, it represents a sad end for a man who changed the bike-hailing service across several locations and countries. He had once said in an interview that he had plans of creating a club where bike riders could relax after work.
“We’re going to start a Gokada club in each of the cities with a restaurant where drivers can relax, and we’ll experiment with a Gokada Shop, where drivers can get things they need on a regular basis, such as plantains, yams and rice,” he had said.
According to friends, his was a simple lifestyle. He ran every morning, kept a busy schedule of meetings, collected tech gadgets and lived alone with Laila, his little dog.
His social media postings were usually entrepreneurial, tech-inclined or about his brands, and his last tweet was a survey to find out how trustworthy the Gokada brand is in comparison to other brands.