Fahim Saleh had a knack for coding and developing apps from his early years. Born to Bangladeshi parents in Saudi Arabia, the 33-year-old created his first company while still in high school.
He went on to co-found Pathao, a ride-sharing company popular in Bangladesh and Nepal, in 2015. Fahim had recently helped found Nigerian motorbike taxi app Gokada, which faced a setback after authorities in Lagos banned motorbike taxis earlier this year.
The leading tech entrepreneur of international ride-sharing companies had much more to offer had his life was not cut short.
‘Elon Musk of developing world’
An investor that finds things – is how he described himself on LinkedIn.
The CEO and founder of Gokada, a motorcycle ridesharing company, had over 15 years of entrepreneurial experience, his bio reads.
Fahim’s first company in high school generated over one million dollars in revenue. After college, he taught himself how to programme, and started KickBack Apps, garnering over 20-million downloads.
An active investor in emerging markets, Fahim was investing first in Colombia’s largest motorcycle ridesharing company — Picap, recently valued at $15 million.
Roughly two years after co-founding Pathao, Fahim co-founded Gokada in Lagos, Nigeria in December 2017, and took over as its CEO in April of last year. Most recently, he oversaw Gokada’s transition to delivery service during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also launched the venture capital firm Adventure Capital in New York in 2018.
“We used to call him the Elon Musk of the developing world,” The New York Post quoted one of his long-time friends as saying.
“His best friend in Dubai called me just sobbing on the phone, ‘They took my boy; they took my boy!’ He played ukelele…he was so full of ideas,” the friend added.
‘Smart, ambitious, very kind’
After graduating from Bentley University in Massachusetts, where he studied computer information systems, Fahim had early success with an app for making prank telephone calls, named PrankDial.
He enjoyed what he did and loved working out.
Fahim was an optimist. “Have a very good feeling about 2020,” he tweeted last month.
His final tweet was sent out on July 5 in which he held a poll asking how trustworthy of a brand would you say Gokada is compared to other Nigerian companies.
A long-time friend of his described him as “the Energiser bunny”. His friends said Fahim was a self-made millionaire who had a passion for gadgets and video games.
Friends of Fahim have paid tributes to him saying: “He was extremely smart, ambitious, very kind. Always smiling.”
He never said he was scared, one of his friends recalled. “[He was] always very happy-go-lucky.”
He first started with a simple site for his family – Salehfamily.com – when he was in the eighth grade. By the age of 15, he began to develop a knack for programming and set up a blogging site just for his friends. The dotcom boom of the 1990 saw him become interested in programming and developing websites.
What started as a teen hangout (teenhangout.com), ended up turning into a blogging forum for the community as more people heard about the site and began to publish articles, according to the Daily Mail.
A blog notes how at high school, Fahim Saleh was drawing a profit of between $100,000 and $150,000 a year as he created websites that focused on young people.
He attended Bentley University in Boston, Massachusetts where he studied Computer Information Systems and developed a Facebook app which allowed students to have food delivered.
He then set up a phone-pranking phone app that would let a user choose a prank call before calling up their friends to hear their surprised reaction.
What started off generating about $20 a day soon grew to $1,000. In an article for Medium, he recounted that PrankDial.com has generated $10million during its lifetime.
The website still brings in about $1-2million a year and allowed him to set up more companies: TapFury, an entertainment company, and Ninja Fish which had a focus on gaming.
He then set up a venture firm that would allow him to invest in startups in the developing world.
‘An incredible inspiration’
Fahim Saleh was found murdered at his apartment in New York on Tuesday. His gruesome death came as a shock for everyone.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the state minister for ICT, mourned, calling him a man with exceptional innovative mind. “He was an exemplary young man,” Palak said.
“We’ve lost exceptionally talented young entrepreneur of international calibre in the tech sector,” the state minister said in a message.
Tributes poured in from other parts of the world.
“Rest in peace Fahim Saleh. Deepest condolences for his family and friends. The world is becoming inhumane day by day,” wrote Ashiq Rahman, a software engineer living in Toronto, according to the Daily Mail.
Abraham Ojes, another entrepreneur, tweeted: “Rest in peace Fahim Saleh. I’m writing this from a place of pain and loss. You were such an inspiration to me and my team.”
Pathao, the company he helped co-found, said he would forever remain an incredible inspiration for them.
“Fahim believed in the potential for technology to transform lives in Bangladesh and beyond. He saw the promise in us when all we had was a common purpose and a shared vision. He was, and will forever remain, an incredible inspiration for Pathao and our entire ecosystem,” said Hussain M Elius, co-founder and CEO of Pathao.