Fahim Saleh was in 5th grade when he launched his first “business.”
He and his young friend would sell candy they bought in bulk at the local dollar store on their school playground in upstate New York. After three weeks the school principal shut down their operation, but by that time they had already raked in $150, he recounted in a video last year.
More than 20 years and several successful tech start-ups later, the 33-year-old entrepreneur’s life was cut short Tuesday when he was found dismembered at his luxury New York City apartment, in what officials have said looked like a “professional job.”
But as news stories about Saleh continue to make headlines, those who knew him say that the young man was more than just his success or horrific demise.
He was a proud brother and son who valued relationships with his family, friends, and dog Laila.
“Fahim is more than what you are reading. He is so much more,” his family told The Daily Beast in a statement. “His brilliant and innovative mind took everyone who was a part of his world on a journey and he made sure never to leave anyone behind.”
A Bangladeshi-American son to immigrants, Saleh worked on projects to ‘change countries’ in the developing world
Fahim Saleh was born in Saudi Arabia to Bangladeshi parents and raised in upstate New York.
His entrepreneurial spirit blossomed in his teens when he started developing a network of social media apps from his parent’s home. In 2006, Saleh’s first company, Wizteen, Inc., made more than $400,000, according to old tax filings he Saleh shared on Instagram. He was a high school senior at the time.
In 2010, after graduating Bentley University in Massachusetts, Saleh launched TapFury a company responsible for the wildly popular PrankDial app, which allowed for people to make anonymous prank phone calls.
While lucrative, the app also ensnared Saleh in a legal battle after the deputy director of New Jersey’s Hudson County jail used it to entrap two of his officers by secretly recording their conversation and using it against them, according to documents filed in New Jersey federal court.
The jail official, Kirk Eady, was eventually sentenced to 21 months jail time on wiretapping charges in 2015. When Eady was released, he sued Saleh in a case that is still pending.
Despite that, Saleh went on to found co-found Pathao, a motorbike ride-hailing service in Bangladesh and then Gokada, a similar venture in Lagos, Nigeria.
In Lagos, Gokada launched a fleet of 1,000 “pilots” outfitted with branded motorcycles and safety gear to provide rides to locals through an app.
In February, due to policy changes in Lagos, Gokada was forced to shift away from taxi services to providing delivery services.
In the last video that Saleh posted on Youtube, he talked about how the ban on motorbike ride-shares like Gokada was disrupting his mission of providing jobs to locals in Nigeria.
“This has def been a blow,” Saleh said in the video, adding that it is the work of entrepreneurs that “change countries.”
“The drivers at Gokada, they weren’t there just because they wanted to make money. They were there because they had families, they had children, they had dreams,” Saleh said.
In a Medium post, Ahmed Fahad wrote about Saleh as his mentor and eventual business partner at Pathao.
Fahad said that the two worked hard for success together and Saleh taught him a number of tough lessons over the years.
While Saleh’s opinionated personality was “often polarizing”, Fahad called him a role model.
“Over the years, I came to know his many… human flaws,” he wrote. “But when I think of Fahim Saleh tonight… I remember his indomitable will. His complete and utter disregard for the status quo. And his lopsided extreme focus to makes things happen. I remember a man who changed things and people.”
Saleh’s social media gave the world an inside look at his jet-setting, family-oriented life
Saleh did not shy away from giving the world an inside look at his life, success, and family.
In 2016, he posted a Youtube video in which he and his two sisters — Riff and Ruby — arrived at their parents’ modest apartment and told their dad by phone that the needed to bring them cash for their Uber.
When he got outside, Saleh surprised him by gifting him a new Tesla Model S for Father’s Day.
Saleh’s public profiles on Instagram and Youtube shared an inside look at young tech mogul’s life with the world.
In between photos of jet-setting between business trips and vacations, working out, and playing the ukulele, Saleh’s Instagram told the story of a tight-knit Bangladeshi-American family.
Eight months ago, Saleh proudly shared a night shot of the 10-story brick and glass apartment building where he owned a $2 million apartment on the 7th floor.
A horizontal sign that spanned more than three floors prominently displayed “265 East Houston Street,” the address where one of his sisters made an unexpected visit on Tuesday and made the gruesome discovery of his death.
Surveillance video viewed by the police show that the killer, who was dressed in all black and wearing a mask, had followed Saleh into an elevator a day earlier.
Detectives told The Daily Beast that Saleh appeared uneasy when the man appeared not to know how to use the building’s elevator and the two had exchanged words.
When Saleh arrived at his apartment, which occupied the whole 7th floor, the man followed him off, trapping him, according to the Daily Beast.
Using what police believe was a stun gun, the killer demobilized Saleh, and at sometime later stabbed him several times, the Daily Beast reported.
The killer likely waited overnight before using the saw to dismember Saleh, police told the Daily Beast.
Detectives suspect the killing may be because of a financial dispute, The Daily Beast reported.
The visit from his sister seemed to interrupt what police believe was an attempt to destroy the body and leave no evidence of Saleh’s killing.
Laila was found alive in the apartment, according to the New York Times.
“No words or actions to provide any of us comfort except the capture of the person who exhibited nothing short of evil upon our loved one,” the family statement to the Daily Beast said. “We need and urge the NYPD and other members of law enforcement to work diligently to get to the bottom of this horrific crime and bring justice for Fahim.”