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Photo courtesy of Sean Minier

Bitwise expands: a reason to stay in Fresno

When you think of technology start-ups, one’s mind tends to wander to the Silicon Valley. Well, Fresno is not too far from becoming a central hub for techies, thanks to Bitwise.

According to the company’s website, Bitwise is a “mothership of technological education, collaboration and innovation in Fresno.”

Bitwise was founded in 2013 by John Dodson, who is currently chief financial officer. The website aclaims Dodson as the Bitwise “wisdom.”

Irma Olguin is a co-founder and CTO and is noted as “tech,” along with co-founder and CEO, Jake Soberal, noted as “lead.”

Currently, the business utilizes Geekwise Academies to “educate,’ Shift3 Technologies to “execute” and Hashtag to “place.”

On Jan. 18, media and the general public were invited to the State Center Warehouse in Downtown Fresno to hear an announcement of the “next big thing that no one thinks is possible.”

The Warehouse, although chilly and bare, lit up when Soberal announced a plan to acquire more than 200,000 square feet of residential and tech space, bringing Bitwise’s total space to just under 300,000 square feet.

One new residential building and three renovated buildings for tech will be added to the business’s plan to expand the technological availability in Fresno.

“There has always been an abiding commitment to always deliver on the stuff we say,” Soberal said, referring to previously honored commitments to the city of Fresno.

“We said that we were going to start a technology revolution in Downtown Fresno, and what we’ve seen from that are a thousand new technology jobs,” Soberal said.

“Many of you are familiar with Bitwise South Stadium and Bitwise Mural District before it, but today we are fortunate to announce something that is the next wave,” Soberal said.

The first of the business’s expansions will be at the State Center Warehouse, which will add 100,000 square feet of renovated space and will open in 2018. Soberal said he hopes the space will house 30 to 50 tech companies.

With a clear view of downtown, the building’s rooftop will have 10,000 square feet of office space along with 8,000 square feet of outdoor collaborative space.

It’s not all business though. There will be a 100-seat amphitheater available for outdoor performances and events for the public.

Soberal and the Bitwise team have decided to invest in real estate downtown in order to create a flourishing economy by populating downtown past 5 p.m., typically when everyone goes home.

In addition to the Warehouse renovation, a new four-story building that will house 28 tenants in studio to two-bedrooms apartments should be ready for move-in by 2018. The building will be a $5 million investment into downtown residential space.

Second, Hashtag at Hotel Virginia will be an effort to expand Hashtag Fresno. In addition to the expansion, the new location will feature a rooftop patio for collaborative and recreational space.

Hashtag is set to make its expansion by moving into Hotel Virginia as soon as this February.

Third, the Bitwise 41 expansion kickstarted, by the purchase of the Inderrieden Building, will allow space for about 12 new tech companies, Soberal said. The building has approximately 36,600 square feet, two floors and a basement spanning more than 9,800 square feet.

The building is approximately the same size as South Stadium, however it will house tech companies that have expanded past their space need at their previous locations.

What about those who aren’t at the point of purchasing tech space yet? What advice does Soberal have for students wanting to break out in the tech industry?

“Take advantage of the opportunities around you. One, is socially. Engage in community within the technology industry, and Bitwise can be a place for that,” Soberal said.

“We average about a dozen events a week that are open to anyone who wants to come build relationships with the technology industry in Fresno,” he continued. “It’s growing. There are jobs, opportunity and there [are] environments that are really world class.”

“Professionally, there are really rich opportunities to engage with education in the technology industry here in the Valley or through one of the programs at Fresno State,” Soberal added. “We offer cooperative programs with Fresno State where they are taught out of Bitwise South Stadium.”

He said he is hoping that current and new tech space will inspire people to dream and think about what is possible in Fresno.

“I hope that we convince a couple of you guys to stay,” Soberal said smiling, knowing that many millennials in Fresno plan to leave the Central Valley.

Mostly, he said he is wanting to create a town “we all dreamed of, but never thought possible.”

As for the youth of Fresno, Soberal wants to inspire them.

“There is real genius in the youth of Fresno. There isn’t anything better about people growing up in say, Mountain View, than people growing up in Fresno. The separation is opportunity. For too long as a community, [we] have not provided equal opportunity,” he said. “But if we can provide equivalent opportunity, that success and that genius can actually be realized.”

Soberal says “access” is an important component to the success of Fresno’s tech scene.

“I hope that every young person in this community feels as if they have access to what’s going on. Regardless of what neighborhood they grew up in, what language they speak or who they are — that they feel as though what’s going on in the technology industry is something that they have access to and can be a part of in a meaningful way,” he said.

“If we do anything at Bitwise, I hope it’s that,” he concluded.