Business

Tech hub Bitwise obtains $27 million investment. Now it’s expanding beyond Fresno

Bitwise Industries CEO and co-founder Irma L. Olguin Jr. announced this week the Fresno-based tech hub has raised $27 million investment — one of the largest levels of financing a Valley-based technology business has achieved in recent memory.

Olguin said the investment will allow Bitwise to expand to a second location in Bakersfield. Lead investors include Oakland-based Kapor Capital and New York City-based New Voices Fund.

The funding also includes investment from the Quality Jobs Fund.

The 38-year-old Caruthers native said the deal’s among the largest Series A investments raised by a “Latinx” founder.

“We are really excited for that as a milestone, but I think we are much more excited for the work these dollars will enable us to do,” she told The Bee.

“We started with Bitwise in 2013, thinking that we could use the technology industry to fix the city, and we’ve gotten a lot of success in the last six years. But this raise will enable us to sort of double down on what’s working, and for the first time consider what it might look like to expand to another place.”

Olguin said her investors share similar mission goals to those of Bitwise, which made them a good fit, Olguin said.

Kapor Capital and New Voices Fund now own equity in Bitwise. Olguin declined to disclose how much stake in ownership the two firms have.

Details on the expansion to Bakersfield are preliminary, though Olguin expects Bitwise to move downtown. A specific location has yet to be determined. “Our intention is to have a meaningful presence in Bakersfield within the next two years,” she said.

The financing will also allow Bitwise to expand its educational reach to the outskirts of Fresno County, plus grow its real estate footprint in downtown Fresno.

“We are just getting started. We very much feel like there’s so much left to do here in Fresno and in other underdog cities, places like Bakersfield, which will be our second location,” she said.

In Fresno, Bitwise has been able to bring about 1,000 technology jobs, which have resulted in about 4,000 jobs total when supportive services jobs are accounted for as well, Olguin said.

“We are really eager to see what kind of impact the technology industry can have in Bakersfield,” she said. “We think our hypothesis is that it will be very similar to what’s happened in Fresno.”

Ogluin’s parents were farm laborers during her youth. Eventually, they left the fields.

Having grown up in a small, rural community, Olguin said she never thought she’d occupy the space she does now as a tech co-founder, and what she has achieved.

“It feels important to help change the way young people think about the possibilities in their lives,” she said.

Jake Soberal is also a chief executive officer and co-founder for Bitwise. The company runs an academy that trains marginalized groups to code, and provides them the skills they need to succeed in the market.

It also runs a commercial real estate property that provides a space for those working in the tech industry, plus it runs a software development shop, according to the company’s bio.

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