High Profile - Bit by Bitwise
Picture yourself driving the 41 through Downtown Fresno. Ever wondered what that rainbow ombre honeycomb building is all about? It’s The Bitwise Hive—one of four Fresno Campus locations that facilitate Bitwise Industries.
Founded in 2013, Bitwise Industries is the brainchild of Jake Soberal and his business partner Irma L. Olguin, Jr. Irma was Jake’s client; he her IP attorney. In 2012, while meeting over drinks in Jake’s Tower District home, an “aha” moment inspired the two to build a company that fostered Fresno’s tech industry and potential, thus using it as economic leverage to help remake and rebuild the Central Valley’s largest city. A year later, Bitwise was born.
Fresno’s Mural District was simultaneously established with the debut of The Bitwise Hive’s 360-degree honeycomb mural on the 1st of July, 2013—that was a major game-changer for the revitalization of Downtown Fresno, but it was only the beginning of Bitwise.
The company’s mission is simple yet ambitious: “Bitwise is a tech ecosystem, activating human potential to elevate underdog cities around the country.” Fresno is that biome’s nucleus. Implementation of said objective is being sustained, supported, and accomplished through three avenues: education, place, and industry—what they call the “technological tidal wave” because of the domino-like reaction these components have in the tech industry, each essential to knocking over the next and causing a chain reaction.
Geekwise Academy teaches people to code. Reaching to Fresno County’s outlying communities, the Academy’s aim is focused on building “on-ramps” for the marginalized groups who are traditionally left out of the tech industry because they may have fewer opportunities to access higher education. Many students speak Spanish primarily. Jake explained, “We are aiming right at the language barrier, teaching courses in Spanish to transcend that language barrier in rural communities.” Classes meet twice a week (at the Bitwise South Stadium location) for six week durations, culminating in 36 hours of instruction for a mere $250—a fraction of the cost traditional educational institutions charge. More than 4,000 people have now gone on to create technology, start companies, and develop apps to answer the challenges of our modern world through this accelerated learning program.
Bitwise’s commercial real estate ventures provide a place to call home for aspiring technologists, fast-growing technology companies, and many mission-aligned enterprises, whom often hire out of Geekwise Academy. Spaces are diverse—a selection of tenant offices allow for a permanent place of business, while Hashtag Collaborative Workspace can be rented out by the day or month. Fostering a physical home for small businesses contributes to the ongoing revitalization efforts of Fresno’s downtown and the cities where Bitwise will expand, as the company is known to restore buildings that could use a little TLC.
Directly in line with it’s tech-driven vision, Bitwise’s portfolio of fast-growing custom software and SaaS companies (namely Ordrslip, 6 Degrees Software, My Design Deals, and LoopdIn), birthed of it’s own Shift3 Technologies, hires the best of the best from its own Geekwise Academy, too, allowing the corporation to be a direct player in proving that it is possible to build top-flight companies with extraordinary technology in unexpected places—even more impressive when you factor in that those companies are comprised of nontraditional, diverse talent sourced from regional pulls.
Today, the Fresno Campus is served through four locations: The Bitwise Hive (40,000+ square feet of indoor/outdoor work and warehouse space), Bitwise South Stadium (housing over 100 companies and more than 1,000 professionals), Bitwise State Center Warehouse (a collaborative revival transformation scheduled to open in 2020), and Bitwise | 41 (boasting multi-purposeful space with unparalleled views of Downtown Fresno). Southern expansion was announced this past June, with hopes that the Bakersfield Campus will be a significant presence there within the next couple years.
As Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Bitwise Industries, Jake leads the company by rallying the army behind Bitwise to cast his vision into reality through strategic initiatives and organizational efforts. While growing up to be President of the United States hasn’t come to fruition yet, Jake’s desire to do something big and meaningful is fully fledged and Fresno is reaping those benefits first.
Valley residents are known to be boomerangers—Jake is another such example, albeit a transplant. Born in Los Angeles, his family moved to Clovis when he was in middle school. Athletic, he loved sports and team exercises, and is still a runner. “I had a fortunate upbringing,” Jake recalled, which wasn’t taken for granted. But he divulged that breaking both hips in his youth promoted some perspective that helped him value ability and time in a way he hadn’t before.
As a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jake took up rowing, thriving in and savoring the high degree of teamwork it required—a mentality he nurtures in Bitwise. Having earned a dual degree in history and political science there, in addition to a JD from Western State College of Law, Jake returned to Fresno where he practiced intellectual property law at Walter & Wilhelm Law Group. It was during that time he met Irma—obviously that worked out well!
Jake and his wife Sarah (also a Clovis native) exemplify what it means to be Fresno-proud. The couple lives in the Tower District, where they relish being able to walk to dinner with their three children (two girls and a boy) while passing friendly neighbors. Like many Valley families, they love traveling together, particularly to the California coast and Sierra Nevada mountains, since the kids are still young enough to keep the family “car-bound” as Jake put it. Sarah and he took the kids to Fort Bragg over the summer, accomplishing Jake’s most recent goal: “I took a month off consecutively for the first time since starting Bitwise!” But he isn’t slowing down.
Fresno has much to offer, and Jake Soberal is doing everything in his power to guarantee Bitwise does its part to ensure the city reaches its potential. That is, transcending the challenges of finding place and creating space (psychologically and physically), then overcoming language barriers, cultural hurdles, demographic struggles, stereotype strains, all the difficulties that prevent people from exercising their abilities in order to attain success. With his leadership, the Bitwise vision will be embedded in Fresno’s DNA as it strides toward empowered improvement via technology.
Photographer Gordon Howell