This is a story about how you change a city. This is not make-believe or hyperbole. It’s a plan.
Our signatures at the bottom aren’t there because that’s how to close a letter, they’re a pledge to our city and to you.
Here’s our plan: Begin with one.
Take the girl ricocheting her way through high school, wondering if her thing really exists. She's not popular or particularly funny, but she has talent and ambition. She prefers video games to fashion, math to history, and substance to style. Her need to know how things work drives everything. She's a geek.
That girl is apt, and if she were only aware, would naturally gravitate to the tech biz. (The industry that just so happens to be the fastest growing industry on the planet. The same one that has, in her lifetime, transformed economies in Austin and Portland - cities much like Fresno.) If she knew what was possible, she would learn to write game-changing code, solve important problems, and work with smart people.
We have - Fresno has - told her that a career in tech is really more of a Bay Area thing. Ask the most devoted Fresno citizen and they would tell her there's a great career waiting for her to the west.
That is not an acceptable answer.
Here's what we should say instead: We tell her that she has the makings of a rock-star technologist. We tell her that the things she's interested in could change her life and change the world. We recruit her with all the vigor that Coach DeRuyter uses in persuading a homegrown, all-star quarterback to play in Fresno.
Next, we build a program that teaches her what she wants to learn. The program is lean and fast and meets in the evenings so that she doesn't have to wait until after graduation to start. The program is inexpensive so that she can scrape together the cash no matter what side of town she's from.
If she shows promise, we make sure to tell her we see it. We start introducing her to mentors, peers, and potential employers. We start thinking about how to make her even better.
To do that, we design an elite cohort for her and her most promising peers that lets them touch real-life projects for real-life clients under the mentorship of a talented programmer. We're competing for her future so we pay her, not the other way around.
Then, instead of telling her what she should do, we ask her what she wants to do. Maybe she wants a full-time gig here in the Valley. Maybe she'd rather freelance. Maybe she wants to start her own thing. Maybe she wants to work for Google. No matter what she picks, we should fight like hell to make it reality. After all, she's our investment. We should want to see it grow.
Now draw a line from the beginning of this story to the end: with her next step, no matter what she chooses, we win.
If she chooses to go work for a local company, her contribution helps that firm grow. If she does freelance work, she generates and spends dollars here while working on exciting things for some remote client. If she starts her own thing, she's liable to be an outstanding success, create jobs and wealth, and solve a real problem. And what if she does go to work for Google? What's she going to tell them when she's asked where she learned all that stuff? That's right. Fresno.
Now take her, that jewel, that talent, that one and multiply her by ten; a hundred; a thousand. Do you see it?
You get technology companies in Fresno that are able to push past the tipping point because they've got talent they can hire without moving elsewhere. You get new startups that create new jobs and new opportunities. Those companies reach a critical mass and become an industry. That industry says it prefers a lively and walkable downtown vibe, and the environment of a technology hub. It sets up shop at Bitwise Mural District or Bitwise South Stadium. It becomes imperative that we build a campus, an epicenter. The larger companies don't need Bitwise at all, so they buy their own buildings up the block. The industry creates a thousand jobs in the time that it takes a freshman starting college to get his degree.
Soon enough the industry has overtaken not just blocks, but entire districts of Downtown Fresno. They've not just restored a building, but they have revitalized an entire downtown.
That same industry comes up with solutions for water, solutions for power, solutions for food, and solutions for medicine in the blink of an eye. That same industry generates millions of billions of gazillions of dollars; dollars that fix schools and infrastructure; dollars that buy sandwiches and houses; dollars that pay taxes; and dollars that invest in what's next. That same industry changes literally everything.
It could all happen in less than five years. It could happen here. All we have to do is tell her she's a rock star and give her the tools to build a future she's interested in.
It's tempting to think that what we're doing at Bitwise Industries is about buildings or technology or companies. Those are incredible byproducts of what we're trying to achieve, but that's not our game. Bitwise is about humans. We're about their stories, and empowering the next generation of ambitious people to do awesome stuff in Fresno.
In 2015 we're taking a stand for the one. Stand with us.
Our Very Best,
Irma L. Olguin, Jr.
Jake A. Soberal