We began in 2014 in a building on a forgotten corner of Downtown Fresno where nothing good was likely to ever happen. We had paint-stained hands, a building full of broken furniture, and a determination to shine a light on the good stuff no one believed was happening in our city. We hung a few TVs, filled the fridge with beer, turned the music on and dubbed it Bitwise Mural District. That empty building became a center for innovation, technological education, talent retention, and job creation. The collective efforts of that building created one new technology job every ten days and generated over 10 million dollars in new revenue in its first year.
In 2015, we took a moment to clearly define who and what we stand for. We made it a point to highlight that it’s not about what we want to be, but how we want to be, and it’s turning heads the world over. We’ve opened our doors to the ambitious and scrappy and proclaimed that it’s not about pedigree and last names but about hustle and grit. The most disadvantaged students work alongside the affluent and together they break down barriers to enter the fastest growing industry on the planet. Together they work to change their own lives.
Ashley Swearengin, and before her, Decipher, and before Decipher, CART, and Grundfos, and Pelco, Bank of America, Jimmy Phelan, James Porteous, Anthony “McQueen” Easterby, Central Pacific Railroad’s Southern Pacific Line, William Helm -- all the way back to the Yokuts -- whether figuratively or literally, each of them stood up at Fort Millerton, looked south and saw something magnificent that didn’t yet exist. They saw possibility and each of them dared to dream.
It’s 2016 and it’s time to dream again.
We outgrew our first building, Bitwise Mural District, in about four minutes, and we spent the next year and a half plus $7 million dollars building a bigger clubhouse. Today in this 50,000 square-foot geek palace, are killer amenities like a full-service law firm, cafe, coffee shop, accountancy, gym, shipper, and a 200-seat stadium seating theater.
Inside these walls, there exist over 100 technology companies and 1,000 individual geeks who build tech that’s shipped all over the world.
Inside these walls, the work of those 1,000 geeks gets written up in the Fresno Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Atlantic.
Inside these walls, we boast the largest vocational educator of computer programmers in the United States.
But it’s not all about what’s happening inside these walls. It never has been.
Outside our walls, a Fresno software company sold for a quarter of a billion dollars; Fresno County’s largest school district dedicated massive resources to becoming a national leader in entrepreneurship; two venture funds and an accelerator sprang up between Clovis and the 99; a Fresno startup raised $4 million in one round; the Mayor of Fresno hired a consultant to chase down technology grants.
Today, technology jobs in Fresno are growing at twice the rate of jobs in any other industry and for every new technology job, 4.3 new jobs in related industries are created as well.
This is called momentum, and once you have it, the Universe has every right to ask you what exactly you’re going to do with it. What do you do when you have no more excuses? How do you spend your time when you’ve met meaningful success? What will you make, and will it make the world better?
We’ve been asking ourselves these questions and thought we’d share our answers:
In the next five years, we will build a 2.5-million-square-foot campus that will be home to over 1,000 technology companies and 250,000 new tech jobs in Fresno.
In downtown alone, hundreds of lofts will become thousands. Eateries will line the streets. Nightlife will spring up. And on Sunday mornings, the thirty-somethings will sit outside sipping coffee from that shop on Fulton Street and tell tales of how people used to scoff at the notion of downtown revitalization.
It’ll be right about this time when parking in Downtown Fresno moves from being a fictional issue to being a real issue, so we’re going to build a train. That’s right. A train. One that connects Downtown Fresno to eight outer points of the county. From Biola to Riverdale, from Firebaugh to Kingsburg. We’ll tackle the environment, air quality, education and access to opportunity. It will change everything you think you know about this city.
Most of you won’t believe us. That’s okay. They didn’t believe Henry Huntington either, and he had a library, a lake and a beach named after him.
To make sure Fresno sets itself up for continued success, we will put the most important piece of the puzzle right in the middle of it all. We have to build an educational haven where students from rural towns join those from suburban metropolis to learn a skill different from their grandfathers. We must deliver the same level of world-class skill-based learning to the entire county or we will have failed a majority of our people.
No matter if you’re a teacher, janitor, attorney, accountant, or waitress. If you look across the land and envision something magnificent that doesn’t yet exist, you can make this your story. How one of the most broken cities in the United States demanded something better for itself and leveraged the fastest growing industry on the planet to achieve it. Let’s create small victories, let those small victories breed confidence, and use that confidence to develop ambition. Let’s find personal success and then use that success to deliberately contribute to the success of others -- in a single generation we can fix an American city. Your city.
Now for the first time ever, we have no excuse. We have all the resources we need to start and grow and buy and sell technology talent, companies and buildings. Now for the first time ever, the universe is asking us what we’re going to do with our time and power and dreams.
It’s 2016 and we’re recruiting dreamers. Dream with us.
Our Very Best,
Irma L. Olguin, Jr.
Jake A. Soberal