When we started Bitwise, we told you that we’d teach people to code. We told you that we’d build world-class software with local talent. We told you that we’d build a technology campus in Downtown Fresno. We told you that we’d start a tech revolution. Update: All of those things are happening right now in your city.*
In the 40 months that we’ve been alive, we’ve taught more than 3,000 people to code; we’ve opened and leased every-last-inch of our building...twice; we’ve seen Fresno’s technology industry create over 1,000 new jobs; we’ve gone from tech outpost to the place where Amazon launches training on its most innovative software platform; we’ve marveled as local tech startups sold for obscene amounts of money; we’ve built software that’s putting an actual dent in homelessness and recidivism; we’ve hung with The Woz in a sold out Saroyan auditorium (he said Fresno was maybe the most entrepreneurial city he’d ever been to); we built a 200-seat stadium-seating theater on a 100-year-old car ramp; and we’ve thrown some kick-ass parties. And, everyone from the Cougar’s Growl to The Atlantic has written about it.
By any objective standard, Bitwise is working. But Bitwise isn’t nearly enough. Though it may lift our region’s economy to new heights, it won’t mean anything unless we also choose to be good. Should we build an economic engine that prolifically creates jobs and opportunity? Absolutely. Bitwise can be that. But to really heal our city we--all of us--must also rise to be a people that lives out a different sort of virtue.
It won’t be enough if Bitwise does just what technology has done in other cities. That sort of growth, alone, leads to an economically sound, but far too exclusive new upper-middle class club of “innovators” and a couple of irritatingly-young millionaires. Exciting. Attainable. Enviable. But still not enough.
To us, if all of the hubbub we create isn’t coupled with a culture of acceptance, inclusiveness, and heart, then we haven’t created the best version of ourselves.
But the story doesn’t have to end that way. Fresno, and Bitwise, can be different. We’ve been different before.
We’re a nation of people that defend beliefs that we don’t believe in. We celebrate engineering and art. We fight wars abroad to protect citizens of other nations. We conquer evil rulers and return their lands to the people who inhabit them. We chase equality to its most infuriating end and demand of ourselves that we live in the tension that it creates. We admit when we’re wrong and commit to fixing it.
That’s America. That’s our identity. And lest the world forget, we etched it there, at the foot of the Statute of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, temptest-tost to me…
Translation: “Dear World, We are the humans that you’ve cast out as junk, and from us we’re creating a great nation. Please send more of your ‘junk.'"
These ideals are ours. We can live out these ideals. We can swell a courage big enough to create something different and better in Fresno. Bitwise can help us to be economically prosperous, and the history we share can help us to be radically good.
Let’s show up to someone else’s thing.
Let’s care about someone who does not belong to our tribe.
Let’s find someone who makes us uncomfortable and get to know who they are, not just what they are.
Let’s choke back the sarcasm when someone is trying to start something new and instead default to supporting them.
Let’s raise our voices on issues that matter and be a little less ‘I-told-you-so’ when we’re right.
Let’s deliberately and meaningfully reach out to the unemployed and formerly incarcerated; the farm laborer’s son, and the farm laborer himself; the average high school all-star, and the average college dropout; the LGBTQ+ community, minority communities, and the community of every marginalized human. Allow every experience and perspective in our city to combine to be our advantage.
Let’s celebrate the best of us, in every category. Let spirit stand beside wealth; tenacity beside talent; courage beside station; endurance beside brilliance; and uniqueness in front of conformity.
Let’s actually be different.
At Bitwise we will tell them, all of them, “If you want to be good at something, if you want to be good at this, this is where you come. When you walk into our building expect to feel like a whole community is surrounding you saying, ‘Welcome to Bitwise. Here are the tools to change your own life.’”
We’ll pay deserving people a deserving wage; the sort that lets them stop worrying about how they’re going to put gas in the tank, and start thinking about how they’re going to be better.
We will commit our growing resources to reaching the outer edges of the county so that anyone, at any stage of life, can see, touch, and feel the chance to enter this growing industry. We’ll reach beyond ourselves to care about someone who does not belong to us.
America is the only country on the planet that, since its birth, has stood on a hill and died for the idea that we can do better. So starting with the two of us and reaching past Bitwise and into the city, we will endeavor to do better.
We will do better, because we must.
Our Very Best,
Irma L. Olguin, Jr.
Co-Founder Co-Chief Executive Officer
Jake A. Soberal
Co-Founder Co-Chief Executive Officer