by Tom Sims
Bitwise is a concept.
Bitwise is an energy and a force of nature.
Bitwise is a movement, a philosophy, and a dream.
Bitwise is catalyzing growth in downtown Fresno.
Bitwise is a team of “imagineers” led by two great dreamers, Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin, its founders.
The team circles around their vision with freedom of movement and a strong center to create new ideas and bold initiatives. Some members of the team are employed. Some operate independently, starting their own businesses and ventures. Some are students. Some simply enjoy hanging around and soaking in the inspiration.
It all started in 2015 at the South Stadium. Recently, the Bitwise Hive opened with twenty-four new companies onsite and 50,000 square feet of space. Thirty-five hundred people attended the grand opening this summer.
It was a party to remember.
Described as “The mothership of technological education, collaboration, and innovation in Fresno, ” Bitwise is a company made up of four lines of business:
• Bitwise Industries Inc.
• Geekwise Academy
• Hashtag (See our recent Kings River Life article on Hashtag downtown and our article on the original Hashtag location (2011)
• Shift3 Technologies
Each has its own mission and operating strategy. Each complements the other and remains in orbit to Bitwise’s core values and reason for being.
It is also a space, a place, and a new face of downtown where innovators and communicators gather, collaborate, and anticipate something new. Young and old come to work, study, muse, and meet. It is fun, intense, and relaxed all at the same time.
Future locations will expand that space:?
Venues under development include Bitwise 41 at 2721 Ventura St, Fresno, CA 93721 and Bitwise State Center Warehouse at 747 R Street, Fresno CA 93721..
I recently asked some questions to members of the creative team from Bitwise, including Irma Olguin, Co-CEO, and Carley Fiel who coordinates The Hashtag and who was my tour guide. I wanted to know how Bitwise played into the overall vision of downtown Fresno.
If you could sum up Bitwise’s vision for downtown Fresno in a few sentences, what would it be?
The tangible vision for downtown is a technology campus that connects people from the outer edges of our region to the urban city center, so no matter where you are or where you come from, you have access to life-changing education and tools. To us, that’s 2.5 million square feet of collaboration, housing 1,000+ companies and 250,000 new jobs in Fresno.
Is there a renaissance in the future of downtown Fresno? If so, what is it going to take from the community to make it happen and what will Bitwise’s role be?
We are 100% in the middle of a renaissance. Downtown doesn’t look like it did six months ago, let alone two years ago. And in another six months, it’s going to be unrecognizable again. Breweries, restaurants, a professional soccer team, thousands of new tech workers, the trajectory of downtown is impressive. But, to keep that momentum going, the community has to keep showing up and supporting these efforts.
Jake said it best in the video we showed at The Bitwise Hive Grand Opening, “we get to decide whether we’re going to take all of this positive momentum and slide back into the status quo or lean in and become the city we’ve all been dreaming of.”
Are there any features, new or old, or any events you would like for me to underscore?
At its core, Bitwise is a place for creatives and creations. It’s an honor to host such a range of artists, chefs, designers, and technologists as we get a glimpse into their worlds. In mid-July we hosted the one-and-only Lisa Loeb for TWO sold out performances. For the last two years, we’ve hosted Valley DevFest, the largest tech conference in the region. Last year, we had the chance to spotlight world-renowned mandolinist and violinist, Eva Scow, as she introduced us to Gypsy jazz with Le Petit Strings.
And those are just a few of the countless tournaments, food festivals, hack nights, classic movies, and meet-ups we’ve gotten to be a part of. Our note to the community is that we’re here and open to collaborating on unique events. To ensure downtown develops a thriving culture of its own, it’s going to take everyone.
Did you know, when you started, you would be where you are today?
We’re not going nearly fast enough to be living in the city of our dreams, but I’m really proud of the fact that we stick to our guns in terms of inclusiveness, justice, and diversity. Without that moral center, none of the trappings mean anything. No number of events, buildings, or even jobs would accomplish our goals if we didn’t find a way to cling to those inalienable principles. That’s what I think of when I think about “where we are today,” so in that regard, I never had any doubt.
For me, Bitwise is about community and the people who make community.
It is a way to find community in the midst of solitude and solitude in the midst of community. The energy at work around you as you work allows you to find the quiet place within your own soul to focus on creative thinking and work.
The free-flowing themes of common artistic design speak of continuity as well as variety. The rustic décor shows out a cutting edge, post-modern challenge to use everything at one’s disposal and waste nothing.
Anything old can be made into something new. Anything unimagined, if it can be imagined, can also be created.
As a Hashtag member who uses the common space at least once a week to work, I enjoy wandering to and around the other buildings to catch that spirit of innovation, creativity, and positive vision for Fresno. Fresno is alive. Downtown is alive. Bitwise is a major catalyst for that life.
Call for an appointment and arrange a visit.
Spaces at various levels and prices are available.
700 Van Ness Avenue
Fresno, California 93721
Check out our article in this issue about the Lisa Loeb concert at Bitwise.