1A Remaking America: Fresno Moves Beyond Bitwise


Fresno, California, is traditionally known for its role in the agriculture industry and proximity to Yellowstone National Park. But over the last decade, the city has become synonymous with one surprising tech startup, Bitwise Industries.

The company offered workforce training and helped to revitalize buildings downtown to create co-working spaces. The company then expanded beyond Fresno to other “underdog cities” like El Paso, Texas, Buffalo, New York, and Toledo, Ohio. 

Their promises to make tech more inclusive and rival Silicon Valley drew the attention of national media and elected officials. It also brought in government dollars.

But soon, the dream Bitwise was selling began to unravel. In November, prosecutors announced charges against Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal for conspiring to commit wire fraud and taking more than $100 million from investors. And Fresno has been left picking up the pieces. Over the summer, the company furloughed all of its 900 employees and filed for bankruptcy

We traveled back to Fresno as part of our Remaking America collaboration with six partner stations across the country, including KVPR. Remaking America looks at the state of our democracy and rebuilding trust after the pandemic.  

We hosted a community conversation about Fresno’s efforts to move beyond Bitwise and what lessons the rest of the country can learn. 

Source : 1A