A Latinx-Founded Tech Company is On Track to “Change Lives and Fix Cities” After Receiving Historic Investment

Irma Olquin JR
Photo Courtesy Bitwise

A Latinx-helmed tech company based in Fresno, California, just announced that it has secured $27 million in critical Series A VC funding, a huge investment for any company to have received — and notably, the biggest Series A investment that has ever been secured by a company run by a Latinx CEO and co-founder.

Irma L. Olguin founded Bitwise Industries with her partner Jake Soberal in the agricultural Central Valley community of Fresno in 2013. Unlike the Bay Area, many communities in the Central Valley are in dire straits, with a dearth of opportunity and accessibility to the tech boom that has lifted the economies of Silicon Valley. Bitwise is one of the companies that aims to launch its entire community forward by leveraging its best asset — the untapped potential of its people.

Olguin told the Fresno Bee in 2016 that she was all set to be one of the people who would’ve been left behind. “I’m a female engineer. I’m a minority engineer  I came from a small rural town, a family of field laborers  All of these things, when you pile them on top of one another, you think, ‘How did that happen?’” She explained that people with her background are considered successful when they work their way up to managerial positions at local retail businesses, that many of her peers aren’t aware that there might be more opportunities out there — albeit ones that require them to surmount unique barriers. After all, she continued, “When you think how unlikely it is for a rural kid from a labor background to end up as the CEO of a technology company, you just don’t see that.”

That’s why Olguin and Soberal have fashioned Bitwise to create job opportunities that are truly accessible to everyone. The company goes out of its way to support training programs that equip people of any educational background — agricultural and beyond — to become capable developers. It’s a goal that many companies have touted to their investors and the public, but have been unable or unwilling to actually pursue. “We realized early on that, say, knowledge of JavaScript was not the real barrier to people entering the tech industry,” she told The Atlantic earlier this month. “If you imagine the case of a young man or woman from the westside of Fresno, whose parents are doing field work, you have the question of how they recognize opportunity, how you bring their families along, how you deal with the impostor syndrome, how you help parents realize that their kids aren’t just ‘playing’ on the computer.

Irma Olguin JR Belatina Latinx
Photo Credit thebusinessjournal.com Irma Olguin, Mayor Lee Brand and Jake Soberal Bitwise Industries were awarded the Downtown Fresno Partnership’s highest award Thursday night. April 2018

To date, the company has trained over 4,000 people, created 1,000 tech jobs that wouldn’t have existed before, and been a hub of over 200 tech companies in downtown Fresno. With the considerable new investment in its coffers, Bitwise will be able to expand its mission to lift up the communities of other cities like Fresno. “We are essentially using the technology industry to build a diverse and inclusive workforce, in order to change lives and fix cities,” wrote Olguin in a piece for Fast Company earlier this week. “This milestone is big a deal for women, people of color, underdog cities, and the technology industry. My hope is that the success of Bitwise’s raise is quickly eclipsed by some other woman or person of color living outside the traditional tech hubs, quietly doing the incredible work of actually saving the world.”

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