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Buffalo Has Landed Another Significant Technology Deal With Bitwise Industries, Which Is Rapidly Expanding

Bitwise Industries is expanding across the United States, powered by venture money and a purpose to introduce technology to underserved communities and help them develop jobs in it.

Western New York is the next stop.

Business First has learnt that Bitwise, a Fresno, California-based firm that trains tech employees in impoverished neighborhoods, creates software, and invests in tech-friendly real estate, has chosen Buffalo for its latest project.

Locals see the project, which has been in the works for more than a year, as a huge step toward the long-term objective of leveraging technology to unlock Buffalo’s economic potential.

Leaders from 43North Foundation, M&T Bank, the Ralph J. Wilson Jr. Foundation, TechBuffalo, Empire State Development Corp., and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York were all heavily involved in the recruiting campaign.

While many facts of the initiative are still unknown, Bitwise has hired its first Buffalo staff and started enrolling students in lessons.

Bitwise received $50 million in venture finance last year, led by co-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr., to introduce its innovative business model to cities across the United States.

Soberal declined to comment on the specifics of Bitwise’s Buffalo involvement until the firm is ready to make a public announcement.

“Our excitement for the city of Buffalo continues to increase,” he added in a statement to Business First.

Bitwise’s platform is made up of three parts:

  • A workforce training initiative aimed at introducing poor people to technological careers.
  • A software development company that hires graduates of its academy.
  • A commercial real estate campus for Bitwise as well as other technology companies.

It’s unknown where Bitwise will set up shop in Buffalo, but it’s been a big project in other places. In 250,000 square feet, the company’s initial headquarters in downtown Fresno, for example, houses its own programs and more than 200 businesses.

Bitwise announced in 2021 that Toledo, Ohio, would be the company’s first location outside of California, with plans to rebuild a 100,000-square-foot building in the city’s downtown area. In California, Bitwise has four locations (Fresno, Bakersfield, Merced and Oakland).

Last year, Forbes recognized Soberal and Olguin’s startup for its unique beliefs, bringing a venture-funded solution to the challenge of diversity in tech.

“Bitwise can bring a diverse and inclusive technological workforce to the world and to cities, where those high-wage, high-skilled jobs are now developing and attempting to boost that local economy,” Soberal told the magazine.

While Buffalo has seen a surge in startups and tech jobs in recent years, industry leaders have struggled to figure out how to make diversity a strategic priority. For example, TechBuffalo aims to connect Buffalo’s disadvantaged inner-city areas to tech prospects. M&T’s Tech Academy, which was first announced last year, is also collaborating on programs that introduce non-traditional labor pools to tech employment.

Meanwhile, Bitwise is the latest national high-growth digital business to make a significant investment in Buffalo. Odoo, a business software company, chose Buffalo as its East Coast headquarters in 2020 and is currently ready to take up a whole floor at Seneca One Tower. Frank Ewing, CEO of AML RightSource, is a Buffalo native who is swiftly expanding his company’s presence at Seneca One. In the fall of 2021, Atlanta-based Rural Sourcing will open a software hub in Buffalo.

According to a corporate news release from January, Bitwise doubled in size and revenue last year, and it has trained more than 5,000 people from underprivileged neighborhoods. More than 80% of individuals who completed the program went on to work in the technical field.

According to Bitwise, their apprenticeship program has generated more than $285 million in compensation for predominantly women and people of color.

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