It’s not uncommon for technology startups to experience hardships and eventually fail. What isn’t very common to see, though, is a tech startup that has garnered national recognition and appeared to be flourishing, crash in the matter of days, which is exactly what happened with Bitwise Industries of Fresno.
On May 29, the organization immediately furloughed all 900 of their employees without warning. While the fall of Bitwise came as a surprise to many, Bay Valley Tech president Phillip Lan explained that there were some concerning moves that foreshadowed the organization’s failure, including the fact that they canned their web development training program in early April. Since then, Modesto’s Bay Valley Tech has begun expanding their operations into the south Valley and opening their doors to apprentices and prospective students.
“About two months ago, we had heard from some associated with Bitwise that they had discontinued training web developers. Our program trains folks in that in that specific skill set and prepares them for software careers. That's a core part of what we do and that's been a core part of Bitwise for the last 10 years, so we were a little surprised that they discontinued doing that and realized that it probably left a whole lot of people in the Merced and Fresno area with no access to that training,” Lan said. “We started opening our program further south, pretty much from Turlock down probably six weeks ago… We will be expanding and probably looking for different spaces to accommodate the growth of our student base in Merced pretty soon.”
With Bay Valley Tech’s next Coding Academy cohort beginning on June 12, Lan shared that they have received over 100 applicants from the Merced and Fresno region in just a few weeks. The organization is still accepting applications for that cohort and future classes, with Lan encouraging individuals with determination, aptitude, interest and demonstrated track records to apply. Experience with tech is also encouraged, but not required.
“I think it's just very unfortunate. A lot of people and a lot of families have been hurt by the events down there, so we're very sad about that and doing the best that we can to assist,” Lan said. “Bitwise has some amazing people who are very well intentioned folks who had a very similar vision to what we have here at Bay Valley Tech, which is to help as much as we can some of the most vulnerable people here in the Valley, to provide effective, low barrier paths to better lives.”
But the problems for Bitwise may run a bit deeper as time goes on compared to other tech-startup failures. City of Fresno mayor Jerry Dyer’s offices has claimed that Bitwise violated California's Worker Adjustment and Retraining or WARN Act by not giving 60-day notice that a furlough was coming.
“I can’t speak to what went wrong and what’s going to happen with everyone involved,” Lan said. “I've been in Silicon Valley for decades, and ever since well before the .com days, lots of tech companies are formed and some grow, and some do not. In fact, most startups do not. In Silicon Valley, most of the companies that are formed are high risk, high reward, so it’s nothing new to see failure. Again, I can’t speak to what happened because every situation is different, but on our side, we’re just trying to help in whatever way we can.”
More information on Bay Valley Tech and to apply to their free code academy, head to www.bayvalleytech.com.