One year later: The rise and fall of Bitwise

Brianna Willis Image
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
One year later: The rise and fall of Bitwise
The once buzzing Bitwise Industries is now physically gone across Fresno.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The once buzzing Bitwise Industries is now physically gone across Fresno.

The buildings that once had their names, continue to stand tall, but without the tech company's name.

One year ago, Bitwise employees received notice that they would all be furloughed, but they would never return to their jobs.

One of those employees was Derek Payton, who worked as a software developer.

"There was a lot of anxiety but also a little bit of hope at that time in those probably first 12 to 24 hours," said former Bitwise employee, Derek Payton.

Payton says he quickly got a full-time job as a director of technology with the Central California Asthma Collaborative.

He has also continued his other business, Root Access Hackerspace, which provides access to 3D printers and laser cutters.

They're working to continue the mission of growing the tech hub in the city of Fresno.

"Bitwise is gone, but that vision of what they wanted to build, it doesn't die unless we let it, and that's one of the things that root access is all about, is having a cool technology scene," said Payton.

While Payton landed on his feet after the fallout, others were not as lucky.

"Just yesterday, my office received a call from an individual whose unemployment ran out, and being able to renew it, is a difficult process," said Assemblyman Jim Patterson.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson has helped secure "Beyond Bitwise" funding in partnership with other organizations, and continues to help those still struggling.

Roger Bonakdar, the attorney representing hundreds of clients in a class action lawsuit says many of his clients still feel the impact of suddenly losing their jobs.

"I can tell you that folks nearly had their cars repossessed, three-day notices and nearly lost their homes. I spoke to one of my clients -- his health insurance had not been paid for, and when he had taken his son to the doctor because he broke his leg, he found out that way -- that there was no insurance coverage while at the ER for an injured child," said Bonakdar.

One year later, the criminal court case continues for Bitwise co-founders and former co-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr.

Bonakdar and Assemblyman Patterson hope for accountability for the lives turned upside down.

"I think, for one, based on the sequence of events in the case and what has happened in the felony case, that there's probably a deal worked out," said Bonakdar.

"I don't think it would be fair or just for these two to get some kind of a plea bargain; they need some jail time," said Assemblyman Patterson.

The former CEO's are due back in court for their federal case July 18th.

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