Diversity-focused technology training firm Bitwise coming to Buffalo – Buffalo News

Students take a coding class at Bitwise Industries in Fresno, Calif. Bitwise, a California-based company that trains people from marginalized communities tech skills, is opening an office in Buffalo.
A California-based technology training company is coming to Buffalo, with a focus on diversifying Western New York’s pool of tech workers.
Bitwise Industries teaches people from marginalized communities – people of color, low-income populations, women, LGBTQ+ people, the formerly incarcerated – the in-demand skills they need to work in well-paying tech jobs.
Bitwise will bring its scalable, venture capital-funded approach to solving the problem of lack of diversity in tech to the Buffalo Niagara region. And the company’s methods have so far been successful elsewhere.
Since its founding in 2013, Bitwise has trained more than 8,000 people across the country, with 80% going on to work in tech jobs. The average Bitwise student’s annual salary after training is between $60,000 and $80,000, equaling $295 million in aggregate wages paid to mostly women and people of color, according to the company.
Bitwise chose Buffalo as one of its next cities in a process Buffalo entrepreneur and 43North board member Eric Reich described as highly competitive. 
Buffalo had the right demographics
Buffalo has the type of demographics Bitwise is looking for.
Around 30% of Buffalo residents live in poverty and the majority are nonwhite, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fewer than 29% of city residents have a college degree and the median income is less than $40,000 a year.
The company recognized the potential in Buffalo to build up the workforce and “give opportunity to folks that have been left behind,” said Tammi Sherman, vice president of Bitwise Toledo. Though she’s based in Ohio, Sherman was part of the team that worked on setting up Bitwise’s operations in Buffalo. 
“I think the biggest impact is on the lives of the people,” she said. “Being able to create a path free of barriers to the tech world.”
For the businesses, Bitwise’s expansion to Buffalo will make it easier to hire a diverse tech workforce, something Reich struggled with when he founded Campus Labs, now Anthology, in the early 2000s. 
“Business leaders need to have a representative workforce in order to create products that are usable to the general population,” Reich said. 
Leaders in the region’s tech and startup space have worked in recent years to create accessible training opportunities for tech workers through initiatives like TechBuffalo and M&T Bank’s Tech Academy. Both organizations seek to connect Buffalo’s underserved populations with technology training. 

Sarah Tanbakuchi was just named president and CEO of TechBuffalo, which aims to promote tech-sector development. 
Bitwise’s expansion into Buffalo is the next piece in the puzzle.
43North Foundation chairman Bill Maggio said Bitwise is a “phenomenal fit” in Buffalo’s tech and startup ecosystem. 
“This will train and arm, hopefully, a new generation of entrepreneurs in Buffalo who are able to start their own companies because they know how to code or they’re able to become early employees of companies that are just starting,” Reich said. 
Bitwise offers training, support services
Bitwise offers four classes: websites for beginners, mobile-friendly websites, JavaScript for beginners and React. 
The classes run two days a week for six weeks for a total of 36 hours and cost $250. Financial and equipment assistance are available, Sherman said. 
After completing the classes, students are often hired to work for Bitwise’s in-house technology consulting firm, which builds custom software for local companies. They also have the option to join a paid apprenticeship program through Bitwise. Some students will seek work with a local company. 
Bitwise also offers its trainees other supportive resources, such as counseling, transportation and child care. 

The 12-week program, which kicks off next week, is supported by ACV Auctions, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, M&T Bank, Moog Inc. and Rich Products.
When Bitwise comes into a city, it typically transforms a blighted historical building into a technology hub, where classes are held, its operations are housed and other tech companies can rent space. 
Bitwise has not decided on a location in Buffalo yet, Sherman said. But, all Bitwise classes are being held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The company is working on a plan to safely transition to in-person work and classes, Sherman said. 
Since Bitwise’s operations have been virtual, two groups of Buffalo students have already enrolled in classes and a third class is set to begin in April. 
Bitwise’s expansion into Buffalo was made possible through financial support from M&T Bank, the 43North Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York’s Blue Fund, Maggio and Reich said. 
Bitwise was founded by Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. and has raised more than $100 million to expand across the United States. In addition to Buffalo, the company is also opening new offices in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
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Students take a coding class at Bitwise Industries in Fresno, Calif. Bitwise, a California-based company that trains people from marginalized communities tech skills, is opening an office in Buffalo.
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