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Bitwise Industries announces $50 million investment to grow tech apprenticeship program

The tech sector continues to add high-wage jobs, and Bitwise hopes expanding its apprenticeship program will help more BIPOC workers land them.

Bitwise Industries announces $50 million investment to grow tech apprenticeship program
Bitwise cofounders and CEOs Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal [Photos: Bitwise]
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Bitwise Industries, a startup that is creating tech ecosystems to increase economic opportunities in undervalued cities, just scored $50 million in series B financing led by Kapor Capital, with participation from JPMorgan Chase, Motley Fool Ventures, and ProMedica.

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Cofounded by Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal, Bitwise Industries made headlines in 2019 when it raised $27 million—one of the largest series A rounds ever secured by a company with a female Latinx founder. (Historically, female founders have received just 12% of venture capital investment for their businesses.)

This round of funding will help support Bitwise’s new initiative, the Digital New Deal. The company has already grown its tech apprenticeship program in its home state of California and has trained more than 5,000 individuals—more than 80% of whom are currently employed in tech positions. Bitwise has also converted 450,000 square feet of real estate in blighted urban areas into desirable commercial property. “Our apprentices are able to earn while they learn, instead of being blocked by the financial barriers of traditional education,” Soberal said in a statement.

For her part, Olguin is eager to address the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on communities of color. “The spread of COVID-19 and events of 2020 exposed the deep flaws that have existed for decades in the United States, and laid bare the unsustainable nature of our current systems/policies, and how they trap people in a cycle of poverty,” she said in a statement. “The past year showed us that there is no time to waste and we need to be aggressive about driving change now.”

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The tech sector continues to add lucrative jobs, even as many industries faltered over the last year. But the wage gap, particularly for women, is still vast. On average, female technology workers earn 83 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, but this varies, particularly by location. Still, high-wage, high-growth jobs have the potential to lift underrepresented communities out of poverty. The funding will allow Bitwise to expand into new markets, beginning with Toledo, Ohio.

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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