A founding member of Bitwise Industries is sharing his thoughts on the troubles his one-time company is facing.
“I could be surprised that it’s resurrected. I mean, that would be my hope. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t … think that’s a high probability.” — Bitwise Industries founder John Dodson
“It’s just really sad because they had a great dream and then just weren’t able to pull it off. A lot of people got hurt and I guess that’s the kind of thing that would make anybody sad,” said John Dodson, who was there at the beginning of Bitwise’s creation.
Bitwise is facing a financial implosion. The company furloughed its reported 900 workers on May 29.
Public documents show they are late in paying county property taxes, business taxes to the city of Fresno, and corporate taxes in Delaware.
The company also faces accusations of financial mismanagement. These include bouncing payroll checks, shortchanging workers on health care insurance premiums and 401(k) deposits, breach of contract with business partners, and not paying rent.
Soberal, Olguin Turned to Dodson to Start Bitwise in 2013
While Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. were the public faces of the tech and real estate company, they turned to entrepreneur Dodson to start Bitwise in 2013.
“They’re great visionaries and their vision made a lot of sense. But I guess the judgment as to their business ability is what’s happened. I mean, it didn’t work and … somebody has to take responsibility for what happened. I’m not involved in it to really understand what went haywire,” Dodson said.
Kingsburg native Dodson has made developing tech companies a career. He’s still active, although the 80-year-old says he’s trying to retire.
He is pessimistic about Bitwise coming back.
“I would bet against it. But again, I was surprised by their demise. So I could be surprised that it’s resurrected. I mean, that would be my hope. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t … think that’s a high probability,” Dodson said.
Limited Contact with Bitwise
Dodson met Soberal and Olguin at his San Joaquin Street offices in the early 2010s to start Bitwise.
“I provided the building and said, ‘Have at it.’ I provided what guidance I could. I was trying to help tech companies get started at the time and they had a mission and (it) seemed to line up pretty much with what I was trying to do to wrap up my career. And so, you know, that’s kind of how we all got together,” Dodson said.
Dodson described himself as a part-time shareholder in Bitwise. He sold his shares back to the company around 2019, breaking even. He said he spoke to Soberal and Olguin earlier this year, but not since Bitwise’s troubles became public.
He never had an active role in the running of the company, but always was “rooting for them.”
“I was a bystander and, you know, watching what they did and I thought it was aggressive. But again, I wasn’t intimately involved with any of it, so I didn’t know the details of what was happening,” Dodson said.
While he may be gone from the company, Dodson’s name remains. The theater in Bitwise’s South Stadium building at 700 Van Ness Ave. is named the “John W. Dodson Theatre.”