Jake Soberal, the former co-CEO of Bitwise Industries, was spotted at his Fresno home on Wednesday.
Soberal has been out of sight since announcing that all of his company’s employees were laid off — first announced as a furlough — on May 29. His low profile and pending legal problems led to speculation that he skipped the country.
GV Wire, knocking on Soberal’s door at his home near Fresno High, found him sporting a beard and doing housework. Soberal proceeded to draw his curtains and did not respond to a request for comment about Bitwise’s fate.
A few blocks away, no one answered the door at the home of co-CEO Irma Olguin Jr.
The Bitwise board fired Soberal and Olguin on June 2. Neither has spoken publicly since Bitwise’s collapse, leaving their jettisoned employees in Fresno and other cities across the nation with a multitude of unanswered questions.
Both Soberal and Olguin have been named as defendants in several lawsuits. The accusations against one or both include breaking labor laws, fraud, and breach of contract.
Additionally, Bitwise is accused of not paying its city business taxes, Fresno County property taxes, and not paying rent on three downtown Fresno buildings.
Bitwise Investor Critical
In an interview with Natasha Mascarenhas of tech publication The Information, a Bitwise investor said she felt duped.
“From where I sit, we were presented not just with a general sentiment that things were OK, but with financials that seemed to (now) not match reality,” said Freada Kapor Klein, a partner at Kapor Capital.
Kapor Capital was one of the top investors in multiple rounds of the $157 million in capital Bitwise raised between 2019 and 2023. It is unknown how much Kapor invested. Ensuing lawsuits identified Mitchell Kapor — Ferada’s husband and co-founder of Kapor Capital — as sitting on Bitwise’s board.
The Information reported that a Kapor Capital affiliate “procured a 17-page due diligence document before it led a later (financing) round for Bitwise.”
“The picture of Jake and Irma that is emerging now … bears no resemblance to how they have presented themselves to me and to others for many, many years,” Kapor Klein told The Information.
Fate of Bitwise’s Downtown Buildings
Bitwise signage remains on several downtown Fresno buildings, but downtown is moving on.
The owner officially took back the South Stadium, Bitwise 41, and Bitwise Hive buildings. Bitwise was reportedly $500,000 delinquent in rent.
Baltara Enterprises LP management said it is coordinating with current tenants — Bitwise sublet several office spaces in its buildings — to transition to the new management system.
The Downtown Fresno Partnership, a quasi-governmental group to promote downtown, looks forward to a post-Bitwise downtown.
“We’ve got great ownership of the buildings, so that’s a positive. And we know that there’s continuing demand for downtown for folks to be downtown,” Downtown Fresno Partnership president/CEO Elliott Blach said.
Balch hopes for former Bitwise employees to remain downtown.
“Downtown’s going to survive. Downtown is going to continue … developing further, providing housing, being that place where, you know, the future economy of the world and California lands and our region. And this has certainly been a speed bump on that road. But the road is still pointing forward,” Balch said.
Channelle Charest, listed as Bitwise’s chief growth development officer, served on the Downtown Fresno Partnership board of directors. She was officially removed at the association’s Wednesday board meeting.