Derek Payton, the director of development for Ordrslip, said that they have been able to grow their product as they reach out to the largely untapped market of smaller restaurants that previously wouldn’t have the option of their own custom app.

published on April 11, 2018 - 12:57 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

In recent years, the Central Valley tech industry has been growing rapidly, becoming one of the largest hubs in California outside Silicon Valley. Unlike Silicon Valley, however, the scene in Fresno has been standing out not only for innovation, but also for demographics.

“I think we’re trying very hard to be different from the Silicon Valley. We want to create a technology industry in our region that is representative of the region itself,” said Bethany Mily, CEO of Geekwise Academy. “So we have a large percentage of folks who are minorities. We are 50 percent women. More than 30 percent live below the poverty line.”

Located at Bitwise Industries in Downtown Fresno, Geekwise Academy has been leading the charge in this growth, first through education, but now through businesses and apps.

“I think all of students that go through our classes—whether it’s in one of our cohorts, or through another program—they are becoming the workforce in the region for the technology district,” Mily said. “So whether they go out and start their own thing, or help a smaller company, or join in a larger company or a midsize company, they are certainly becoming large contributors of the technology industry by becoming the technology workforce.”

The Geekwise classes, which teach coding and computer technology at Bitwise, generally have four to five different classes running, ranging from basic website building to JavaScript. They have also been reaching out to Central Valley schools like Fowler High School and the Philip J. Patino School of Entrepreneurship.

“This really has been the primary opportunity,” said J.R. Ruggiero, who took classes through Geekwise.

Ruggiero, who got into coding while he was in elementary school, went to work at his father’s restaurant in Clovis. After it closed, he looked to return to coding. It was at this point that he came upon Geekwise.

“I’m getting to meet a lot of the people around here that are super-skilled and super-talented to kind of give me an idea of what I would like to aspire to be,” he said. “And getting to complete some of the projects that I had in mind when I first took classes here, thinking that it would be forever and a day before I could reach a skill level before I complete something like that, but I did.”

The Geekwise classes have also resulted in the growing company OMW APP (On My Way), which has been making advances with their product, Ordrslip—a software as a service (SaaS) app that allows restaurants to connect to their customers, who can now place their meal orders from their phones.

Derek Payton, the director of development for Ordrslip, said that they have been able to grow their product as they reach out to the largely untapped market of smaller restaurants that previously wouldn’t have the option of their own custom app.

“You see McDonald’s coming out with their own app and you can place a McDonald’s order and the smaller restaurants—to them—something like this is beyond them,” Payton said. “There’s almost an air of exclusivity surrounding it.”

Alongside the growing success of the Ordrslip app, another Geekwise cohort is now working on a second app that will be aimed towards credit unions. The leader of this cohort, Matthew Higley, described the app as a customer relationship management tool that will help credit unions in maintaining their business operations. Like Ordrslip, it will be tailored to the individual customer.

“I’ve seen the stuff that they work with and a lot of it is quite archaic, but as time’s gone and local has become more prevalent, they’re starting to see the need to update and modernize all their equipment that they’re using,” Higley said. “So they need something along the lines of CRM, but tailored specifically to a credit union’s needs.”

Currently, the credit union app is in development, Mily said that she is hoping several more Saas products and businesses will come out of Geekwise cohorts, further bolstering the Central Valley tech scene.

“A recent statistic said that we are in the third-largest city for tech jobs in California outside of the Bay Area,” Mily said. “So it certainly is growing here and we’ve seen that over the last couple of years.”

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