About Bilal

As a child of immigrants who currently rents and resides in the Tenderloin, Bilal has dedicated his life to helping others with experience in both the public and private sectors. He is a former policy analyst in the Obama Administration, and a founder of private and philanthropic organizations.

He has launched innovative programs to support restaurant workers with a guaranteed income, build one of the first computer labs in Chinatown, and convert vacant office space into universities and student housing. Bilal understands we must build bridges across San Francisco’s political lines to get results, and has collaborated with activists, civil servants, and elected officials to shine a light on government corruption and champion legislation to address our housing and climate crises.

Bilal’s Journey

Bilal’s mother, Samira
Bilal’s father, Aamer

A story of immigration

Bilal’s parents, Aamer and Samira, immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area from Pakistan in the early 1980’s. Their family, spanning three generations, started their new life living together in student housing, but would take regular trips to the Tenderloin to get a taste of home at their favorite restaurant Shalimar. Over time, his father transitioned from being a student to becoming a technology inventor, while his mother worked later as a librarian and a community organizer helping refugees settle in America. From humble beginnings, Bilal’s parents were able to build a pathway into the middle class and achieve the American dream.

A story of nonprofit beginnings

Bilal attended Stanford University, studying Biology and Economics, and pursuing multiple paths with the aim of creating a just and equitable society. In pursuit of economic justice he started a microlending non-profit, Gumball Capital, to give small loans to people across the world in an effort to combat poverty. At the same time, Bilal worked as a scientist at Stanford conducting neuroscience research in the Sapolsky Lab. In 2009, Bilal was one of 100 students from across the world selected as a Gates Scholar to study for a Masters in Bioscience Enterprise at the University of Cambridge in England, writing his graduate thesis on Obamacare and healthcare reform.

Bilal’s college graduation from Stanford University
Bilal starting his non-profit, Gumball Capital
During Bilal’s time in the Obama Administration

A story of effective government

After graduating from Cambridge, Bilal worked in the Obama Administration in the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship as a Policy Analyst. In this role, he focused on small business policy research which was incorporated into the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, one of President Obama’s key legislative achievements, and focused on bridging the nation’s digital divide by working on policies to expand the country’s 4G infrastructure. During his tenure in the Obama administration, Bilal felt the pull to return home to the San Francisco Bay Area and help small businesses innovate and create good paying jobs to give people an equitable chance to build a life and thrive.

A story of innovation

Bilal returned home to the Bay Area and began working in computing, co-founding ClearBrain, a startup, in San Francisco. Bilal worked to build an organization with the purpose of democratizing technology for mission-minded organizations, like The Trevor Project, the mental health app Calm, Vote Forward, GoFundMe, Change.org and others, as wells as thousands of small and medium sized businesses so they could compete with tech giants like Amazon.

Bilal with the entire ClearBrain team
Bilal at the launch of the Let's Talk About Us campaign

A story of local philanthropy

In 2020, Bilal co-founded the 13 Fund foundation to invest in local nonprofits in San Francisco. As the children of immigrants, he and his co-founder recognized that issues relating to small businesses, women’s rights, and anti-Asian hate were under-resourced. He launched philanthropic campaigns that have raised over a quarter million dollars for causes such as a guaranteed income program for restaurant workers facing job and wage loss during the pandemic, as well as bystander training for members of the AAPI community. Recently he has helped launch the Let’s Talk About Us campaign to raise awareness for domestic violence, build one of the first computer labs in Chinatown to bridge the digital divide, and served as a board member in the Tenderloin Community Benefit District. 

A story of political change

Inspired to turn the philanthropic work he was pursuing into policy, Bilal ran for State Assembly in the 2022 Special Election. Running on a platform of innovation he advocated for bold new solutions like the Built for Zero plan to address homelessness and a California Green New Deal to address our climate crisis. Impressively, he received the endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle and went on to receive 22% of the vote in a 4-way race in just 3 months. Bilal was proud to endorse Assemblymember Matt Haney and has since collaborated with him on climate legislation, and also served as a policy advisor to transgender activist and civil servant Honey Mahogany in her campaign for District 6 Supervisor. 

Bilal at a campaign event in his run for State Assembly
Bilal supporting Honey Mahogany in her campaign for Supervisor
Bilal launching the Upgrade California campaign
Bilal collaborating with Assemblymember Matt Haney on climate legislation

A story of bold reform

Since running for office, Bilal has continued his work in San Francisco and California fighting for economic and climate justice. He launched the Upgrade California campaign to advocate for legislation to ensure zero emission buildings across the state. He investigated stories around the barriers to building housing in San Francisco and the root causes behind our teacher payroll and public safety staffing crises, while introducing new partnerships that will lead to the development of universities and student housing expanding to downtown. He ran for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) in 2024, advocating for desperately needed reforms and demand results from our political leaders.