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.
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 Medical School researching stem cell therapies to heal scars and burn victims. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is now running to be an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) to advocate for desperately needed reforms and demand results from our political leaders.