”Special Representative Syed brings a strong background in business and entrepreneurship, having built global enterprises in the fields of technology, healthcare, and business services,” the announcement said.
President Biden had appoinnted Syed as Deputy Administrator of Small Business Administration last year. However, Senate Republicans stalled his nomination for nearly a year. Among Republican Senators opposing Syed’s appointment was Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who said he objected to Syed’s affiliation with EmgageUSA, a Muslim get-out-the-vote organization. Hawley claimed the group made antisemitic comments when criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
More than 200 civil rights, Jewish and other faith-based organizations rejected those claims in an August letter to the committee, saying the Republican boycott was “tinged with religious bigotry and xenophobia” and “flagrant anti-Muslim animus.” If Syed was confirmed by the Senate, he would have become the highest ranking Muslim member of the Biden administration.
Syed immigrated to the US from Pakistan as a college student to attend the College of Wooster in Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics and computer science from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
He has been an entrepreneur for 20 years. Most recently, he was CEO at Lumiata, an AI for healthcare company focused on reducing healthcare costs and improving patient outcomes. Previously, Syed was President at Freshworks. He founded the company’s North America business overseeing sales and marketing, customer success, and partnerships. Earlier in his career, he oversaw business operations at Yahoo!’s Platform & Infrastructure Division and was a product manager at Siebel Systems.
He also served on President Barack Obama’s White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and chaired the White House Initiative on AAPIs’ Economic Growth Committee. In that role, Syed led the administration’s engagement with small businesses across the U.S. after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In his new role, Special Representative Syed will draw on his experience working at the federal and state levels to advance commercial and economic policies that benefit American workers and businesses, the State Department said.
In the Obama administration, it said, he played an active role in promoting the State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program and connecting Silicon Valley innovators with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems.
As the founding Chair of the California Entrepreneurship Task Force, Special Syed drove inclusive entrepreneurship that bridged coastal regions with the state’s rural heartland and helped small businesses struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
“Serving in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs advances trade, commercial, and economic policies for America’s workers and the middle-class to help create well-paying jobs and strengthen our communities,” the State Department’s announcement said.
“Special Representative Syed will lead efforts to support the export activities of U.S. companies through approved commercial advocacy and to create and advance a level playing field for U.S. workers and companies overseas.”