Article by Naomi Hampton, intern with the U.S. Department of State, currently studying History and Politics of the Americas at University College London.
While serving in Taiwan’s military for ten years, Huang saw first-hand how the negative social stigma surrounding mental health was preventing people from getting the mental health care they needed. According to Taiwan News, an English-language newspaper, over 1.5 million people on Taiwan have experienced some form of depression, but often do not seek help.
“We are afraid that others will judge us or criticize us, that we are weak people,” Huang explains.
Huang received a degree in social work while in the military. When she completed her military service, she wanted to use her background in social work to find a way to make mental health care more accessible and acceptable to the people on Taiwan. So in 2019, Huang’s company, Bamboo Technology, created Here Hear, a revolutionary smart phone app capable of diagnosing and treating depression using artificial intelligence (AI).
Using AI technology, Here Hear diagnoses depression through the tone of an individual’s voice, their choice of words and changes in their heartbeat — which is monitored through depression, stress and sleep scales. This system allows the user to anonymously talk to the AI instead of a person, adding a layer of privacy that Huang hopes will encourage the app’s users to be more open about their mental health.
After giving an official diagnosis, the app is then able to recommend virtual treatment options, which can range from relaxation techniques to anti-depression courses. Huang says what began as a mission to develop a system that could listen to users and identify mental health concerns has now evolved to offer a full cycle of care.
The success speaks for itself: “We launched in 2019 and very shortly in three months we had 50,000 downloads on Taiwan,” Huang says.
Though the app is currently only available on Taiwan, Huang’s next goal is to expand Here Hear’s reach to people all around the world. This is something she believes she can now achieve thanks to the skills she gained through participating in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program.
After a friend recommended it to her, Huang applied to AWE because she wanted help getting her app off the ground. It was harder than expected, but she says she is grateful for everything AWE taught her about creating her business plan.
“[AWE] helped me to write all my planning and connect it with my vision, framing our mission within a realistic finance plan which is operational,” Huang says.
She hopes to expand her business plan internationally, while also encouraging more women to pursue careers in the engineering field on Taiwan — something she feels the industry lacks.
She will have the chance to share her story as of 30 AWE alumnae presenting at the Woman Impact Summit, an annual virtual global summit hosted by Heroikka, a digital platform that connects women’s project ideas and needs with global networks and social capital.
“I still can’t believe it, it feels like a really big prize [to be invited to the summit],” Huang says.
Huang says she is proud that she has been able to help support veterans by primarily hiring former colleagues to work for Here Hear. She hopes the app will help more people on Taiwan handle their mental health concerns.
“I am just really dedicated to improving the public mental health and I think that mission is my whole life,” she explains. “I just like to help people.”
The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, a program of the U.S. Department of State, gives women like Lynia Huang the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses that help their communities thrive. Since 2019, AWE has used the DreamBuilder platform developed by Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management to empower an estimated 25,000 women entrepreneurs in nearly 100 countries, and has operated on Taiwan since 2021.