Emma Yang stands outside on a city street, looking at the camera. She has medium length black hair and is wearing a red turtle neck.

Emma Yang: Student and inventor

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Emma Yang to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global. 

#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?

Emma Yang: The problem I am solving is the difficulties Alzheimer's patients face in their day-to-day lives. Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that affects more than 50 million people worldwide. The most prevalent problems caused by Alzheimer’s are memory loss, confusion and difficulty remembering loved ones as the disease progresses.

I founded Timeless, a mobile app powered by artificial intelligence based facial recognition technology, which empowers Alzheimer’s patients to remember events, stay connected and engaged with friends and family, easily contact loved ones, and remember and recognize people by name and their relationship.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

EY: My grandmother's difficulties with the illness inspired me to develop Timeless. Originally, I thought it was just going to be an app for her. However, I realized my innovation was a breakthrough when I received countless emails and messages seeking information about Timeless from many Alzheimer's patients' families and friends who thought that Timeless was a novel solution to the problems they face.

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

EY: Funding and technical obstacles are some of the challenges I had to overcome in the innovation process. It was challenging for me to raise funds because it's difficult for people to believe that someone my age would be able to deliver. Very fortunately, I managed to raise money through our crowdfunding campaign and the grants I received through competition and startup challenge.

I also ran into many unexpected technical challenges during the development process. This is my first time developing a fully functional app from end to end, so there were many technical difficulties I didn't anticipate. However, I was very fortunate to have great mentors and advisors who helped me overcome them.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

EY: Knowing that what I do will be able to help millions of families around the world inspires me to love my work and keeps me going every day.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

EY: Perseverance. Entrepreneurship and innovation take hard work and patience. Failure is almost inevitable. But what is most important is that you have to believe in yourself, persevere through the challenges, and not let others stop you from pursuing your dream and passion.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

EY: Women in innovation are critically important in driving innovation. True innovation takes place when the ideas and needs of everyone in society are represented. When women’s views and insights are not included as part of the innovation process, we are missing opportunities to embrace and engage all human perspectives. Evidence has shown that companies with more women in leadership produce higher financial performance. The best products in the world are built with the balanced view of all genders, all races.

Follow Emma Yang on Twitter.

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.