Changing people’s Minds for the better
This is the guiding principle of Tan Le, a young inventor who devised a way for people to better understand how their minds work through “Emotiv Insight,” a device which uses EEG to provide a live feed of what goes on inside the human brain. Since she began her work, Tan has been dedicated to finding new ways for people to get a glimpse of how their minds work and, thus, develop the means to change their lives.
But what sets Tan apart from many of today’s “geniuses” of biotechnology is her humble origin, and how she rose above the barriers of normality and proved to be exceptional in a very positive way – contributing to brain research by providing the means of looking into one’s mind for an affordable cost:
“EMOTIV INSIGHT measures your brainwaves and translates it into meaningful data to help you make the most of your cognitive performance. The neuroheadset can measure, track and help you improve your Attention, Focus, Engagement, Interest, Excitement, Affinity, Relaxation and reduce Stress levels.”
Tan Le was born in Vietnam in late 1977 to a day trader and a housewife. The war had just ended a few years earlier, and Vietnam was literally devastated; thousands had been killed, and even more were left homeless and poor. This was not at all an ideal time or place to raise a child, and so, sometime after Tan was born, her parents decided to move overseas to give her a better life.
Moving To Australia
When Tan was four years old, she and her family moved to Australia to start better lives. After settling down and finding jobs, Tan’s parents worked tirelessly to ensure a brighter future for their children. And so, Tan and her siblings lived much more comfortable and convenient lives than they would have lived in Vietnam.
Tan started studying around the age of five, and showcased her intellect and creativity by excelling in academics. She became particularly interested in science, and spent her time reading books and participating in experiments. She also excelled through her high school years at Mac Robertson Girls High School, finishing with honors in 1994.
The Benefits Of Being Different
Living as foreigners in a predominantly-white country, Tan and her family did experience some racial discrimination in Australia, but never allowed it to hinder their quality of life. In school, Tan’s Vietnamese heritage and slightly-different behaviour and beliefs were often targeted by bullies, but she remained strong and optimistic. Gradually, Tan’s kind and friendly personality allowed her to make more friends, who proved to be very helpful later on.
Being different was no problem for the young Tan, as she was taught by her parents not to be afraid of being different; when she was still young, her parents instilled in her the importance of being herself and not letting others put her in their mould. Indeed, this trait has helped her throughout her career and enabled her to discover things most people would not because of their fear of stepping out of what is “common.”
Tan commented on the benefits of being different in a later interview:
“It is okay to be an outsider, a recent arrival, new on the scene — and not just okay, but something to be thankful for... Because being an insider can so easily mean collapsing the horizons, can so easily mean accepting the presumptions of your province.”
After Tan graduated from high school at sixteen years old, she entered Monash University in Melbourne and studied law, commerce and accounting. During her time at the university, Tan not only demonstrated exceptional academic prowess, but also actively participated in many extra-curricular events, establishing a reputation as one of the school’s most promising students. By the time she earned her Bachelor’s degree as an honor student in 1998, Tan received numerous job offers from companies who were impressed with her credentials.
Early Career Years
Tan’s work earned her the “Young Australian of the Year” award in 1998. One year later, just a few months after graduating, Tan began working as a solicitor for “Freehills,” one of the most prominent law firms in Australia, and also found herself becoming a member of the Australian Citizenship Council. Her appointment to the council was greatly inspired by her performance as President of the Vietnamese Community of Footscray Association, with which she began working in her college years.
The following year, in 2000, Tan worked with the RMIT Business in Entrepreneurship as a member of the organization’s advisory board. That same year, she co-founded “SASme International,” a leading company in Australia’s SMS application market in Australia which is widely-credited for the market’s growth and popularity. Under Tan’s leadership, “SASme” grew into an international company, adding branches in many locations around the world.
Since then, Tan’s career has gone nowhere but up. Tan has experienced success after success, including being voted one of Australia’s “Most Successful Women Under 30.” In 2001, she was appointed as an Ambassador for the Status of Women and sat on the boards of various prominent organizations which she helped develop.
It was in 2003, however, when Tan created something that thrust her into the international spotlight. In December of that year, Tan helped established “Emotiv Systems,” a research company/organization which helped disabled people by enabling them to use their minds to gain control of certain electronic equipment. One of its more well-known projects was “Emotiv Insight,” a device which enables a person to control certain objects through radio signals that are transmitted from his/her mind to the object that needs to be moved; as an example, imagine using your mind to move an electric wheelchair.
In an interview, Tan discussed how she and her co-founders established Emotiv:
“The inspiration to develop the Emotiv Insight came from our desire to empower ourselves and others to understand their own brain and gain insights into how to improve their own cognitive fitness and performance. We also wanted to create innovative technologies that are affordable and easy to use in order to accelerate brain research globally.”
Taking The Next Step: “Emotiv Lifesciences”
Emotiv was highly-successful, and became one of the largest brain research institutions in Australia. In 2011, Tan took Emotiv to the next level by founding “Emotiv Lifesciences,” a bioinformatics company which helps people understand how their brains work by utilizing EEG and making it more “consumer-friendly.” Since its founding, “Emotiv Lifesciences” has helped break the barrier of the human mind by producing inventions that make EEG use cheaper and more practical. The success of Emotiv Lifesciences earned Tan a spot in Forbes Magazine’s “50 Names You Need to Know in 2011.”
Today, Tan Le continues to find ways to help people gain better understanding of their minds. She believes that brain research is very important in society today because it will improve the lives of many in the future. A truly admirable and remarkable individual, Tan has used her amazing skills and talents to create something that will truly benefit the world and create a brighter future for generations to come:
“As we all live longer, we want to improve our quality of life. People understand the importance of their physical health. We’re putting a spot light on the importance of your cognitive health and helping you to gain insight into how your brain develops and changes.”
Organizations and Programs Supported
- Emotiv Lifesciences
- Massive Black
- World Economic Forum
- PLAN International Australia
- SASme International
- Australian Citizenship Council
Awards and Achievements
- 1998: Named “Young Australian of the Year” and included in the “30 Most Successful Women Under 30”
- 2007 - 2008: Won the “Who’s Who of Australian Women” (twice)
- 2009: Named a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum
- 2010: Included in the “Most Influential Women in Technology” by Fast Company
- 2011: Included in the “50 Names You Need to Know” by Forbes Magazine
- Became a Patron of the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development Program
- Became an Ambassador for the Status of Women
- Named Special Visitor to the United Kingdom as a guest of the British High Commission and Foreign Commonwealth Office
- Became a Goodwill Ambassador for Australia to Asia
- Featured in the Eternity Exhibition of the National Museum of Australia and the Immigration Museum
LinkedIn (Tan Le)
Wikipedia (Tan Le)
Med Gadget (EMOTIV INSIGHT EEG for Gaming, Meditation, Self-Criticism Sessions, Now on Kickstarter; Interview with Tan Le, Founder and CEO)
TED (Speakers Tan Le: Entrepreneur)