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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Chris Cummings demonstrates software with historic implications at the Hamilton County INCubator

Chris Cummings had built his startup business largely on how to tell digital stories of aging parents and others to the next generation when Chattanooga library director Corrine Hill suggested that his Pass It Down business model was also ideally suited for the local library.

As part of the library's effort to try to replicate the Singapore Memory project to collect, preserve and provide access to memories and stories, Hill was eager to use the Pass It Down software and web portal to record not just family stories but memories of the entire city.

"When I heard and read about Pass It Down, I called Chris up and asked if he would come to talk to me about whether he might do this for cities, not just for families," Hill said.

The meeting with Hill soon led to a pivot and redirection for the memory-recording business and has led Cummings to refocus on selling his technology to libraries, museums, sports teams and cities around the globe.

Created by Cummings in 2015, Pass It Down began as a digital biography service to help families and friends preserve memories through video, text, audio, photo or handwritten responses to story prompts. The company now documents not just family biographies, but also acts as a virtual storytelling program and platform for businesses and a variety of nonprofit and publicly owned facilities.

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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Chris Cummings demonstrates software his Pass it Down firm has developed for museum and libraries

Pass It Down has already worked with 10 libraries, museums and cities across the country, including German auto maker Porsche, the historical society in Lake Forest, Illinois, and the Chattanooga Bicentennial Library.

Pass It Down allows the public to contribute their memories and voices to the digital archive and creates a narrative arc, displayed online, on message boards and in audio or video presentations that visitors can control on touch-screen displays. The company hosts, maintains the updates the platform for its clients via the cloud.

"Every time we launch a new exhibit we give someone a new tool to play with and demonstrate the potential of interactive story telling in a way that more and more people are using every day," said Cummings, the 32-year-old attorney-turned entrepreneur who is building Pass It Down from his office in the Chattanooga INCubator. "Every time a visitor come through the door of a museum, library or sports facility, you need a way to engage them and the way many of these facilities engage visitors today has fallen behind."

The digital format allows museums and libraries to display and engage in a more visual, interactive and real-time manner and also give more data on the topics and displays that are getting the most attention among their visitors.

"There is a whole level of data that we can unlock that allows these facilities to be smarter and more impactful institutions and part of our role is helping them to use this new data, Cummings said.

Cummings' business has already been a finalist or winner of pitch and startup contests at TechStars in Austin, Texas, the Coca-Cola BridgeCommunity and Chattanooga's Spirit of Innovation

On Friday, Cummings will pitch the Pass It Down concept as one of four finalists at the BREW 2019 pitch competition in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is offering a $100,000 investment prize to the company with the best pitch. Cummings company was among the finalists picked from 44 applicants by a team of judges with knowledge and experience in identifying investment potential.

Cummings qualified for the Louisiana pitch since he formerly lived in the state and earned his law degree at Louisiana State University.

"With the leads we are seeing, we are looking for about $400,000 to $500,000 (of extra seed capital) and we think that should be adequate to sustain our growth," Cummings said. "We're really excited that we've found a way to change the world and found the right fit and model."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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