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Christopher Cummings was inspired to create the digital storytelling platform Pass It Down by his mother, who suffered from demntia when he was a teenager.

Pass It Down

Founded: Spring 2015

About the founder: Cummings, 28, is an attorney. He has a bachelor’s degrees in political science and international relations from Louisiana State University, where he also got his law degree. Cummings co-founded Woople, based in Chattanooga, and is a former CEO of SwiftWing Ventures. During his undergraduate studies, he was a six-time collegiate state champion in public speaking and debate and a national champion speaker, he says. Cummings now helps coach collegiate debate, public speaking and appellate advocacy.

About the company: Pass It Down is a free digital storytelling platform that allows users to create personal stories through photos, words, audio and video (one minute or less). The company plans to allow users to export stories to books and compact discs, for purchase. Revenue will come from targeted advertisements that are built from categories of questions and stories a user is involved with. Advertisers also will be able to sponsor questions and content. The company is exploring a subscription model. Rodger Maarfi is Pass It Down’s Chief Technology officer.

The pitch: The startup is looking for $500,000 to $750,000 to put toward native app development (Android and iOS) and marketing. Pass It Down already has one private investor, which Cummings declined to name, and has raised $235,000.

Contact: passitdown.com

Everybody loves stories. It's been true for all of human evolution. But not everybody can figure out how to tell stories, even when they desperately want to.

Pass It Down, a Chattanooga startup launching in November, hopes to remedy that problem. Founder and CEO Christopher Cummings says he wanted to start a company of this sort for many years. The reason is personal. His mother had multiple sclerosis. By the time Cummings was in high school, she had developed dementia. "She'd have seen me 15 minutes before, but couldn't remember," recalls Cummings, 28. "I realized when I was asking her questions, I wasn't going to get much out of her. My mom had really fascinating stories, but those stories hadn't been passed down."

Pass It Down allows users to create stories for free using a phone, tablet or computer. Users can tell their stories with photos, words and audio. They also can create videos that last up to one minute, though Cummings is working on a subscription model to allow for longer videos. Users can keep their stories private or share them publicly.

Sure, you can create stories and videos on Facebook and decide how to share them, but that service doesn't prompt you with questions to develop your narrative, Cummings says. And figuring out how to create the story, then actually doing it, is the hard part for most folks, he says.

"Most of the time, (people) don't do it," Cummings says. "We don't know where to begin."

Cummings also wanted to offer multiple platforms for storytelling and choices for how to share tales, something he contends other services don't do. For example, StoryWorth, a competitor, doesn't offer video and is only for private storytelling.

Cummings says about 500 people from around the country have been trying Pass It Down during its beta-testing phase, which started late last year. Pass It Down connected with them through social media and the genealogy industry.

The startup plans to make money through sponsored-content models that involve story-telling.

"The best advertising a company can do is to tell a story," Cummings says. "Those don't get blocked."

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