2021 People to Watch: Chris Cummings

Chris Cummings is making storytelling easier than ever before.

Cummings is the founder of Pass It Down, a service that allows museums, galleries and businesses to create websites and virtual experiences for visitors anywhere in the world.

But the idea first came to him for a completely different reason. When he was around 17, his mother developed early-onset dementia.

“The doctor told me, ‘Spend as much time with your mom as you can. She won’t be around much longer,’” Cummings recalls.

He tried to hire a biographer to record his mother’s personal history, but it was much too expensive, especially for a college freshman.

“I wanted to be able to capture my mom’s stories, but I didn’t know how,” says the LSU alum. “Everyone has one person in their life they wish they had more of.”

In 2015, Cummings translated this wish into his company: Pass It Down. The business began as a digital biography service. Today, the company has changed, but its mission is the same: to use the power of storytelling to capture and pass down history.

Now, the company focuses on making city attractions more attainable to visitors and tourists. It translates museum exhibits to a virtual format and places city library records online.

The company gives museums, galleries and businesses a template to create their own online exhibits. It allows them to build simple and navigable websites to showcase anything they would like the public to access. In addition to mobile experiences, the company provides tools to create touch-screen displays and capture user-generated content at in-person exhibits.

And perhaps most importantly, much like Cummings wanted to save his mom’s memories, his service preserves businesses’ items digitally, saving them even if they deteriorate over time.

The company has been named one of the 100 most innovative startups in the world by Startup of the Year, and was invited to Tech Starters Austin, one of the top three accelerators in the world, in spring 2019.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has made Pass It Down a more relevant and important tool than ever.It now counts brands, universities and three Fortune 500 companies among its clients.

“We realized last spring that we’re really building something for visitors,” Cummings says. “We’re trying to get them to look [away from social media], pay attention and create a more engaging experience.”

Up until 2020, Cummings and his team had their headquarters in Austin, Texas. But after Pass It Down won a BREW Pitch Contest in November 2019, Cummings decided to open an office in Baton Rouge, hoping to expand in the area.

The past year has provided Cummings some important lessons.

“It has taught business owners how to prepare for the worst,” Cummings says. “We just focused on building a good company that’s slow but also steady.” passitdown.com


This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue of 225 Magazine.