For a startup, winning $20,000 is huge, so a prize of $200,000 can "literally change everything."
Those are the winnings that Chris Cummings, founder of digital storytelling platform and local startup Pass It Down, has in his sights.
The startup has been selected as one of 30 businesses out of 13,000 applicants to participate in the semifinals of the Miller Lite Tap the Future competition. The semifinals prize is $20,000, and the winner of the entire contest gets $200,000.
Cummings created Pass It Down to make it easy to document anecdotes and memories through video, audio, photos and text. It's a high-tech, user-friendly oral history platform aimed at helping chronicle memories and facts that would otherwise be lost. Click here for more in-depth background about the startup.
Cummings' mother was sick from the day he was born. She had multiple sclerosis.
"She got it when she was 23; she was in her senior year of college, about to be a teacher, and she woke up and couldn't move one day," he said.
That was in the 1980s, when doctors knew less about the unpredictable and often-debilitating disease, which affects the central nervous system, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Seven and eight years after her diagnosis, Cummings' mother had two boys. By the time Cummings was 17, he was his mother's power of attorney, he said.
"I think the realization I had at some point was that I didn't get to know all the stuff you want to know about your mom ... those little things because her dementia had progressed," he said.
Winning $20,000 would allow the budding company to pay for marketing and bring on more talent, Cummings said.
The grand prize of $200,000 would allow the company to hire developers and create a native app. It would allow for a national marketing campaign and provide funds to translate the questions, which are used as prompts for storytelling, into different languages.
But even without winning, being selected as a semifinalist is verification of the product's value, Cummings said.
"More than anything, just being one of the 20 is validation that our memories and stories are incredibly valuable, and that we aren't doing a good job of [preserving/documenting them]," he said.
Cummings will pitch at the semifinals July 28 in Atlanta. If he wins, he'll move on for the chance to win the grand prize, which local startup Bellhops won in 2014.
Gig Tank and fundraising
Pass It Down, which has five people working to get the platform launched by fall, is also currently participating in Gig Tank 365, which recently relaunched as a year-round startup accelerator.
In February, leaders said that the accelerator, formerly called Gig Tank—which supports entrepreneurs developing applications and business models that leverage gigabit networks—would change to Gig Tank 365 (adding the focus areas of 3-D printing, software-defined networking and health care).
"It's been great to work next to other companies that are building things, too," Cummings said. "Steel sharpens steel. To be surrounded by other people doing the same thing you are—it's really exciting and it makes you better."
Cummings has gotten help and resources in areas such as legal and accounting, and Gig Tank 365 leaders also helped him get Amazon Web Service credits—which means Amazon will store the company's data for a year for no charge.
A chance to pitch to and meet investors at the end of Gig Tank 365, which is at the end of this month, is important for helping Pass It Down officially launch.
The company is still in its beta phase and is ramping up for its first round of seed funding.
Click here for more information about Pass It Down.