New app Culture Pilot, founded by 2 women of color, focuses on culture and history

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ByWill Jones via WLS logo
Monday, September 12, 2022
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Mariyam Khalid and Barbara Kuofie harnessed their engineering backgrounds to launch the Culture Pilot app last year.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former coworkers Mariyam Khalid and Barbara Kuofie became fast friends over their immigrant backgrounds and their love of travel.

"We have been to Italy, Spain, Iceland, Mexico, Costa Rica," Khalid said.

During a trip to Italy, they came up with an idea to start an app for travelers who want to learn more about the places they're visiting.

"We were looking at all these amazing architecture and paintings and had no idea what we were looking at. We were like enough is enough. We are both tech people. Let's build the solution to the problem that we're facing," Khalid said.

They harnessed their engineering backgrounds to launch the Culture Pilot app last year.

"Anywhere you land we want you to open Culture Pilot and learn about that culture," Kuofie said.

Locally, the app features content from places such as the American Writers Museum, Design Museum of Chicago, Faie African Art Gallery and Graceland Cemetery on the North Side.

Graceland Executive Director Jensen Allen sees Culture Pilot as another way for people to uncover the stories of people buried at the cemetery.

"Pretty much the history of Chicago really is at Graceland," she said.

Khalid put the app to work at Graceland, stopping at the gravesite of Cubs legend Ernie Banks. After a snapping a picture of his tombstone, the app provides a brief audio and text biography of Banks.

Users of the app can also find content about historical places in several other cities in the U.S.

The Culture Pilot app is available for Apple and Android users for free.

Kuofie and Khalid hope to expand their reach to more cities and outside of the U.S. to help people better understand different cultures.

But raising capital has been a challenge. A common hurdle for women-led startups, particularly those founded by women of color.

"Less than 1 percent of funding currently goes to women of color, women founders of color. And we definitely feel the brunt of that as we're looking for funding, as we're looking to expand, but we believe we can do it," Khalid said.