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James Grinage & Connor Heggie

Co-Founders, Cherrypick

Cherrypick-ing Success

Rice University alums James Grinage (BS Electrical Engineering ’18) and Connor Heggie (BS Electrical Engineering’ 18) were always interested in sport and entrepreneurship, but one night over dinner they had an idea that would merge their two passions. Fast forward to two years later, James and Connor are running their own company in the athletics space – Cherrrypick, a first-of-its-kind analytics software capable of automatically analyzing volleyball matches and providing analytics.

James and Connor met during their sophomore year after Connor transferred to Rice from another institution. James was working on wireless communication research with Dr. Ashutosh Sabharwal, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. James recruited Connor to assist with Dr. Sabharwal’s project on scalable health technology. After a summer of researching, the two rising sophomores were hooked on solving hard technical problems.

Connor and James worked relentlessly to convince Dr. Saharwal to work with them as a mentor on their next project, which eventually became Cherrypick. Applying what they had been learning in class and on their former research project, the team built a platform to take video footage of intermural sports games and quickly put into highlight reels for players and coaches to watch. After extensive market research, they found a market for this in a range of sports, but found volleyball was a particularly underserved market.

Their confidence continued to grow as they sought out classes and mentors from across Rice University, particularly the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie). After taking a class on startup strategy and funding with Professor Yael Hochberg and Aziz Gilani, they become more confident in the viability of commercializing this technology. Connor and James also took the Lilie New Venture Challenge course with Dr. Hesam Panahi, where they refined their business strategy skills and got a sense of the components they needed to plan to actually launch their business. By the end of the school year, James and Connor were getting recognized for their product. They pitched their concept to investors at the Napier Rice Launch Challenge where they won the “Fan Favorite” award. Shortly after, they won “Best Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Award” in the Rice George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase.

Before graduating, Professor Sabharwal encouraged the two students to take an internship in the field to ensure the students had a wide range of experience. Both interned in GE; Connor in GE Digital and James in GE Healthcare. After their internship at GE, despite enjoying their summer experience and developing invaluable professional skills, the two students were resolute in their decision to launch Cherrypick upon graduation.

“The whole concept of creating a start-up and seeing it to fruition is extremely exciting,” James said. “It’s the mentality of sticking with something, even if it’s difficult to see the progress.” Since graduating in May 2018, James and Connor have been working on Cherrypick full time. “Both of our moms questioned our decision to pursue this full time instead of getting jobs after graduation. But they are starting to come around because of our progress.”

By spring 2019, Cherrypick will release a product for consumer use. Stay tuned with us, as we continue to follow their journey.

For more information about Cherrypick or if you can add value to Connor and James, please click here.