A Mercer University alumnus was recently named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the social media category. Conrad Cornell, a 2018 graduate in international business, and his longtime friend, Drew Williams, a 2018 University of Mississippi business, management and marketing graduate, were recognized for their up-and-coming app, Press Sports.
During college, the pair tried to start a few small-scale businesses that didn’t pan out before focusing their efforts on a market where they knew there was a gap. Cornell and Williams played baseball in high school, and the recruiting aspect was a challenge. Cornell said he graduated high school with no offers to play college ball but was contacted that summer by Mercer, where he ended up playing baseball for four years.
After surveying middle- and high-school students in Macon, Cornell and Williams found that the majority of athletes weren’t comfortable sharing self-promotional athletic content on mainstream social media platforms. So they got to work building a sports social network where athletes could better market themselves and attract recruiters.
They entered and won second place in Mercer’s Next Big Idea Competition in April 2018, launched Press Sports the next month and have since raised $2.8 million in funding from venture capital funds like Weekend Fund and General Catalyst.
Press Sports could be described as a cross between LinkedIn, TikTok and Instagram. The app provides a platform for athletes to digitally catalog their seasons, as they share photos and video highlights; connect with other athletes and coaches; and build their personal brand.
“We have a really positive, uplifting community of athletes supporting each other,” said Cornell, who lives in Atlanta. “You look at what’s going on in social media and what it’s doing to the mental health of everyone using it. It’s a super toxic thing in the world. If you’re really smart, you can curate your own experience to be a healthy thing, but it’s really hard to do that. With Press Sports being sports-focused, a lot of that fear (of negative attention) is relinquished. The community makes it a safe platform.”
Three years after its creation, the app now has 275,000 registered athletes and 2,500 registered college coaches, and 750,000 highlights have been posted from 70 countries. The Press Sports team has also expanded from two to 15.
“We actually retain our users past their college commitment and into their college careers and pro careers in a lot of cases,” Cornell said. “It’s a good recruiting tool for athletes of all levels.”
Some big partnerships and licensing agreements are in the works that could mean even greater things for Press Sports in the future. Cornell wants to continue expanding the company internationally and has a target goal of 1.5 million registered users. The app is also in the process of being rebuilt with improved features.
And as for the recent recognition by Forbes, Cornell said he’s grateful but isn’t letting it go to his head.
“It was a surprise,” Cornell said. “It’s some good networking. But at the end of the day, it’s PR, and it doesn’t increase the value of the business. You just got to be thankful for it and not get too caught up in it.”