7 minute read
Startup Story

Atlanta startup Musicbuk virtually connects music teachers to students

A man playing the Violin 00:00

Meet the founder on a mission to make music lessons more equitable and accessible

Boasting music legends across all genres, the soul and sound of Atlanta is special. Following in his family’s footsteps growing up singing in the church choir, DuMarkus Davis never imagined the day that his voice would crack. After realizing he could no longer hit high notes, DuMarkus set his sights on the violin, which gave him the ability to sing again.

Reflecting on his own difficult experiences finding the right violin teacher in College Park, Atlanta and then graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory and teaching music lessons, DuMarkus saw both sides of the challenges of music instruction. To solve this issue, he built Musicbuk, a startup that helps musicians monetize and build a sustainable teaching career while also connecting students from all backgrounds to the perfect music instructor.

“I realized there wasn’t a solution out there for students to connect with quality music instructors. And vice-versa, for top-tier music instructors to connect with students. That’s why I built Musicbuk,” said DuMarkus.

Going to school in the startup haven of the Bay Area, DuMarkus knew he wanted to build Musicbuk into a tech-enabled platform—but as a non-technical founder, he needed help to build the platform he envisioned. Initially, DuMarkus funded Musicbuk through music gigs and lessons, and then hired teachers using a hacked tech/manual solution until he could build a tech-enabled platform. In the meantime, he moved back to Atlanta with his parents to save money and started going through accelerators with Google for Startups partner organizations Founder Gym and Techstars.

Founder Gym is an online program that trains underrepresented founders on how to raise money to scale their tech startups. After completing the program, the Founder Gym team nominated DuMarkus for the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, which provides Black-led startups with non-dilutive cash awards and Google mentorship.

“The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund is more than investment without sacrificing equity, it includes resources and support to help us grow our companies,” said DuMarkus. “Opportunities like that are rare—and that's the reason why so many of the companies, including mine, have gone on to see some immediate success and take risks to compete in the larger marketplace.”

With support from the Black Founders Fund, Musicbuk invested in marketing and made key hires including software engineers and a client relations manager to help students find the perfect instructor. These staff additions have helped Musicbuk maintain a high retention rate of around 75%.

“We've been able to help more students get access to music instructors,” said Dumarkus. “In the middle of a pandemic, we helped hundreds of instructors make income to support themselves when no one else was able to pay them.”

According to Google Trends, searches for “virtual music lessons" have grown 1,000% worldwide in the last two years.1 Since more people are searching online for music instruction, Musicbuk uses Google and YouTube Ads to connect with potential customers. Within a month of receiving Google Ads support from the Black Founders Fund, Musicbuk increased revenues by 50%. Additionally, they’ve been able to bring in more customers and reach unexpected audiences, such as individuals in retirement communities and those who use music as a form of therapy.

DuMarkus knows that it takes a village to build and scale a company, and that’s what he has found within the Black Founders Fund community. In the spirit of giving back, he also nominated 2021 Black Founders Fund recipient Jana Westbrook of healthcare education company PathwAIs. The two met through Google for Startups partner Techstars, which offers a wide range of tailored three-month accelerator programs that connect founders with funding, workshops, and resources to help them succeed. “Jana is a colleague who grew into a friend. We first met in Techstars, and I nominated Janna because she exemplifies resilience and affects positive change, particularly in the healthcare field,” said DuMarkus.

DuMarkus has raised more than $500K to date and is continuing to scale Musicbuk nationwide and on a global stage in over 7 countries, partnering with schools and universities. “We want to make music something that is easily attainable and reachable for the masses so that they can not only learn, but they can produce and play quality music,” said DuMarkus. “My hope for Musicbuk is that we put the power back into the hands of the artists and creators.”

1 Google Trends Data, Global, October 2019 - October 2021.

Learn more about MusicBuk