Entrepreneurs are often born when they discover a problem that needs fixing.

For Marcus Cooksey, it was his frustration with available bookkeeping and accounting software that was the starting point for Dallas-based DUKE.AI.

In 2019, Cooksey, 49, put his own money into creating the software platform needed for the trucking business he started. The software now has his 7,000 users across his 10 shipping companies, and revenue last year surpassed his $1 million.

Added to DUKE.AI’s achievements is a vote of confidence and $100,000 from tech giant Google. This month, Cooksey joined Joseph Akintolayo at his Deposits and was named by Google as the founder of North Texas, where he was selected for Startups’ Black Founders Fund.

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“I was overwhelmed,” Cooksey said of the honor. Support.”

Software developer Marcus Cooksey was frustrated with his accounting software options...
Software developer Marcus Cooksey was frustrated with the accounting software options available to him as a shipping company founder. In 2019, he launched his own program called Duke.ai, which currently has 7,000 users. (Juan Figueroa/Staff Photographer)

Cooksey previously worked as a loader and sorter for UPS to help pay for college. After that, he founded the trucking business He LUI Transport in 2015 and in 2019 he grew from 1 truck to 5 trucks.

While working on bookkeeping for LUI, he was frustrated with his accounting software options.

“I run a transportation business and have found a lot of inaccuracies,” said Cooksey, who spent 13 years working for Dallas-based Texas Instruments.

DUKE.AI has grown to 25 employees and expects to surpass $2 million in revenue this year.

Cooksey has two pieces of advice for entrepreneurs.

“Start earlier than I do,” he said. “And you constantly underestimate the amount of work and money it takes to be successful. By all means, triple that.”

Cooksey and Akintolayo are the latest in a string of North Texas companies to be recognized by the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. Past winners include:

2021 Winners

  • looks happyDallas-based digital wedding planning platform founded in 2016, announced in June that it closed a seed round worth $1.3 million. The cash injection made founder and former wedding planner Gigi McDowell one of her 98 black female founders to raise over $1 million in venture funding. McDowell said being part of the 2021 Google cohort was “a huge deal and we were able to actually do the validation. The funding was “perfectly timed,” she said, as the company had finished Techstars Austin’s 2021 accelerator program and the Google for Startups Accelerator for Black Founders program. Since being recognized by Google, she has grown the team members from her three to her eleven. October is a big month for the company as it launches a fully automated wedding planning tool, couples take onboarding her quiz This will determine how they plan, assign them to the appropriate AI personality type, and guide them through the process. According to McDowell, the idea behind her company is to offer wedding planning at more reasonable prices and allow couples to access wedding planners outside their area.
  • Safer Management Co., Ltd. is a software company that sells AI attendance tracking software to schools. The Dallas company was founded in his 2020 by Frederick Burns, a software developer and father who noticed the inefficiencies in the sign-in process at his twin’s school. Burns said Google’s award “added an extra layer of trust” for the company to reach out to new schools and partners. Before being approved, the company had three members of his team, but now he has grown to a team of eight. The software is used by 84 schools in four school districts. Next, the company is releasing a product with personalized study plans to help students who fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools switched to remote learning. The company was also accepted into his Apple Entrepreneurship Camp in October.
  • XR Sports Group is a Frisco-based company that enables content creators to build fan engagement hubs using social contests and mobile games. In 2019, he was founded by Kedreon Cole, a Navy veteran who has worked in the software field for his decade. In 2021, XR Sports Group has partnered with the Southwestern Athletic Conference as the official esports technology provider.
  • Customer Xi is a Dallas-based consumer insights platform founded by Hakeem James in 2019 to help restaurants and retailers accelerate their digital transformation. In July, the company announced a partnership with Qu POS, a restaurant information company. Qu offers free access to CustomerX.i’s platform to all restaurants using its platform.
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2020 Winners:

  • share share Rent out space and equipment when your hair salon is not in use, and make it available for booking by independent hair stylists. Founded at McKinney in 2015 by industry veterans Tye and Courtney Caldwell in 2015 and released the app in 2017. ShearShare won and received a $500,000 investment. It has raised $6.2 million since 2018, according to tracking site Crunchbase. Since moving its headquarters to Buffalo in 2021, ShearShare has released his second version of the app, expanding to more than 900 cities.
  • canary is a Dallas-based diversity, equity and inclusion technology company founded by Mandy Price and Starr Carter. The company was founded in 2018, raised about $5 million and has a team of 23 people. Price said Google’s funding and visibility were “tremendous” and “really important” to the company’s growth and success. We have built an impressive customer list including 7-Eleven, Silicon Labs, Neiman Marcus, Yum! brand. Price said it took about 18 months to create the software and platform, so the product didn’t start selling until 2020. Growth was slow at first, but accelerated by the end of 2021, he said. 2021 is 5 times more than the previous year. This year, Kanarys and the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce partnered to evaluate the diversity, equity and inclusion practices of his 101 North Texas businesses. Also this year his CRM platform HubSpot invested in his Kanarys. Through the partnership, HubSpot’s 135,000 customers can now access a quiz created by Kanarys to determine where companies are on his DEI journey.

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