The next five years will see 300 million new internet users in Africa, according to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. Africa is the next major growth market for mobile games, driven by rapidly increasing technology adoption among the continent’s 1.1 billion millennials and Gen-Zers. A report released in 2021 showed the games industry in Sub-Saharan Africa is on track to increase by 728% in 10 years.
As a result, South African mobile gaming and web3 startup, Carry1st has raised $27M in the latest funding round led by BITKRAFT Ventures, a gaming focussed VC firm with participation from American VC Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) (recently backed Asimov, Flow) TTV Capital, Alumni Ventures, Lateral Capital, Kepple Ventures, and Konvoy.
Using the funds, the Cape Town-based mobile games publisher will develop, license, and publish new games as well as expand Pay1st, its monetisation-as-a-service offering.
Cordel Robbin-Coker, Carry1st Co-Founder and CEO, comments, “We’re delighted to partner with BITKRAFT, one of the world’s top gaming VC firms, alongside a16z and other existing investors as we continue on our mission to scale awesome content in Africa. 2022 was a year of significant growth, but together with our partners, we look forward to making 2023 even better.”
The announcement comes one year after raising $20M in a Series A extension round last January 2022 from a16z, Avenir, Google, and others.
Develops social games and interactive content
Founded by Cordel Robbin-Coker, Lucy Hoffman, and Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu in 2018, Carry1st develops social games and interactive content across Africa. The company began as a game studio and later launched games. Further, through Pay1st, its proprietary payment system, and an online marketplace, the African company develops, licenses, and publishes games.
Basically, Carry1st is building financial infrastructure to connect the various payment systems across Africa and open up the market to game studios and other publishers that want to release games in the region. The startup is solving for the biggest bottlenecks in the region: accessibility and distribution.
Hence, operating at the intersection of games, fintech, and web3, its mission is to scale high-quality content in frontier markets by solving hard problems.
Last year, the company partnered with Riot Games to pilot local payments for the Company’s games in Africa. To reiterate, Riot Games is the developer and publisher behind League of Legends, VALORANT, Teamfight Tactics, and among others.
The company has also grown its revenue over the past twelve months and signed partnerships to accelerate its growth in 2023 and beyond. Game titles like Call of Duty: Mobile, Mine Rescue, and SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off have been scaled by the company.
Jens Hilgers, Founding General Partner at BITKRAFT Ventures, said, “Africa is home to the largest population of young people in the world, and this upcoming generation will grow up digitally native with videogames as their primary entertainment preference. We have full conviction in Carry1st’s impressive founding team and their vision of building out foundational infrastructure and localized content, ensuring that gaming and interactive entertainment in Africa will thrive!”
Jon Lai, a16z Games General Partner, stated, “We’ve been really impressed by Carry1st’s ability to deliver on our shared vision of building the leading next-generation publisher for Africa. a16z is excited to continue to invest in the Company and support the next chapter in its growth.”