Startup Carry1st Bags $27M From BITKRAFT & a16z!


Startup Carry1st
Image Credit: Carry1st

It’s believed in the coming decades, Africa will become a significant growth market for mobile games driven by the proliferation of technology adoption among the African youthful population. As gamers in sub-Saharan Africa increase to more than 180 million in the next five years, according to a report, gametechs like startup Carry1st are strategically positioning themselves for the successive growth phase in the industry.

Founded in 2018, Carry1st, a publisher of social games that includes interactive content across the continent of Africa has secured funding from investors such as tech and search giant Google through its Africa Investment Fund and Avenir Growth Capital. While its impressive backing is that from top-tier funds on web3 and gaming: Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Bitkraft Ventures – formally Kanvov Ventures, the lead investor in its recently announced $27 million pre-Series B round. The round also witnessed the participation of TTV Capital, Lateral Capital, Alumni Ventures, and Kepple Ventures.

“We now have, in our minds, the three best funds that focus on gaming and web3. And so it just adds even more resources, perspective, and assistance to help us achieve our goals”, chief executive officer ‘Cordel Robbin-Coker’ said. Adding that the partnership leverages Pay1st, the gaming startup’s monetization-as-a-service platform used for the company’s games and that of third-party publishers.

Prior to this development, Carry1st had in January last year announced a $20 million Series A extension round, which followed the $6 million it raised in May 2021 from a number of investors, including Riot Games, known to be the developer and publisher behind the most-played PC game globally, League of Legends. In the same year, Carry1st and Riot Games signed a partnership where the South African-based startup agreed to pilot local payments for the American video game developer starting in 2023.

In 2018 when startup Carry1st launched, it was a game studio that conceptualized, developed, and launched mobile games (starting with Carry1st Trivia). Recently, it began to acquire games to improve, re-launch, and publish at scale (Mine Rescue and Gebeta), and in the process licensed third-party games. Pay1st is the embedded finance platform that helps the startup make revenue from both categories: owned games coupled with third-party games, and Riot Games is one of its clients.

South African Artist Nasty C Far Left, Carry1st Founder & COO Far Right

According to Carry1st’s co-founder and CEO “The partnership [with Riot Games] is our big initiative this year because we built all these cool tech around payments and digital commerce, and we leverage it only for our games. But we figured that maybe as well leverage the opportunity to partner with awesome big game companies that maybe aren’t yet ready to license their games to us fully but would like to make more money in the region and understand how profitable Africa can be for them”.

A source familiar with this development also noted that the pre-Series B financing will see Carry1st drive growth in the area of license, developing, and publishing new games as well as expanding Pay1st. Carry1st experienced tremendous growth precisely in its partnership with CrazyLabs, one of its six partner studio, which became the number 1 downloaded game in the U.S. for a couple of days in July last year. While games such as The President developed by Nairobi-based Mekan Games saw Carry1st’s revenue grow by 10x over the last year, not to exclude its marketplace for virtual goods – Carry1st Shop.

 “What we found, particularly in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, and Morocco, was that there was a massive appetite for digital content, especially with the ability to pay for it in with local payment methods and, more importantly, in local currency, which is unique or unusual because most of the online purchases are denominated in dollar”, Carry1st CEO said, adding that the subject startup was the fastest-growing product last year as users and revenues surged fivefold. Speaking on the investment, ‘Jens Hilgers’, the 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”.

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