Carry1st: Driving Growth in Africa’s Massive Mobile Gaming Economy
Activating Africa’s “Frontier” Market of 800 Million Young Mobile Users
Expanding mobile services in Africa presents an enormous opportunity, with 800 million potential users still without mobile devices or connectivity. Younger users who do have smartphones want to do two things: play mobile games and interact with friends — just like their peers on every other continent.
However, access to mobile games is significantly limited in Africa, as the continent is a patchwork of languages, payment methods, and mobile carriers. This hampers developers from activating the last untouched geography in the global gaming market, which is projected to reach $545 billion by 2028.
Alumni Ventures portfolio company Carry1st is tapping into this massive market as the leading mobile games publisher and digital commerce platform in Africa.
Global Gaming Market by 2028
Powerful Tech Stack & Business Relationships
Carry1st offers games licensed from established developers, as well as a growing number of titles co-developed in-house. The company’s rapidly growing platform is constructed on a technology foundation that bridges the nuances of Africa, with a robust network of commercial connections.
The company has actively capitalized on demand from global game developers to expand into Africa. The company’s partnerships with blue chip game studios include Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty), Garena (Free Fire), and the entire Riot Games portfolio. Carry1st has a solid, growing user base playing these titles, with over 2 million monthly active users.
Powering these relationships is Carry1st’s physical presence in the African continent. A hyper-local approach to games distribution and publishing is a proven beachhead for massive consumer internet companies, fueled by the flywheel enabled with a strong platform infrastructure play.
What We Liked About Carry1st
Green D Ventures (for the Dartmouth community) sponsored our investment in Carry1st. The Green D team was impressed by Carry1st’s significant potential, strong conviction from investors, and well-experienced co-founders, including COO Lucy Hoffman (a Dartmouth alum).
- Committed Investor Syndicate: Carry1st has attracted the attention of well-known VCs with Web3 and gaming expertise, including Andreessen Horowitz. The firm’s investment in Carry1st was its first in a company headquartered in Africa. “We see immense opportunity for the company to mirror outstanding successes we’ve seen in markets like India, China, and Southeast Asia,” said David Haber, General Partner at a16z.
- Proven Emerging Market Playbook: In 2009, Singapore-based gaming developer Garena launched with an identical opportunity in Southeast Asia. In ten years the company grew to $10 billion in revenue and a $35 billion valuation.
- Highly Experienced Founding Team: CEO Cordel Robbin-Coker previously worked at Morgan Stanley and the Carlyle Group, where he led a $700 million private equity fund in sub-Saharan Africa. His investments include Nigerian fintech Paystack (acquired by Stripe for $200 million). COO Lucy Hoffman was colleagues with Cordel at Morgan Stanley and subsequently spent 11 years in South Africa building an entrepreneurial track record.
How We Are Involved
Alumni Ventures invested in Carry1st’s $27 million pre-Series B led by Bitkraft Ventures, a well-known VC firm specializing in gaming, esports, and interactive media. Andreessen Horowitz and Konvoy Ventures also participated in the round, along with Westwood Ventures (for the UCLA community) and AV’s Total Access Fund. Carry1st will use the financing to develop, license, and publish new games as well as further expand Pay1st, the company’s monetization-as-a-service solution.
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