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Google backs SA gaming firm in R300m funding deal

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Carry1st founders Cordel Robbin-Coker (left), Lucy Hoffman and Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu.
Carry1st founders Cordel Robbin-Coker (left), Lucy Hoffman and Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu.

Digital payments and mobile games publisher Carry1st has raised $20 million (R303 million) in a Series A funding round led by Silicon Valley-based venture capital (VC) firm Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from growth equity firm Avenir and Google.

The round represents Andreessen Horowitz’s first investment in a company headquartered in Africa, and the VC’s partners, David Haber and Jonathan Lai, will join Carry1st’s board as observers.

Founded in 2018, Cape Town-based Carry1st provides interactive gaming content across Africa. The company has released games such as Mine Rescue and SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off. It has also developed a proprietary payments and online marketplace to better monetise content in the region.

The company employs a team of 37 people across 18 countries, including SA.

According to a statement, a number of other prominent angel investors participated in the founding round, including Grammy winner and crypto investor Nas, and founders of Chipper Cash, Sky Mavis and Yield Guild Games.

On the back of 96% monthly revenue growth, Carry1st says it will use the funding to expand its content portfolio; grow its product offering, engineering and growth teams; and in turn acquire tens of millions of new users.

Carry1st is expanding into game co-development, working with major game studios on original concepts, and developing the infrastructure to support play-to-earn gaming.

“We’re excited to partner with this world-class group of investors who, in addition to capital, bring expertise across gaming, fintech and web3,” says Cordel Robbin-Coker, co-founder and CEO of Carry1st.

“In 2021, we launched multiple games and digital commerce solutions, achieving really strong growth. Together we can accelerate this growth and achieve our goal of becoming the leading consumer internet company in the region.”

According to Carry1st, Africa has great growth potential in the gaming market, driven by rapidly-increasing technology adoption among the continent’s 1.1 billion millennials and Gen-Zers.

A report released in 2021 by Newzoo and Carry1st showed the number of gamers in Sub-Saharan Africa is set to increase by 275% over the next decade, leading to a 728% increase in revenue.

Carry1st says it has positioned itself to be the conduit for international and local mobile game companies to profitably serve these consumers.

“We are delighted to be making our first investment in an Africa-headquartered company in Carry1st, a next-generation mobile games and fintech platform,” says Haber.

“We see immense opportunity for the company to mirror outstanding successes we’ve seen in markets like India, China and Southeast Asia. We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with founders and the Carry1st team on their mission to build the ‘Garena of Africa’.”

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