African focused, mobile game publisher, Carry1st has raised $6 million in funding to tap into Africa’s billion-dollar gaming market.
Carry1st provides a full publishing solution, handling distribution, localization, user acquisition, marketing, customer experience, and monetization for its partners.
The round of funding was led by Konvoy Ventures, a video game venture capital firm based in Colorado. As part of the agreement, Konvoy Ventures managing partner, Jackson Vaughan is joining the company’s board.
Other participants in the round include Riot Games (maker of League of Legends), Raine Ventures, Tokyo-based AET Fund/Akatsuki (creators of Dragon Ball Z), and fintech specialist TTV Capital.
According to the company, the latest funding will be used to secure new partnerships with global gaming studios, launch and scale its existing portfolio of games, and expand its product, engineering, and growth teams.
Matching the Gaming Demand in Africa
Co-founded in 2018 by Sierra Leonean, Cordel Robbin-Coker, American, Lucy Parry and Zimbabwean software engineer, Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu, Carry1st looks to match gaming demands in Africa to its fast-growing youth population.
The startup already has offices in New York, Lagos and South Africa and has also launched two games as direct downloads from its site, Hyper! and Carry1st Trivia.
Carry1st Trivia quickly became the No. 1 Android game Kenya and Nigeria in 2019, with more than 1.5 million downloads.
After about a year in the market, the company learned how critical it was to have local payments solutions as users don’t have credit cards that are accepted by Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
“No one was doing anything ambitious with content, and so we decided to start with gaming and try to build a really interesting mobile internet company for the region,” Hoffman said in an interview.
In early 2020, the company raised a $2.5 million seed round and built a payments platform ‘Pay1st’ which will allow users make payments using local payment methods.
The platform is now available in 6 different African countries providing an embedded fintech solution that consolidates popular payment methods.
Robbin-Coker also revealed that the company was about to sign seven titles during 2020. New York’s Cosi Games, Ethiopia’s Qene Games and Sweden’s Raketspel, which has had more than 120 million downloads across all its games, are among those that signed up.
In 2020, the company was inducted into the Mastercard Start Path program for the top ten promising fintech businesses globally.
Impact on Africa’s Gaming
Speaking on the impact of funding on the Africa gaming scene, Boluwatife Omotayo, an industry expert explained that the increased cash flow will create more jobs and bring more global mobile entertainment content to thrill Africans.
He added that it will help improve local adoption, monetization, boost the e-Sport ecosystem and signal to international players that there’s a market on the continent.
Vaughan on his part expressed that Carry1st is solving for distribution with its payment infrastructure and it is approaching sub-regions with contextual understanding.
Similarly, Brendan Mulligan, head of corporate development at Riot Games, acknowledged that the number of gamers in Africa is exploding and Carry1st will introduce games to a passionate and important audience.
Despite the growth, monetization is a big challenge in the African market. The mobile gaming market in Nigeria for example is estimated to be worth approximately $126 million out of the $140 billion global video games industry.
However, Hoffman said the company is solving that with its regional fintech focus.
“We essentially just got really inspired by some of the dominant demographic trends on the continent. Given the influx of cheap smartphones from China, people are coming online for the first time. They’re bypassing laptops, PCs, and consoles and just going mobile-first. And so we thought it was a really interesting opportunity to get involved in the mobile space, as the cost of data is coming down.”Lucy Hoffman, chief operating officer at Carry1st
With around 1.1 billion Millennials and Generation Zs, Africa is the fastest-growing region for mobile game downloads. Despite this potential, international studios often find it difficult to profitably serve African gamers due to unresolved distribution and digital payments ecosystems.
Carry1st with its new payment system and business model wants to help its partners tap into the African market.
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