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How game publishing startup, Carry1st, plans to scale across Africa with $20m series A extension

Via its business and revenue model, as well as future plans, Carry1st’s strategy to achieve its goals are outlined here

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Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu, Lucy Hoffman and Cordel Robbin-Coker, co-founders, Carry1st
Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu, Lucy Hoffman and Cordel Robbin-Coker, co-founders, Carry1st

Carry1st recently closed its Series A extension round, raising $20,000,000. This is in addition to $6,000,000 raised in May 2021, bringing its total Series A raise to $26,000,000. 

The round for Carry1st was led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from new investors such as Avenir and Google, with follow-on investments from Riot Games and TTV Capital. 

While the African gaming industry has significant monetisation potential, international/regional game developers/studios operating there often find monetisation difficult, due to fragmented game distribution channels and payment methods. 

Carry1st is leveraging its knowledge of Africa to handle the distribution needs of its partners, while also aggregating different payment methods to make in-game payments seamless for gamers when they interact with their or partners’ games. 

The company is based in South Africa with a team size of 37 people working fully remotely across 18 countries with plans to scale to other African countries.

Comparative average revenue per install, $

Comparative average revenue per install, $

Business model

Who: Carry1st’s stakeholders include – game developers/studios (looking to market their games to local and/or international audiences), gamers (who interact with their or partners’ games) and fintechs (with whom it partners for airtime/ticket sales and provision of in-game payment options). 

What: Carry1st was founded in 2018 as a game studio to develop its own games but subsequently pivoted more towards publishing, where it handles the distribution, marketing and financing of mobile games for game developers/studios. 

How: Game developers looking to partner with Carry1st typically fill a form on the latter’s website stating – the game title, number of published games, video/presentation about the game, for example, all of which it reviews before deciding on whether to follow up with the company or not.

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Revenue model

The company claims that revenue from games increased ~90% on a MoM basis since 2H21, and that it has signed publishing deals for seven games with six studios globally. Further, Carry1st typically adopts a revenue share model with its partners, whilst leveraging its expansive network to drive distribution, visibility and gamer retention within and outside Africa for them. 

Recently, it launched an online marketplace for selling virtual goods e.g. airtime/mobile data to gamers, who pay either via bank transfers/crypto, thus enabling it to earn a margin on each sale.

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Carry1st online shop – a Nigerian user’s perspective

Carry1st online shop – a Nigerian user’s perspective

Future plans

Monies raised will be used to expand its content portfolio and engineering teams. It also plans to double down on its user acquisition efforts while exploring game co-development opportunities with studios. Finally, it plans to develop its infrastructure to support play-to-earn gaming in Africa, hence its decision to venture into web3 following this raise.

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