SA mobile gaming startup Carry1st raises $20m from a16z, Google

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South African mobile gaming startup Carry1st has raised a US$20 million Series A extension round from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Avenir and Google to help it scale across Africa.

Founded in 2018 and based in Cape Town, Carry1st is a mobile games publisher serving the first generation of African smartphone users, which has so far reached millions of users across the region with games such as Mine Rescue and SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off. The startup has also launched a proprietary payments and online marketplace to better monetise content.

Carry1st raised US$6 million in Series A funding in May of last year, and it has now announced a US$20 million extension to that round, led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). Founded in 2009 by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, a16z is a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley that invests across stages and has US$28.2 billion in assets under management across multiple funds. Carry1st is its first African investment.

The round also features participation from Avenir and Google, as well as a number of prominent angel investors, including Grammy winner and renowned crypto investor Nas and the founders of Chipper Cash, Sky Mavis, and Yield Guild Games. Investors from Carry1st’s May 2021 Series A are backing the company again, namely Riot Games, Konvoy Ventures, Raine Ventures, and TTV Capital.

On the back of 96 per cent monthly revenue growth, Carry1st will use the additional capital to expand its content portfolio; grow its product, engineering, and growth teams; and acquire tens of millions of new users. It is also expanding into game co-development, working with leading 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,” said 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.”

Andreessen Horowitz general partner David Haber said he was delighted to be making the firm’s first investment in an Africa-headquartered company in Carry1st.

“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 Cordel, Lucy, Tino, and the Carry1st team on their mission to build the Garena of Africa,” he said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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