We recently led an investment in Carry1st, a mobile games publisher focused on the African continent. Taylor and I first met the team in October of 2020. We had reached out because we believe Africa has huge potential for the gaming industry and we liked the approach that Carry1st was taking in this market. It’s not often that a cold outreach leads to an investment here at Konvoy, but this time it did.
Africa is of unique interest to me and my co-founders (Jason and Josh) at Konvoy; we all grew up there at one point or another across Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Mozambique. Despite an expected decrease in economic activity across Africa due to COVID-19 and associated restrictions, investment is flowing into the region ($1.3b in 2019 from under $200m in 2015), mobile phone and internet penetration is strong (and continues to grow), and smartphone usage is on the rise as well.
Africa will double its population over the next 30 years and have a massive increase in youth population, with countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt leading the way. Millions of young people are entering the workforce and, with robust economies and sound political systems (not to be taken for granted), will have discretionary income to spend. There are risks, but we are believers in the region and its potential. We know gaming has a market waiting for it on the continent, it just needs to be tapped into.
Many regions in Africa lack financial infrastructure and banking solutions for the masses. Though this is not a solved issue yet, a number of fintech companies have cropped up over the past decade to service this need. These solutions are often region or country specific and are not a unified solution for game studios looking to enter the market. It’s easy for games to launch across Europe, for example, because roughly all of the market is banked and has debit or credit cards that can be used for Apple and Google Play. That’s not the case across most of Africa, and is a big reason why the continent has been overlooked by the industry in the past.
Carry1st is building financial infrastructure to connect the various payment systems across Africa and open up the market to game studios and other publishers that want to release games in the region. Carry1st is solving for the biggest bottlenecks in the region: accessibility and distribution.
Considering what companies like Garena (Sea Limited) have been able to achieve in South East Asia over the past decade; the same opportunity, with the right team and contextualized strategy, exists to grow the gaming market in Africa. In Cordel, Lucy, and Tino, Carry1st has an incredible founding team with strong experience in the region to tackle this. For the past decade, Cordel has been working and investing across Africa, Lucy has been in startup operations roles across the region, and as CTO, Tino has over a decade of experience in large scale software development and managing technical teams. They have also recruited a talented team with backgrounds from GREE, Rovio, Massive Entertainment, Wargaming, Social Point, and Ubisoft, among others.
Beyond distribution and the infrastructure technology that enables it, Carry1st is approaching publishing with local context. The team knows that understanding the end consumer and servicing their unique needs is the only way to win; they spend considerable effort on selectively finding games, localization, and testing in their target regions. Underlying the work, there is truly a shared mission to bring joy and improve the lives of their users.
We’re thrilled to be partnering not only with Cordel, Lucy, Tino and the rest of the Carry1st team, but also with other incredibly strategic new investors participating in this financing; Riot, Raine Ventures, AET Fund, and TTV Capital to name a few. We’re also joining a strong existing investor base with CRE, Ingressive Capital, Perivoli Innovations, Lateral Capital, Kepple and Henry Lowenfels on the board. The partners at the table bring together strong experience across gaming, the African region, and fintech. We’re excited to support Cordel, Lucy, Tino, and the entire Carry1st team as they open up gaming to the African market.
Interested in joining Carry1st or any of the other Konvoy portfolio companies? Join our Konvoy Talent Network and we’ll keep you updated on new opportunities.