Africa’s potential to produce successful technology companies is something that is being highlighted more often today. Many success stories focus on the narratives that underlie Africa’s growth potential, driven by industries such as infrastructure or basic needs of consumers – with the underlying assumption that African consumers do not have free income to play and relax. The category that has grown steadily over the past decade is sports betting which has become a a multibillion dollar industry in countries like Nigeria and Kenya, but also come with negative social implications and their fair share controversy. One startup that has taken this as proof that appetite does exist to be spent for fun, and is looking to provide a more sustainable alternative to sports betting, is Carry1st – mobile game publishing platforms that have emerged.
The idea for Carry1st was conceived by Cordel Robbin-Coker, a Sierra Leonean who grew up in the US and began his career in Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley before moving to Carlyle Group where he found himself working in the newly formed Sub-Saharan African fund, one of the first investment funds to focus on Africa, founded by a large global investment company. Shortly after this, he and former Stanford classmates raised capital to invest in early-stage startups in Africa, an area he had been interested in. By the end of 2017, he had invested in more than a dozen companies and sat on the boards of many companies. this. One thing he noticed was “the pace of change in cellular adoption seems to reach a turning point where things will happen”. Given this insight, he seeks opportunities that can exploit this trend with a population of 1bn + young. He found several sports betting companies taking off in Africa that “dispelled the myth that Africans had no discretionary income” he recalled and then concluded that setting up a mobile-first company that gave people great relevant content in the social environment would be very good on the continent.
One of the first steps taken by Robbin-Coker is to bring a co-founder who can complete his expertise. He reached out to Lucy Hoffman, an old colleague from Morgan Stanley who was the Chief of Staff at the African Leadership Academy and he agreed to come as chief of operations. He also brought Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu who previously held a senior role in the development of mobile phones facing consumers on the Konga eCommerce and Old Mutual Finance platforms. The first game the trio launched was Carry1st, a live trivia game where users can get prizes for the right answers that prove to be a huge success, have more than 1.3 million downloads and often sit on top of Google Play stores in Nigeria and Kenya.
Immediately after launching the Carry1st game, the team realized that their expertise in the field was key in enabling them to distribute relevant content to consumers and this service could be extended to other companies struggling to launch games in Africa. “Given the challenges faced by companies in launching content on the continent, our local expertise enables us to help companies, both in Africa and outside, to navigate the business side and monetize their games on the continent faster with lower risk,” Robbin-Coker said . Comparable companies in Southeast Asia are Marine Group which is responsible for launching the Call Call of Duty game that is popular throughout Southeast Asia and has a service portfolio worth more than $ 30 billion (at their latest share price 01/06/2020). Robbin-Coker sees Carry1st doing the same thing in Africa “we want to handle everything for our partners, from the app store list, creative messages, short videos, and making money,” he said.
Funding & Future
The team recently announced a new funding round that brought their total to $ 4 million with the last round being led by CRE Venture Capital with participation from Perivoli Innovations, Chandaria Capital, Lateral Capital, and the Future Hub Transaction Hub, among others. CRE partner, Pardon Makumbe said: “We are very pleased to be able to partner with a world class team at Carry1st to relieve the pain of distributing and monetizing games throughout Africa. A young, vibrant and mobile-first continent – by focusing on building blocks, we believe Carry1st is in the right position to determine categories and catalyze industrial development for more than 1.3 billion consumers in Africa. “
With a large young population, demographics look very attractive for games and other forms of mobile content where Africa has jumped over desktops in many ways. Enthusiasm for the space and collective expertise of the team, investors and partners makes Carry1st a company to look out for in Africa over the next few years.
This article is part of a series featuring various people who make a difference. You can find more articles (Click here) and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as a new feature is released message / follow me on Twitter @ TommyASC91
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