Carry1st is the inaugural investment out of Sony Innovation Fund: Africa, which was established by Sony as an initiative to support the growth of entertainment businesses in Africa.
“We are thrilled to join forces with Sony Innovation Fund: Africa,” said Cordel Robbin-Coker, CEO and Co-founder of Carry1st. “The relationship will help Carry1st to drive the future of gaming in Africa. At Carry1st, we believe that the African console market is a massively underestimated opportunity. Our distinct regional capabilities, paired with Sony’s expertise in gaming and entertainment, creates a powerful combination. Together, we hope to bring the best games in the world to players across Africa.”
Carry1st develops, licenses, and publishes games, and monetizes them effectively with Pay1st, a proprietary alternative payments platform and online marketplace for digital gaming goods. Carry1st has partnered with the likes of Activision, Supercell, and Riot Games to help scale games like Call of Duty: Mobile and Valorant and has launched games including Africa Glam (Nanobit), Mancala Adventures, SpongeBob Krusty Cook-Off, Ludo Blitz and Mine Rescue for gamers in Africa.
Carry1st has raised over $60M since being founded in 2018 and counts Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), BITKRAFT, Google, Riot Games, and Nas as investors. In 2022, Carry1st raised a $20 million Series A extension round from Andreessen Horowitz, Avenir, and Google to help it expand across Africa. A year earlier, it had raised $6 million in Series A funding and $27 million in a new financing round in 2023 led by Bitkraft Ventures with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, TTV Capital, Alumni Ventures, Lateral Capital, Kepple Ventures and Konvoy and will be used “to develop, license and publish new games and expand Pay1st, its payments arm.
In February last year, Carry1st acquired a mobile board game, Gebeta in a deal targeted at driving up African culture to the peak of global recognition and accurate representation through gaming. Gebeta is a mobile board game built on the mancala games principles, but more engaging. Released in 2019, the game quickly gained high engagement and added to its quality visuals, it stood out from most others, winning the 2020 AppsAfrica Best App of the Year award.
Driven by rapidly increasing technology adoption, Africa’s gaming industry has over 200 million unique players and is set to reach a market size of over $1 billion in 2024, according to data from Newzoo and Carry1st. While there is limited formal console presence, Africa presents an incredible growth opportunity for this sector, particularly with the rise of live services.
Africa remains a big untapped market for Sony’s vertical business and especially the PlayStation. The Sony PlayStation with video game consoles and online games and magazines stand to gain a big African market and act as Sony’s point of contact on the continent.
“We are excited to welcome Carry1st as our first investment in Africa,” said Antonio Avitabile, Managing Director – EMEA, Sony Ventures Corporation. “We believe there is tremendous untapped potential for the gaming market in Africa, which we hope to experience and contribute to through our investment in Carry1st. We look forward to working closely with Carry1st’s world-class management team to support the company’s growth and explore potential business opportunities with Sony Group companies.”