South African startup Carry1st, Africa’s leading game publisher and digital commerce platform, has secured a strategic investment from the Sony Innovation Fund: Africa, the venture capital arm of Sony Group Corporation, making it the new fund’s first investment.
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.
The startup 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. It has also launched a proprietary payments and online marketplace to better monetise content.
Carry1st has raised over US$60 million in funding, and counts Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), BITKRAFT, Google, Riot Games, and Nas as investors. It has now become the inaugural investment from the new Sony Innovation Fund: Africa, a US$10 million fund established by Sony late last year to invest in African entertainment startups.
“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.”
The Sony Innovation Fund: Africa aims to support the growth of entertainment businesses in Africa. It invests in early-stage and seed-stage startups in the entertainment industry in Africa, including startups in the gaming, music, movie and content distribution sectors. Sony is initially allocating US$10 million towards such investments, and the size of its investment in Carry1st is undisclosed.
“We are excited to welcome Carry1st as our first investment in Africa,” said Antonio Avitabile, managing director for EMEA at 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.”
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