January 30, 2023

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. 

Lucy Hoffman, chief operating officer, started the company with cofounders Robbin-Coker and Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu, its chief technology officer. 

Carry1st launched a game, Carry1st Trivia, in 2019, and it became the No. 1 title on Android in Kenya and Nigeria but the team found its expertise was more in marketing games by finding alternative ways for people to discover them. 

They studied how influencer marketing worked and learned how critical it was to have local payment solutions. In Africa, many smartphone owners don’t have credit cards that Google Play and Apple’s App Store accept.

The startup has also launched a proprietary payment and online marketplace to better monetize content. 

Carry1st has positioned itself to be the conduit for international and local mobile game companies to profitably serve these consumers.

The company has a team of 37 people across 18 countries, including mobile gaming veterans hailing from Rovio, Socialpoint, Ubisoft, and Wargaming.

Carry1st faced several challenges in growing Krusty Cook-Off’s user base at scale while still maintaining a healthy ROI. 

The African gaming market is complex, and many of the tried and tested user acquisition and monetization strategies that are prevalent in most regions aren’t as effective in Africa.

Moreover, ad networks are yet to prioritize targeting African markets. This means companies like Carry1st lack the required volume of ad inventory to help them scale up quickly. 

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Additionally, while SpongeBob is a household name in Europe and North America, the character wasn’t as well known in some African countries, meaning organic uplift was inconsistent.

How it Works

Carry1st is a full-stack publishing company that helps its partners with user acquisition, live operations, community management, and revenue. 

Through its embedded payments system and online marketplace for virtual products, the company improves monetization in the region by allowing underbanked clients to pay for content in their preferred method.

The company enhances monetization in the region through its embedded payments solution and online marketplace for virtual goods, which allows underbanked customers to pay for content in their preferred way.

The biggest markets for the games now are Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt. One game, Mine Rescue, has done well in global markets.

It’s a hybrid casual and puzzle game. Roughly half the revenue comes from ads and half comes from in-app purchases.

Additionally, the company has a multi-player quiz game, Carry1st Trivia, and two products in the beta stage, a mancala board game Gebeta and a football game football cash. 

Mobiele App

Mobiele (Mobi-lay) is the new name on the gaming streets.

Geared towards mobile gamers in Africa, Mobiele is a competitive app that allows players to compete, connect and win prizes.

The game aims to introduce hyper-casual, casual, and competitive gamers to the world of esports through its esports Player vs Player and Play to Earn Model. All whilst maximizing the growing mobile gaming market within Africa.

Founders

Cordel Robbin-Coker

Cordel Robbin-Coker

Cordel Robbin-Coker is the Co-Founder and CEO of Carry1st.

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He became the Co-Founder and CEO in July 2018 in New York City and Cape Town, where the company is active from.

Robbin-Coker is an entrepreneur.

He has a background in investment banking and a passion for mobile games.

He is a Board Member at 4G Capital, a financial services company that seeks to address the financial gap across Africa.

Robbin-Coker is a member of the Brookings Society at the Brookings Institution. The Brookings Institution is a non-profit public policy organization that is based in Washington D.C.

He is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). The NACD is an independent not-for-profit corporation.

Robbin-Coker is the Founding Community Member of StartX which is a collection of serial entrepreneurs, industry experts, tenured Stanford professors, and growth-stage startups. 

He was an analyst at the Financial Institutions Group for Morgan Stanley, an investment banking company, in New York City. 

He was an analyst at Natural Resources Group for Morgan Stanley.

Robbin-Coker was a Board Member for Amrod in Johannesburg, South Africa. During his time at Amrod, he led their digital transformation strategy and expansion strategy into high-growth markets in Kenya and Nigeria. 

He was an Associate for the Executive Group/ US Equity Opportunities Fund in Washington D.C, for the Carlyle Group, a private equity company.

He was the Vice President of the Sub-Saharan African Fund in Lagos, Nigeria, and Johannesburg for the Carlyle Group. 

Robbin-Coker commenced his position as Board Member and Treasurer for Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

He received his Bachelor of Arts and Political Science degree from Stanford University. 

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Additionally, he received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence as well as the Morgan Stanley Richard B Fisher Scholarship.

Lucy Hoffman

Lucy Hoffman

Lucy Hoffman is a Co-Founder at Carry1st. 

She attended Dartmouth College.

Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu

Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu

Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu is a Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer at Carry1st.

He attended the University of Cape Town.

Investors & Funding Rounds

CRE Venture Capital, Perivoli Innovations, Chandaria Capital, Lateral Capital, Future Hub, Kam Kronenberg III, Ground Squirrel Ventures

Carry1st has raised a seed round of $2.5 million led by Johannesburg-based venture capital (VC) fund CRE Venture Capital.

Perivoli Innovations, Chandaria Capital, Lateral Capital, and Transsion’s Future Hub, Kam Kronenberg III, among others, also participated in the round.

The latest round brings its total capital raised since inception to $ 4 million.

RCarry1st had previously raised about $ 2 million from prominent angel investors in Africa and the US 

The startup’s investment will go into recruiting new hires, investing in platform technology, and publishing new content.

Main Competitors

Trackd: This is a Social Music Universe with Creator Tools. They unite music lovers and artists around the world.

GuRu: It enables safe, effective, and customizable transmission of power over the air using proprietary mmWave and Smart RF Lensing technology.

KaiOS Technologies: It powers an emerging global ecosystem of affordable digital products and services.

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