Rapper Nas has joined a $20 million funding round for Cape Town, South Africa-headquartered Carry1st, which bills itself as “the leading publisher of social games and interactive content in Africa.”
New York City-born Nas – whose QueensBridge Venture Partners last year earned a reported $40 million from a nearly decade-old investment in Coinbase – joined Google as well as Savage X Fenty backer Avenir in funding Carry1st. And Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), which has now coordinated with Nas on multiple raises, led the round.
According to a formal release from a16z, four-year-old Carry1st – which has worked on titles including Football Clash, Match League, and SpongeBob Krusty Cook-Off, per its website – serves north of one million users.
“Most notably, Carry1st has aggregated Africa’s disparate payment networks into a modern fintech platform,” the document continues, “ultimately creating a one-stop solution for other game publishers to manage, distribute, and collect payments from end users across 90 different payment methods.”
On this front, Andreessen Horowitz sees “a huge opportunity for a next-generation games platform and social network in Africa,” noting that the average age of the continent’s 1.3 billion residents is 19.
But “few international games target an African audience at launch, and even fewer localize and design for the continent – taking into account regional taste and languages,” a16z notes before acknowledging that Africa’s “highly fragmented” payments space is a barrier to global app and game companies.
Nas’ investment in Carry1st arrives as the broader music industry is looking to establish footholds in emerging markets, and particularly throughout Africa’s 54 countries.
Months after Warner Music South Africa acquired local label Coleske, for instance, the overarching WMG kicked off 2022 by buying a majority stake in African distribution and rights-management company Africori.
Regarding the aforementioned funding rounds that have drawn support from both Nas and Andreessen Horowitz, late November of 2021 also saw the parties (along with The Chainsmokers and Kygo) join a $55 million Series A for music-investment platform Royal.io.
Today, Nas used Royal.io to sell 50 percent of the streaming royalties from two tracks, “Rare” and “Ultra Black.” For the latter song, the 48-year-old priced 500 ownership tokens at $50 apiece (with each offering a 0.0143 percent stake in the work’s streaming royalties), 250 tokens at $250 each (0.0857 percent ownership per token), and 10 tokens at $4,999 a pop (2.1400 percent ownership).
Meanwhile, Nas – who became a co-owner of and equity partner in Escobar Cigars last August – congratulated his former manager, Steve Stoute, on the two $50 million rounds that his UnitedMasters closed last year. Andreessen Horowitz, an existing UnitedMasters investor, led the newer of these raises.
Lastly, in terms of the professional overlap between Nas and a16z, the VC has backed multiple crypto and NFT startups, and Nas declared after cashing in on his Coinbase interest: “Long crypto forever…. in sickness & in health.”