Los-Angeles-based mobile gaming startup Kaydabi, founded by Ghanaian Kwabena Osei-Larbi and Kameni Ngahdeu from Cameroon, has launched its first title Wild Warriors. The startup's founders believe the 'freemium' gaming model facilitates the idea of charitable gaming, a concept they aim to pioneer.
Ngahdeu and Osei-Larbi met in 2014 while attending the University of Southern California, and the idea for Kaydabi was born six months later.
The 'techpreneurs' say things have picked up significantly since and the studio was part of the USC Incubator's Summer 2015 cohort and was invited to attend the 2016 LAUNCH Festival as one of the organisers' Top Ten Emerging Gaming Startups.
Osei-Larbi says Africa's startup ecosystem has grown because of the need for entrepreneurs and innovators. He says it has come as no surprise to Kaydabi that there are so many new ventures emerging within healthcare, edtech, agriculture and biotech.
According to the company's founders African startups have played (and will continue to play) an important role in continuing to further the continent's development.
"Many of these business plans are solid because they are born out of necessity. They are being created to fill different vacuums and improve the lives of many. As a result, they are also rightfully getting the support and attention they deserve, but more can always be done. We believe the African startup ecosystem will continue to grow as more and more countries see the benefit of these new ventures and start to invest further in promoting entrepreneurship, especially at a young age," says Ngahdeu.
Despite the challenges facing startups, Osei-Larbi and Ngahdeu believe the primary focus for any entrepreneur should be to provide something of real value to customers.
"Being able to positively impact the lives of many at scale should be the priority. The rest will follow. If you can create a product that truly makes a large number of people happier, healthier, smarter, or what have you, it is a lot easier for you to gain exposure, because both good news and word of mouth travel fast in today's world," says Osei-Larbi.
Kaydabi's leaders feel Africa's mobile frontier is expanding, but there remains a great deal of untapped potential.
"We're excited to see how the continent's mobile economy continues to develop and mature as more and more people gain access to smartphones. As mobile game developers, this is especially intriguing to us. We believe that there is still room for the purchase of virtual goods in mobile apps and games, for example, to be even more normalized than it is today. It appears that the bulk of spending on mobile platforms is "functional" in nature - sending and receiving money, for instance, for a purpose other than entertainment or enjoyment. A day will come when there will also be widespread leisurely spending on mobile devices. A combination of fantastic mobile products and time will get us to that point," Osei-Larbi adds.
Kaydabi says in Wild Warriors players embark on an epic mission to save Earth's most at-risk animals from an army of mythical monsters that symbolically represent the real-life threats these animals are facing - everything from poaching and habitat loss to pollution and deforestation.
The game itself is completely free to download and play, but players can opt to purchase certain in-game goods with real money. Of the revenue it makes from these in-app purchases, Kaydabi usually gives 10% directly to its charity partners, but that number will be raised to 100% for the 'Give To Save' campaign.
The week-long campaign, which begins on 19 December, is being driven to raise funds for wildlife conservation organisations including Defenders of Wildlife, World Parrot Trust, Sea Turtle Conservancy and African Wildlife Foundation.
Says Ngahdeu, "Typically, only around three percent of players ever spend money in mobile games. We really wanted to find a way to empower that remaining 97 percent to still make a measurable difference."
To that end, Kaydabi has designed a system that allows all of its players - both non-paying and paying – to decide how the studio distributes the money that it raises for charity.
In Wild Warriors, players are periodically prompted to vote for their favorite characters. At the end of each month, those votes are tallied and used to proportionally divide the charitable funds amongst the different animals featured in the game. For each animal, on behalf of the game's players, Kaydabi then donates the money directly to the charity partner that is working to save that animal in real life.
Kaydabi's founders credit their backgrounds with instilling in them the desire to make a difference in the world. Ngahdeu, 24, was born and raised in Cameroon, while Osei-Larbi, 23, is originally from Ghana but grew up in Nigeria and Syria.
"Having both grown up in developing nations, we've always been aware of how many unsolved problems there are all around us," explains Ngahdeu. "We decided to use our passion for gaming to make a difference."