Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Technology

Zedge, Inc. (ZDGE) Q1 2022 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

ZDGE Earnings Call - Final Transcript

Zedge, Inc.  (NYSE : ZDGE) Q1 2022 earnings call dated Dec. 13, 2021

Corporate Participants:

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Yi Tsai — Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Analysts:

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Good afternoon, and welcome to the Zedge’s First Fiscal Quarter 2022 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] After today’s presentation by Zedge’s management, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions]

In today’s presentation, Jonathan Reich, Zedge’s Chief Executive Officer; and Yi Tsai, Zedge’s Chief Financial Officer, will discuss Zedge’s financial and operational results for the first fiscal quarter that ended on October 31, 2021.

Any forward-looking statements made during this conference call, either in prepared remarks or in the question-and-answer session, whether general or specific in nature, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause the actual results to differ materially from those which the Company anticipates. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, specific risks and uncertainties disclosed in the reports that Zedge files periodically with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Zedge assumes no obligation either to update any forward-looking statements that they have made or may make or to update the factors that may cause the actual results to differ materially from those that they forecast.

Please note that the Zedge’s earnings release is available on the Investor Relations page of the Zedge website. The earnings release has also been filed on a Form 8-K with the SEC.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Jonathan Reich.

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, operator, and thank you all for joining us today. Good afternoon. Welcome to Zedge’s earnings conference call for the first quarter fiscal year 2022, ended October 31st, 2021. I’m Jonathan Reich, CEO of Zedge, and with me is our Chief Financial Officer, Yi Tsai, who will provide additional insight into our financial performance. We will then be happy to take your questions.

For those of you that are new to the Zedge story or haven’t followed us in a while, we own a portfolio of leading digital consumer brands that served 43 million

Users around the globe in October 2021. Our portfolio consists of Zedge Ringtones and Wallpapers, the leading mobile app used for mobile phone personalization, social content, and fandom art; Zedge Premium, a marketplace for artists, celebrities and emerging creators to market their digital content to Zedge’s users; Emojipedia, the leading source of all things emoji; and Shortz, a mobile entertainment app currently in beta focused on short-form storytelling. We possess deep expertise in monetizing our digital real estate whether through advertising, subscriptions, or content sales. Our products appeal to a wide range of customer segments globally, and we have a strong user base in North America and Europe as well as in emerging markets, including India in particular.

We topped our record fiscal 2021 in the first quarter, surpassing $6 million in revenue for the first time while reporting revenue growth of 60%, a 43% operating margin, $2.1 million in net income, $3 million in EBITDA, and GAAP EPS growth of 64% to $0.14. We closed the quarter with over $27 million of cash on our balance sheet and almost no debt.

Advertising revenue remains robust, as we continue to optimize our ad stack to drive higher prices received for every 1,000 advertising impressions known as CPMs. Subscription revenue and active subscriptions increased 48% and 25% respectively versus last year. After a pause last quarter, we were pleased to see subscriptions return to modest growth.

Given our acquisition of Emojipedia at the beginning of fiscal 2022, in our release today, we clarified that monthly active users or MAU and average revenue per monthly active user or ARPMAU are KPIs that have always referred only to the Zedge mobile app and neither include the Shortz beta nor Emojipedia. The latter of which today is desktop or mobile web only. Note, the underlying data is unchanged from what we have been reporting. MAU increased 6% with emerging markets up 11%, driven mainly by continued demand in India. Developed markets remained a challenge, with MAU declining in the high single digits. Despite this, ARPMAU increased 47% versus last year.

Now I’d like to update you on the strategic priorities I outlined on our last earnings call. To start with, growing our customer base and improving engagements particularly in well-developed markets. During the fiscal first quarter, we began rolling out social and community features starting with giving our users the ability to follow artists they find interesting. We are also continuing to use machine learning algorithms to improve content discovery. As the year unfolds, we expect to add more social and community features, while also starting to focus on search and user on-boarding. In addition to these efforts, we are ramping up paid user acquisition campaigns and will continue to expand this effort as long as it proves accretive.

Next, we continue to invest in the parts of the business that offer optionality. Zedge Premium is a big part of this opportunity. Tomorrow, we expect to start rolling out our NFT offering called NFTs Made Easy in the Zedge Premium marketplace for both Android and iOS. Our approach to NFTs allows Zedge Premium artists to create and sell NFTs to our users without being cryptocurrency experts. Our users are able to purchase NFTs in the same manner as they have always purchased any item in Zedge Premium, mainly by buying and spending Zedge tokens, our existing virtual currency which are available in the Zedge app through in-app purchases.

NFTs Made Easy have disruptive potential because we’ve simplified the process for artists to self-publish, mint and sell their NFTs. We do not charge minting or gas fees to artists and they are paid in their local currency. For consumers, it is just as easy. NFTs are purchased with Zedge tokens as in-app purchases through the Android Play or Apple App Stores in their local currency. Cryptocurrency knowledge and wallets are not needed. At launch, we are starting with video wallpapers from a select group of artists and over time we expect to expand across different content categories and make this functionality available to all Zedge Premium artists. We also expect to enable additional capabilities such as limited editions, drop dates, auctions and trading. Stay tuned for further announcements in 2022.

In summary, we are beyond excited by the potential for NFTs Made Easy in the Zedge Premium marketplace and believe this will not only bring more artists to the platform, but it will also increase Zedge Premium’s GTV and revenue while making us more relevant on iOS. Without trying to temper our excitement for the product, I want to set expectations for investors. Revenue from NFTs is not likely to be material from the get-go. We expect it will take time to take hold and ramp, as we fill out the offering and bring in new artists, plus it will likely be most relevant to users in well-developed markets where we are working to increase engagement. While there are no material operational updates about Zedge plus subscriptions or the Shortz beta, we remain committed to enhancing both of these offerings and we’ll keep you apprised when there is news to share about their progress. We are also in the process of further unlocking Emojipedia’s value by translating the site into languages other than English, while also exploring the possibility of a native mobile app.

And finally, there is M&A where we are continuing to look for symbiotic opportunities that can benefit from access to our large customer base, our expertise in monetization, our technical know-how, and our skill in managing a complex platform among other benefits.

In closing, we had an outstanding first fiscal quarter of 2022, and believe we are still in the early innings of reaching our growth potential. Similar to last year, we are not updating guidance at present and still expect topline growth of 25% to 30% with continued net income growth, strong operating margins and cash flow and strong EBITDA growth.

Before handing the call over to Yi, I want to thank you, our investors, for your support. I also want to remind everyone that our success is a direct outcome of the outstanding team of talented and dedicated professionals who work at Zedge and who go above and beyond to execute our vision. Thank you, and happy holidays.

Now, I’m going to turn the call to Yi, who will provide details about our financial performance.

Yi Tsai — Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thank you, Jonathan. I want to start by reminding those on the call that our fiscal year ends July 31. Moving to our first quarter results. MAU, defined as the number of unique users that opened our Zedge app during the last 30 days of the period, increased 5.6% to 34.2 million during October versus 32.4 million in October of 2020. Emerging market MAU expanded by 11.2%, while well-developed market MAU contracted by 8.5%.

Total revenue in the first quarter increased 60% from last year to $6 million. This year, we benefited from our ongoing work to incur our ad operations. Subscription revenue was up 48% from last year, still demonstrating strong growth. Zedge Premium’s gross transaction volume, or GTV, that is the total sales volume transacted through our marketplace was about $330,000, up 58% compared to the year-ago quarter. As Jonathan indicated, this is the key focus for us going forward as we believe the potential of the marketplace is still substantially untapped, and we will benefit significantly from our new NFT platform.

Active subscription were up 25% versus last year and returned to sequential growth versus the prior quarter. The slowdown in net subscription growth was basically due to the number of new subscriptions added being offset by our churn rate, which has remained a constant percentage even as we grew to a higher base number of subscription. This is a common problem for consumer subscription as the subscriber base gets larger, and as Jonathan mentioned, we have taken steps to re-accelerate sequential growth in these numbers.

Overall, ARPMAU was $0.053, an increase of 47% year-over-year, driven by the combination of better advertising performance and higher paid subscription number versus last year.

Operating margin increased to 43% versus 29% last year, reflecting the continued revenue growth and strong operating leverage inherent in our business. Net income and diluted EPS were $2.1 million and $0.14 respectively versus net income of $1 million and EPS of $0.08 in the prior year. We grew EPS substantially, despite diluted average shares outstanding for the fourth quarter of about 15 million compared to 12.5 million shares from a year ago. EBITDA was $3 million versus $1.4 million last year.

From a liquidity standpoint, we remain in a strong net cash position with almost no debt and over $27 million in cash and cash equivalents, a $21 million increase from last year and up over $2 million sequentially.

As Jonathan mentioned, similar to last year, we will update our full year guidance when we report our second quarter earnings. The following is just a reminder of what we said on our Q4 call last month. We said that we initially targeting the revenue growth of 25% to 30% for the year. And due to all of the new initiatives and feature releases, we said seasonality, which usually peaks in our second quarter may not be typical this year. And internally, we are modeling sequential revenue growth each quarter. We also said that despite the increased level of investment, we believed we should continue to report operating margin of at least 40% for the year.

For modeling purposes, we said our expected tax rate would be 21%, as we used all of our federal NOLs in fiscal 2021. I also suggested using 15 million to 15.4 million shares for calculating diluted EPS. Given the increases in the last two items, most significantly the tax rate, we said we expect a drag on EPS growth in fiscal 2022, but we anticipated continued net income growth with strong cash flow and EBITDA growth. For EBITDA, we said we were targeting a growth rate that is slightly higher than our revenue guidance.

Thank you for listening to our first quarter earnings call, and I hope that each one of view remains safe this holiday season. I look forward to speaking with you again on our next call.

Operator, back to you for Q&A.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] The first question is coming from Allen Klee from Maxim Group. Your line is live.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Good evening, and congratulations on strong results beat me [Phonetic] on the top and bottom line. As I look through what caused that, advertising was very strong. Your average revenue per monthly active user, the increase there was a surprise for me how strong it was. Could you touch a little on — on what was behind that and how you think about if that’s got legs to it? Thank you.

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Allen. It’s Jonathan. I appreciate the compliments, and those compliments really go to the entire team. I think we’ve gone through this repeatedly in the past. We dedicate a lot of time and effort to optimizing our advertising stack, and that is exactly what does it [Phonetic] play in this quarter. Certainly, there has been a trend in the market with rising CPMs that we are benefiting from, but from everything that we know, it’s not simply just being in the right place at the right time. But it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time and then working hard in order to optimize the ARPMAU that you referred to.

And in terms of legs to it, well, what we’ve said repeatedly over the course of the last seven quarters — eight quarters or so has been that we are continuously investing in optimizing our ad inventory. And that involves not only investing in technology, but also investing in resources, investing in design, investing in various demand partners and seeing which ones are working and what’s the best way of taking advantage of the portfolio of demand partners are, or the best way of taking advantage of the demand portfolio partners is in order to generate the ARPMAU that we have benefited from for the last several quarters. I hope that answers your question.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

That’s helpful. Thank you. And then, in terms of your user base, we still have this trend of growing emerging, declining developed. Two questions related to that. What do you have behind — what’s behind the strength in emerging and India you called out? And second, in terms of developed, I know you’re looking at a couple of things with Apple and maybe the NFTs, could you go into a little bit more of what the strategy is to try to grow the developed users? Thank you.

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Sure. So with respect to growth in the emerging markets generally and more specifically with respect to India, our offering is compelling. Certainly, as you know, we’ve got a — array of freemium content, so content that people can download without having to pay for that content. And that is a draw, particularly in markets where discretionary income is not as plentiful as it is in the well-developed markets. Insofar as these developed markets, we have several initiatives underway in order to improve engagement and increase the customer base. So some of those that we’ve talked about include community features, which we started to roll out, such as the Follow Me feature, if there is an artist that you like, you can follow them and any time they release new content, they will be able to message you. And that is a draw for users to re-engage with the app. Of course, as we improve engagement, that means that more users are coming back into the app and when users in an app, we are generating revenue from advertising and hopefully also generating revenue from the sale of premium content.

NFTs, as I said earlier, this is — the philosophy that we have about NFTs is that it’s a needed utility for our artist community, something which we expect will bring in new artists as well because we have crafted our NFT offering, which we call NFTs Made Easy in a really, really simple fashion such that neither creators nor consumers need to have crypto experience or technology experience in order to purchase those NFTs. And our hope is that with time, that will also help drive demand for our products and drive the user base.

And specific to iOS, we are offering these NFTs across both Android and iOS. And our hope is that, that will be an additional factor that can drive iOS growth for us, which is taking advantage of the optionality associated with our brand and this product. We also have work going on in terms of improving search and content discovery. I think I’ve mentioned using the benefits of machine learning in order to customize content feeds for users based upon their particular tastes and preferences and usage patterns and content consumption and so on and so forth. So there — those are just a handful of items, but taken in totality, our hope is that we can begin to turn the corner and reinvigorate growth in the well-developed markets, if you will.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Okay. And so, I was playing on your app today and I noticed that were NFTs there. And I just wanted to understand that a little bit more in terms of — you get paid the same way as you get paid as kind of on the like if you’re somebody selling the wallpaper or ringtone, and how about like the secondary market for the NFTs? How is that handled? And where is the — where is it — where is it secured? If somebody purchases an NFT, where are they holding it, so that they can be comfortable that that it’s going to be there or not get stolen?

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Great questions. So the way that one purchases an NFT is by using Zedge tokens, which we sell through in-app purchases. Obviously, the artist will select the price that they want to charge for that NFT and then an end user will need to purchase the number of tokens needed in order to transact that purchase or sale, if you will. And that’s all done through in-app purchases in local fiat currency. So I as an end-user see an NFT that I really like, let’s just for argument sake, say that it’s $10, I would then go in and purchase $10 worth of Zedge tokens and I would then be able to secure that NFT.

In terms of where is it secured, we’re working with a third-party technology provider that has specialized in securing this on the blockchain. And in terms of being able to go to secondary markets at launch, there is the ability to do that, although it’s a very manual process, but we expect that over time, as we evolve this product, that will become easier to accomplish and that it will also be something that can be done even within app. So I think I mentioned our ability to support a trading and options and drop dates and so on and so forth are all on the roadmap, hopefully in 2022 calendar year.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Fantastic. I was also using your Shortz app today. And I noticed over the year, you’ve significantly increased the amount of categories, genres. I saw some audio on there. Could you talk about how well your experimentation is going?

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Sure. So on previous conference calls, I’ve talked a little bit about what we’ve done in Shortz, let’s say during calendar year 2021, or there has been a lot of work in refining the product, our ability to really understand what’s happening from an analytics perspective from everything including content consumption, popularity, demographic and so on and so forth. And that work continues to unfold. We’re — as you said, we’ve done a lot of work in terms of tagging and in terms of expanding the different verticals, if you will, that would be appropriate for an array of different customers. And we’ve also taken a more significant step in terms of understanding usage patterns and consumption patterns with respect to audio. We have not — no updates with respect to where we were when we reported fiscal year 2021 a couple of weeks ago, other than to say that we’re continuing along that path and looking for the optimal way in order to expand this business and deliver a great content experience to users, which will result in recurring usage and ongoing growth.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Great. In terms of your marketplace, you kind of highlighted that as an area of a real priority this year and what the opportunity can be. Could you — what could the opportunity be? How should we think about that?

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Sure. So, as you know, we were not in a breaking out particular or providing particular growth numbers for the marketplace, but there has been tremendous growth overall in the creator economy. Certainly, NFTs play into that and considering that we’ve got, give or take 35 million monthly active users globally, our goal is to see to it that we take advantage of a lot of the infrastructure spend that we had made over the course of the last 12 months to [Phonetic] 18 months. As you recall, we had overhauled our content management system. We’ve overhauled unified accounts, things of that sort. We’re working on our recommendation engine, et cetera, et cetera.

And the idea is that we want to avail users of not only existing content categories that we have today, draw in new artists because we have this massive user base and our Ts and Cs are very straightforward. The platform is very easy to use if you’re a creator, but we also want to begin to think about new content genres that extend beyond simply being wallpapers, video wallpapers, ringtones and notification sounds. So those are all the things that we are thinking about at this point in time and concurrently looking to expand the universe of artists that monetize on our platform.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Thank you. My last question, how did the quarter perform relative to your internal expectations? And what surprised you on the, maybe the upside or downside?

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So we haven’t shared quarterly budget numbers or anything of that sort in the past, and I don’t expect that we are going to. All I can say is that we have been really working hard to see to it that we can feel the balls as those opportunities begin to avail themselves. And the team is very, very much dedicated to seeing to it that we are meeting our budgetary numbers, if not beating them. And if there are gaps, we’re really doing our best in order to understand what the [Phonetic] cause of the gap is and how to close that gap to the best of our ability. I think I had mentioned on previous calls, we took the liberty of hiring product managers in calendar year 2021 and having dedicated product managers who have responsibility for P&L really has been beneficial in terms of getting answers earlier on. So if corrective action is needed or if prospective action is needed in order to take advantage of an opportunity, that we’re in a position to do that. Not that it’s easy, but certainly something that results from having more dedicated product managers is having that level of granularity, so that we can act and hopefully act quickly in order to see to it that gaps are closed if and when they appear.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

Thank you very much. I mean, I think your Company is really a great example of how to do a successful mobile ecosystem and how to think about all these different ways to monetize a larger user base, so it’s very impressive what you’ve done. Thank you.

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Allen. Your words are very kind, really appreciated and wishing you very happy holiday season and good health.

Allen Klee — Maxim Group — Analyst

You too.

Operator

Thank you. Your next question is coming from Brian Warner [Phonetic]. Your line is live. Brian Warner, your line is live.

Unidentified Participant — — Analyst

I’m sorry, I might have been muted. Can you hear me?

Operator

Yes, you’re coming through.

Unidentified Participant — — Analyst

Okay. Hi guys. Congratulations, and happy holiday and warm wished to all of you, it’s a good year. Two questions. Can you talk about anything you’ve done to date on paid customer acquisition, particularly domestically and sort of what the experience might have been? And if you haven’t really done anything yet, can you give us a sense of sort of how are you going to attack that? And I know it’s early, but what you might spend on that?

And second question, can you just give us any color on what the advertising revenues or yields are from subscribers in lesser developed countries versus developed countries? I mean, I’m sure it’s a huge disparity, but if you can give us any color, it might be helpful. Thanks.

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Thanks for the compliment, Brian, and hope you’re doing well as well. In terms of paid user acquisition, what we are doing is we are beginning to scale out. We are very much focused on trying to do — acquire customers across in various platforms where we will see a positive ROI from those customers and where we see that the numbers are panning out, then we’re trying to scale those numbers up.

In terms of dollar spend, we have not shared with the market or investors what the budget is, but suffice it to say that we are looking very closely at each of the areas in which we are investing, testing and then analyzing and the platforms and the criteria by which we’re going out and acquiring those customers for the ones that are generating that positive ROI, we are expanding, and for the ones that are not generating positive ROI, we will test a little bit more. But if we see that the gap is so significant on the ROI side, then we will not pursue those platforms. We have and continue to work hard to make sure that we have the insight and the knowledge, so that we can see what these customers ultimately produce.

And when you think about this, let’s just say we go out and acquire a customer and that’s through a download in a well-developed market. We’re also looking at, well, for that cohort of users, how much money are they generating from advertising, how much money are they generating from premium sales and how many of those users potentially convert into subscribers. So taking a look at that entire portfolio of potential monetization is what’s going into our analysis and then taking a look at that over some period of time, so that we have a comfort level that after that period of time, we will be whole and then from that point going forward, we will actually generate positive ROI.

In terms of your second question, we have not shared that level of granularity in terms of revenue from advertising versus from subscription and what the order of magnitude difference between the two is. And I think we’re going to hold off on getting into the details about that this evening.

Unidentified Participant — — Analyst

Okay, fair enough. Thanks very much and good luck.

Jonathan Reich — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] This concludes our question-and-answer session and conference call. Thank you for attending today’s presentation. You may now disconnect.

Disclaimer

This transcript is produced by AlphaStreet, Inc. While we strive to produce the best transcripts, it may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies. This transcript is provided as is without express or implied warranties of any kind. As with all our articles, AlphaStreet, Inc. does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the company’s SEC filings. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed in this transcript constitutes a solicitation of the purchase or sale of securities or commodities. Any opinion expressed in the transcript does not necessarily reflect the views of AlphaStreet, Inc.

© COPYRIGHT 2021, AlphaStreet, Inc. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, redistribution or retransmission is expressly prohibited.

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