Nov. 10, 2017
Conference Call and Webcast Information
The conference call can be accessed live over the phone by dialing (800) 500-0177 for domestic callers or (719) 457-2692 for international callers, and reference "TheMaven, Inc. Third Quarter 2017 Quarterly Conference Call." Caller ID is 5476204.
UPDATE: A live replay of the call is now available here and a transcript follows. Click here for a PDF version:
November 16, 2017 Call Transcript
Cautionary Text Regarding the Quarterly Conference Call
The quarterly conference call and these prepared remarks should be viewed along with our other publicly available documents that include: (1) our annual report on Form 10-K, (2) our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, (3) Form S-1 Registration Statements (4) our 3rd quarter press release, and (5) the transcript from this quarterly conference call. The conference call includes prepared remarks from the management team and a question and answer session, if applicable. The 3rd quarter press release provides summary financial statement information and commentary regarding the financial highlights for the current period. The Form 10-K Annual Report is the annual financial statement that we file with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Form 10-Q Quarterly Report is the quarterly financial report we file with the SEC. Since we have completed two private placements of common stock during 2017 we have filed two Form S-1 Registration Statements that provide further detail about our business. Investors are encouraged to read these documents which may be accessed on the Investor section of our website, www.themaven.net
Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information
The conference call and prepared remarks by theMaven, Inc. (“Parent”), which includes information for its wholly owned subsidiary theMaven Network, Inc. (“Subsidiary”) (collectively “theMaven,” “Company” or “we”) contains “forward-looking statements,” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Forward-looking statements relate to future events or future performance and include, without limitation, statements concerning the Company’s business strategy, future monthly unique users, future revenues, market growth, capital requirements, product introductions and expansion plans and the adequacy of the Company’s funding. Other statements contained in this conference call and prepared remarks that are not historical facts are also forward-looking statements. The Company has tried, wherever possible, to identify forward-looking statements by terminology such as “may,” “will,” “could,” “should,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “seeks,” “estimates” and other comparable terminology.
The Company cautions investors that any forward-looking statements presented in this conference call or prepared remarks, or that the Company may make orally or in writing from time to time, are based on the beliefs of, assumptions made by, and information currently available to, the Company. Such statements are based on assumptions, and the actual outcome will be affected by known and unknown risks, trends, uncertainties and factors that are beyond the Company’s control or ability to predict. Although the Company believes that its assumptions are reasonable, they are not guarantees of future performance, and some will inevitably prove to be incorrect. As a result, the Company’s actual future results can be expected to differ from its expectations, and those differences may be material. Accordingly, investors should use caution in relying on forward-looking statements, which are based only on known results and trends at the time they are made, to anticipate future results or trends. Certain risks are discussed in this conference call and prepared remarks and also from time to time in the Company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).
This conference call and prepared remarks and all subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to the Company or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained or referred to in this section. The Company does not undertake any obligation to release publicly any revisions to its forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this conference call and prepared remarks.
TheMaven, Inc. - Third Quarter 2017 Conference Call
November 16, 2017
Marty Heimbigner – Chief Financial Officer
Good afternoon and welcome to TheMaven, Inc.’s initial quarterly conference call. We look forward to speaking with you today about the progress our Company has made in a little over one year from the inception of the Company in the middle of 2016.
Before we get into the formal presentation, we should note that this call is being recorded and we will provide the text of our prepared remarks and an audio recording on our website www.themaven.net within 24 hours. At the end of the call we will have time for questions and answers.
During this call, we will be making forward-looking statements that are based on our current expectations and assumptions subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially. Please refer to the cautionary text regarding forward-looking statements contained in Maven’s 3rd quarter press release, the Form 10-Q quarterly report and in the posted version of these prepared remarks, which apply to the content of this call.
To begin our formal presentation, I would like to introduce James Heckman, Founder and CEO of Maven who will discuss the Company’s vision, strategy and future growth.
James Heckman – Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Since this is our initial quarterly conference call, I would like to take a few minutes to summarize the vision behind the founding of Maven.
Maven is an elite, “invite-only” network of independent publishers who are recognized as experts in their field and already have a significant following. Each “Maven,” as we refer to them, owns and controls a unique channel that appeals to the interests, passions, communities and causes people care about. Our theme is “Where Passions Thrive.” We believe that the things that people are passionate about is where they spend their time and money. The key differentiator for our business model is that the entire network is on a single business and technology infrastructure, which eliminates duplicative costs and simplifies the management of scale.
The Maven team has deep expertise in digital media and technology; we invented this business model for sports, back in the 90’s and have worked together as a team within several private and public companies. Rivals.com and Scout.com, two of the digital media companies we founded in this model; both historically demonstrated sustainability and consistent profitability, because of their efficient structure over the last 20 years, regardless of private or public ownership or market conditions - it’s a time tested business model. Our mission now is to execute against that same “expert led, group media network” business model but at a much bigger scale, managing 20 non-sports content verticals such as News, Politics, Finance, Family, Food, Travel and other passion categories, again on a single infrastructure.
Over the next several years, our goal is to build a network of 1000 elite, Maven channels across 20 verticals, each with the goal of an average engaged audience of 100,000 monthly unique visitors combining for more than 100 million visitors. That’s our long term goal. Maven is a much bigger challenge and vision than our past private ventures and we believe we will produce a much bigger outcome, so we can apply our experience and relationships from our years operating within large public companies like Fox, Yahoo!, Google and MSFT.
The Company, since its inception has been focused primarily on the development of Maven’s technology platform which is where we have invested the bulk of our capital. In October we announced that the technology platform and 25 of our Maven channels had launched out of beta. As such, this first year has primarily been a year of research and development and recruiting publishers such that the Company is now poised to scale very rapidly. Our monthly unique users during the third quarter beta phase, scaled from an initial 160,000 to 900,000 and then quadrupled during our first month out of beta to 3.6 million monthly visitors. We have 30 channels live now and expect that at the end of November we will exceed 6 million monthly unique users.
Maven’s key differentiator, regarding this significant growth, is that we spent no money on TAC (an industry term known as traffic acquisition cost), we had no marketing budget and spent no money on buying traffic from Google or Facebook. Our traffic thus far is 100% organic, and none of it was “assigned traffic.”
I can’t emphasize this point enough. Most “traffic” press releases by Internet companies to us are meaningless, if not misleading. Most digital media companies buy their traffic through referral from major social platforms. It’s our belief that if a company has to “rent” the audience from someone else’s distribution, then that traffic is not really an asset. Owned and controlled distribution has value - rented does not. World class experts or “Mavens” attract engaged, passionate audiences that want to visit the channel multiple times each month - and don’t need to be tricked into engaging or paid to come on before hitting the back button.
In short, we believe a digital media company is best valued by the number of “organic monthly visitors,” because that metric is what drives profitable content transactions.
We have an additional 50 signed channels in various stages of integration that we expect to go live on our network later in Q4 and early 2018. We are actively recruiting more independent publishers to join our network and help us grow to the goal of 1000 channels over the next several years; but to be clear, we are not an “open” platform. Each Maven is vetted, hand-picked for quality and authenticity and has a proven audience of followers, off-line or online or both. In an age of “fake news,” “click-bait” marketing tricks and paid traffic, we believe our elite network offers a refreshing new experience for consumers. And just as important, advertisers want a safe, professional, highly engaged canvas to market their products and our commitment to the “invite-only” model makes a difference for professional marketers.
I’d like now, to turn this section of the discussion over to my partner and fellow board member, Josh Jacobs. Josh is the second most senior executive in the company, oversees revenue and is involved in all areas of strategy and management of the business. Josh and I worked closely together when I was a senior executive at Yahoo!, and while he was a senior executive at Omnicom.
Josh will now summarize how we bring efficiencies and improved monetization for independent publishers and how we intend to make money for our shareholders.
Josh Jacobs – Executive Co-Chairman
Thank you James. Maven is the technology platform and the business operations that distribute and monetize the content generated by publishing channel partners. By deploying hundreds of channels on a single, world class, database we achieve technical economies of scale that any one publisher could not afford to duplicate. By managing the technical operations, distribution partnerships, and monetization services for our publishers we achieve access and economies of scale that any one publisher could not replicate. By freeing our Mavens from the demands of technology, business operations and monetization each Maven can devote 100% of their time to generating content, engaging with their audience of passionate followers and expanding their businesses.
Our business model is to build an “expert led, group media network” with tens of millions of passionate engaged users that we can monetize in two primary ways:
First, our goal of 100 million engaged users is a very attractive demographic for advertisers. We expect that we will generate advertising revenue from display and video advertising. Initially display ads, sold through programmatic advertising will be the primary form of advertising revenue. Over time we expect that video ads will become an increasingly larger, more profitable share of the advertising revenue mix. We will report this revenue under our Advertising product line disclosures.
Second, we encourage all of our Mavens to develop premium content and special product offerings that will appeal to the most passionate members of their audience base. This premium content is accessed via subscription-based Memberships, that are deeply integrated into our Content Management System (CMS). We will report this revenue under our Membership product line disclosures.
I’d like now, to turn this section of the discussion over to my colleague, Robert Scott who is our Senior Vice President and General Counsel. Rob leads the recruiting of Mavens, which we call Network Development.
Robert Scott – Senior Vice President - Network Development and General Counsel
Thank you, Josh.
Maven is a growing coalition of publishers devoted to free speech and with viewpoints and perspectives from all sides of the conversation. We think that respectful discussion of differing viewpoints is necessary for truth and understanding. I would like to highlight some of our Mavens to illustrate the breadth and depth of our coalition.
· Kids Activities – Holly Homer is the Maven behind Kids Activities. Holly has a passion for children, mothers and fathers and how they can learn about ways to help their children learn, grow, thrive and have fun.
· AllHipHop – Greg Watkins and Chuck Creekmur are brilliant Mavens with nearly 20 years leading a community around Hip Hop music and lifestyle
· Black Wealth Channel – Dr. Boyce Watkins is an author, economist and political activist, and through Black Wealth Channel, provides advice to grow wealth and financial success for the black community
· Blue Lives Matter – Actual police officers are the Mavens behind this channel, devoted to all things law enforcement
· Being Liberal – Wojtek Wacowski was born and raised in communist Poland but emigrated to the United States and became inspired by the liberal legacy of John F. Kennedy
· The Intellectualist – Yossarian Johnson is the editor-in-chief of this news and community site for people passionate about public policy.
· Human Rights Foundation – Thor Halvorssen is a human rights advocate and film producer, and the Maven leading Human Rights Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the human condition around the world.
· The Resurgent – Erick Erickson, the well-known radio commentator, is the Maven leading The Resurgent, a channel devoted to the conservative perspective on American and global political issues.
These are just a few of our Mavens. I could go on since I am passionate about what each of these people bring to our network; but the key point is that each one of these Mavens is a recognized expert and community leader. Our vetting process is significant, there is no sign-up page for publishers and we’re not seeking raw volume. If 1,000 publishers showed up unsolicited to join Maven today, we’d still conduct our careful and thorough screening and review of each to ensure they meet our standards for quality, passion and community following before offering any a channel. Our growth will come from millions of consumers following top leaders, not millions of websites.
What investors can expect from our Network Development team is monthly progress. Each month, we not only sign new partners but assist in the integration and migration of these Maven channels to a single infrastructure. Investors will see each month an updated tally of each addition on the road to hundreds of qualified and vetted Maven channels.
With that overview of our network development activity, I would like to introduce Bill Sornsin, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer to briefly talk about our technology platform and what differentiates us. He’s been part of this team, on and off, since the late nineties, was a co-founder of Rivals and Scout and prior to that a senior engineering leader at Microsoft.
Bill Sornsin, Chief Operating Officer
What we have at Maven is pretty special, in terms of a product and engineering team that’s not only experienced with large scale platforms at places like Google, Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft, but that has built multiple successful startups together. Along with James our software engineers had a clear vision going in of what they wanted to build, which gave us a tremendous head start on product management and design. And thanks to supportive investors, they had a clear 15-month runway to build the platform, utilizing the latest infrastructure and technology.
We’ve made good use of that time. We’ve launched an easy-to-use CMS or Content Management System for publishing; a responsive web experience supporting mobile, tablet and desktop devices; a native app for iOS, with Android on the way; integrated video publishing and delivery, including easy video upload from the app; advanced social and community features; a sophisticated advertising architecture; built-in membership & subscription capability; and all of it on a tightly integrated, proprietary platform for fast performance, single-login access, and ease of use.
What differentiates us is that integration, and in particular the way we’ve unified social interaction with professional content. The results are positive so far, with partners typically seeing a 71% engagement increase after moving onto our platform.
With that said, we’re not close to being done. We have plenty of work to do refining those features and have many new features and capabilities under development, and are looking forward to introducing those over the coming year.
With that overview of our technology I would like to turn the call over to Marty Heimbigner, our Chief Financial Officer to discuss the Company’s 3rd quarter results.
Martin Heimbigner, Chief Financial Officer
As James mentioned at the start of his remarks, the Company has been in a research and development mode since inception in July 2016. Since inception the Company has invested over $2.6 million in developing the technology platform. We expect that we will continue to invest over $800,000 each quarter as we continue to deploy features and functions for all three form factors; mobile devices, tablets and desktop computers.
Currently the Company has 26 employees with 14 software engineers, six people in network development recruiting publishers, and six in senior management and administration. We believe that we will be able to scale our operations and grow revenue in 2018 without adding significantly to our headcount. We expect that as we move past 20 million monthly unique users we will need to add some additional headcount and operating expenses. We expect that the growth in operating expenses will be moderate relative to our expectations for growth in monthly unique users and revenue. Our technology has been built with capacity expectations to handle 100 million monthly unique users. Our software based business model allows this type of high economies of scale.
We just recently moved the first 25 channel partners out of beta stage, during which we had very limited monetization activities since we were testing content systems and ad serving integration; as such we generated no material revenue in the third quarter. As James mentioned, in October our monthly unique users grew to 3.6 million and we expect to be above 6 million unique users at the end of November, however, we do not expect to generate significant revenue until early 2018.
Turning now to 3rd quarter financial results. We incurred a net loss of $1,778,000, or $0.11 per share for the three months ended September 30, 2017. For the nine months ended September 30, 2017 we incurred a net loss of $4,371,000 or $0.33 per share. I should reiterate the point James made earlier that 100% of our traffic was unpaid, organic traffic. We had zero expense for traffic acquisition costs.
As presented in our Statement of Cash Flows, for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 the net cash used in operating activities was $2,655,000. Third quarter expenses tracked with internal forecasts as the company transitions from the research and development phase to the operational phase. These expenditures were primarily used to invest in and build our initial network of channels and for administrative functions. In addition, we invested $1,513,000 of cash in our website technology development and fixed assets. During 2017, we completed two private placements of common stock; one that closed in April raising $3.5 million in net proceeds; and one that closed in October raising $2.7 million in net proceeds, of which $1.75 million was received prior to September 30, 2017. Our cash balance at the end of September was approximately $1.7 and we expect that we will raise additional equity capital in early 2018.
As our operations continue to grow, we believe that the key metrics that we will monitor and report are the following:
Number of signed channel partners
Number of channel partners live on the Maven Network
Monthly Unique Users
Engagement per visit, per user
Revenue per channel
These metrics are the leading indicators that will drive our revenue, the mix of advertising and membership revenue, our margins and ultimately our profitability. Please continue to visit the Investor section of our website www.themaven.net for frequent updates and access to all of our SEC filings.
With this initial introduction to our financial results, I would like to turn the call back to James Heckman for closing comments.
James Heckman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
I hope that you too can feel the excitement that our Company is at an inflection point as we move into the next stage of our growth. We look forward to reporting to you each quarter as we continue to make progress. We also release a weekly newsletter for our partners and investors and I recommend going to themaven.net and clicking the *follow* button, so you can be updated on a weekly basis.
And with that said, we have some time for questions and answers.
Moderator please open the lines for questions.
Maven is an expert-driven, group media network, whose innovative platform serves, by invitation-only, a coalition of professional, independent channel partners (“Mavens”). By providing broader distribution, greater community engagement, and efficient advertising and membership infrastructure, Maven enables partners to focus on the key drivers of their business: creating, informing, sharing, discovering, leading and interacting with the communities and constituencies they serve.
Based in Seattle, Maven is publicly traded under the ticker symbol MVEN. Founders include digital media pioneers James Heckman and Ross Levinsohn, and leadership includes media and technology innovators Josh Jacobs, Bill Sornsin and Ben Joldersma. For more insight about Maven and its leadership team, head to themaven.net.