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Edited Transcript of IZEA earnings conference call or presentation 14-Nov-19 10:00pm GMT

Q3 2019 IZEA Worldwide Inc Earnings Call

WINTER PARK Jan 3, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of IZEA Worldwide Inc earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 10:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Edward H. Murphy

IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO

* Justin Andrews

IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - CFO

* Ryan S. Schram

IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - COO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Curt Wayne Van Hill

Everest Funds Management LLC - CIO and Chief Compliance Officer

* Jon Robert Hickman

Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst

* Michael Fawzy Malouf

Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, Research Division - Partner, Senior Research Analyst & Head of Boston Team

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Greetings, and welcome to the IZEA Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Ryan Schram, Chief Operating Officer. Thank you. Please begin.

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Ryan S. Schram, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - COO & Director [2]

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Good afternoon and welcome to IZEA's Q3 2019 Earnings Call. I'm Ryan Schram, Chief Operating Officer at IZEA, and joining me today is IZEA's Chief Financial Officer, Justin Andrews; and IZEA's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ted Murphy. Thanks for being with us this afternoon.

Earlier today, the company issued a press release with details pertaining to our third quarter performance for 2019. If you'd like to review those details, all of IZEA's investor information can be found on our Investor Relations website, izea.com/investors.

Before we begin, please take note of the safe harbor paragraph that appears at the end of the press release covering the company's financial results and be advised that during the course of today's earnings call, our management team will discuss IZEA's business outlook and make forward-looking statements. These statements are predictions based on our team's expectations as of today that are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties and should not unduly be relied upon. Actual events, results or trends could differ materially from our forecast due to a number of factors, including those mentioned in our most recently filed periodic reports with the SEC. The company and our management team assume no obligations to update any forward-looking statements made in today's call.

In addition, our update today will refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures, specifically gross billings and adjusted EBITDA. A reconciliation of these measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measure is presented in our earnings release with additional discussion of both of these measures available in our most recent Form 10-K and 10-Q available under SEC filings in the Investors section of izea.com.

With the appropriate disclosures out of the way, I'm pleased to introduce my colleague and IZEA's Chief Financial Officer, Justin Andrews. Justin?

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Justin Andrews, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - CFO [3]

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Thank you, Ryan, and good afternoon, everyone. I'm pleased to recap our results for the quarter ending September 30, 2019.

For the third quarter 2019, IZEA reported total revenues of $4.4 million with approximately $3.6 million coming from our Managed Service business and about $800,000 coming from our SaaS, Software as a Service or SaaS offering. This compares with Q3 2018 revenues of about $4.9 million for Managed Services and about $900,000 for SaaS offerings.

For our Managed Service business, our overall revenues have primarily decreased due to reduced headcount in our direct sales team and a trailing recognition of revenue. While bookings for Managed Services was up 12% in the quarter, these bookings are typically recognized over a 6- to 9-month period. Ryan will discuss our efforts in this area in a bit more detail in just a few minutes.

As a percentage of revenue, our cost of revenues exclusive of amortization has increased from 41.5% in Q3 2018 to 43.2% in Q3 2019. This is primarily due to a few large client projects being recognized in the quarter.

Our total cost and expenses were $5.6 million for Q3 2019 compared with $7 million Q3 2018. This comparison includes a $753,000 gain associated with the final settlement payment for the acquisition of Tap and a $41,000 gain associated with the settlement payment for the acquisition of ZenContent due to our stock price being lower at the time of payment than the 30-day weighted average stock price used to determine the number of shares for the liability settlement.

Our net loss for Q3 2019 was $1.2 million compared with $1.3 million for Q3 2018. Adjusted EBITDA for Q3 2019 was a loss of $1.3 million compared with a loss of $300,000 for Q3 2018. Our ending cash balance as of September 30, 2019, was approximately $6.8 million, and the balance on our bank line of credit remains at 0.

The company settled the vast majority of our acquisition costs payable obligations during the third quarter and has since settled the remaining acquisition costs payable. Now that these obligations are settled and our $5 million line of credit is paid off, we have a healthy balance sheet from which we can fund our continuing operations and future investments in our core technology platform.

I would now like to turn the call over to Ryan.

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Ryan S. Schram, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - COO & Director [4]

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Thanks, Justin, and welcome to the team. The third quarter of 2019 was productive in multiple facets of our business. We started July at the Influencer Marketing Conference and Expo in Los Angeles in front of brand and agency personnel as well as top creators. IZEA had the distinct privilege of providing the opening keynote in front of all conference attendees, sharing industry insights from our award-winning State of the Creator Economy study from The Right Brain Consumer [Research] and Kantar.

Later that same month, we announced that IZEA joined forces with IRI to launch InfluenceImpact, a new offering that allows IZEA clients to measure the impact of influencer marketing on retail sales. For those of you not familiar, IRI is the leading provider of big data, predictive analytics and forward-looking insights that helps CPG companies to grow their businesses. Packaged goods is 1 of the largest sectors in North America valued at $2 trillion in annual consumer spending. And while it's relatively easy to track and attribute influencer marketing impact for online sales and awareness, it is much more difficult to measure off-line impact at a retailer's physical location. InfluenceImpact enables IZEA to offer our CPG customers the next level of sales analysis, providing measurement of sales uplift through in-store purchase data to track how influencer marketing campaign positively impacts sales lift for any mass market packaged goods.

Lastly, throughout this summer, our team also focused on putting the capital we raised in May to work in the form of a comprehensive brand awareness and lead generation strategy. These investments run the gamut on areas big and small, from increasing marketing analyst coverage at IZEA to having surprise and delight awareness placements both online and off. All of the efforts are focused on bolstering the company's differentiation and credibility in the increasingly competitive influencer and content marketing sectors.

To that end, we have proudly decided not only to continue but expand IZEA's commitment to contributing to industry influential capital, from our historical once per year, large-scale State of the Creator Economy study to a highly topical, monthly platform named Influential Insights, geared towards marketing practitioners, members of the media and analysts alike.

We released the first batch of these findings just last week with the analysis of creator price points observed in our online marketplace spanning the life of the influencer marketing industry these last 13 years. A key headline, the average cost of a sponsored blog post has risen from $7.39 in 2006 to $1,442.27 in 2019, an increase of 195x.

On the sales side of the company, Q3 provided positive momentum in rebuilding our headcounts in both our Managed Services and SaaS units, both of which had significant declines at the conclusion of 2018 and early into this year, leading up to and following the acquisition of TapInfluence. Our seller headcount from bottom during Q2 has begun to rebound on the other side of our May fund raise. The overarching focus for our team at present is setting ourselves up for a breakout 2020. And the efforts to date have been trifold: retaining our top talent, recruiting personnel who have direct category experience and building an in-house professional selling program to create a sales force of the future with early-stage team members.

The early returns adjusted approach is working as modeled. While revenue was down during the quarter in both units, Managed Service bookings increased 12% to $4.9 million in the third quarter compared to $4.4 million in the third quarter of 2018, and that was with 25% fewer personnel than the year before. While headcount was down year-over-year, we saw a 27% increase in absolute seller headcount from quarter 2 of 2019 to quarter 3 of 2019, and we've continued to add new sellers since then. These salespeople will take some time to impact on the top line, but we're pleased with the early sales activity, pipeline development and successes of those team members.

In our SaaS units, the news was varied but the outlook positive. Monthly licensing fees for IZEAx Unity Suite hit a new record in Q3, and were up 745% as compared to Q3 2018. That was in addition to our absolute count of SaaS customers, hitting a record high during the quarter. However, we continue to see challenges with the churn of legacy TapInfluence customers and needed to focus on growing our customer base through investments at incremental sales staff and in refactoring our pricing methodology.

During the quarter, we made proactive adjustments to our IZEAx Unity Suite pricing and licensing packages based on demand, market opportunities and experience with our customers that joined us in the TapInfluence acquisition. These modifications have a near-term impact in Q3 and will impact Q4 in terms of SaaS revenue recognition and will ultimately allow IZEA to create a more stable customer foundation moving forward by enabling our SaaS sales and customer success teams to focus on delivering the right solution for the customer by proactively rightsizing legacy contracts that we provide to our brand agency partners.

For some additional commentary on IZEA's third quarter and for perspective on the road ahead of the company, I'll now turn the call over to my colleague and IZEA's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ted Murphy. Ted?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [5]

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Thank you, Ryan. In May, IZEA concluded a $10 million public offering to provide the capital needed for the company's ongoing operations as well as investment in the growth strategy for the company moving forward. As Ryan mentioned, we've been using those resources to invest in expanding our sales team, strategic marketing initiatives and the advancement of our technology platforms.

It is our belief that these investments will yield return for both Managed Services and SaaS as we look to the future. It is also our belief that a combination of SaaS and Managed Services revenue streams from customers of all sizes will allow IZEA to get to sustainable profitability more quickly and that diversifying our customer base is key to long-term success.

As we finish out the final weeks of 2019, we are looking towards 2020 with heightened excitement and anticipation for the coming quarters. Much of that excitement has to do with the sales pipeline and new product development. But another part of that excitement for the future is moving on from the past.

Over the next 6 months, we will shutter the legacy Ebyline and TapInfluence platforms. Our goal for the integration and sunsetting on these platforms has always been what we call parity plus. Before moving customers over, we wanted to make sure that they could do everything they did in the previous systems plus much, much more. We believe we have now extracted the best parts of each platform and grafted them on to IZEAx. We have also added significant new capabilities to IZEAx that did not exist in these platforms, many of which were top [paths] from platform users.

Our teams have already begun to execute against the platform transition plans. Across the course of this year, customers have been trained and transferred, and we expect those transitions from both platforms to be complete midyear. Ebyline will be first with the full move expected to be completed by early Q1, and TapInfluence will follow shortly thereafter by the end of Q2. These are meaningful events, and our team has taken great care to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The elimination of these platforms will allow us to streamline and modernize the customer experience, freeing up engineering and support staff to work on other initiatives and significantly reduce our hosting expense. IZEA intends to keep these marketing websites and brands alive as they hold significant value for search engine optimization in particular. However, when someone signs up for the underlying platform powering these sites, they will be using IZEAx moving forward.

As we jettison the past, we are also creating our future. IZEA intends to develop additional self-service revenue streams that complement IZEAx and take advantage of our customer base of both marketers and creators. We have tremendous assets in our creator network, data and software services. Our goal is to unlock the incremental value by offering new software solutions that build upon our existing asset base, leveraging them in completely new ways.

Earlier this week, we announced the beta launch of BrandGraph, IZEA's new social intelligence software. BrandGraph is a multi-platform service that maps and classifies the complex hierarchy of corporation to brand relationships by category. It associates social content with brands and easily aggregates information to provide insights for marketers across their competitive landscapes.

The beta version of BrandGraph is already integrated with IZEAx through our VizSearch influencer discovery tool. We are currently using it to process hundreds of millions of pieces of content to extract brand insights, data that is incredibly valuable to corporations and the agency that serve them. We intend to offer BrandGraph as a new stand-alone self-service SaaS tool in addition to integrations inside of IZEAx. That product should launch by the end of Q1.

Before the end of this year, we also expect to alpha launch [Shake], previously referred to as IZEA Gigs. Shake allows freelance creators to list contract digital services for sale through their own online storefront. At alpha launch, the platform will allow select IZEA creators to begin building their listings in the marketplace. We expect to activate Shake purchases for the public in the first half of 2020. Shake will also be a 100% self-service platform powered by Shake bot, our e-commerce forward chatbot experience.

In addition to these new platforms, IZEAx Unity Suite continues to receive major upgrades by virtue of our ongoing investments in technology. Our team has been very busy expanding on the infrastructure we created for the IZEAx 3.0 launch, and we have designed incredible enhancements for IZEAx 4.0 that we plan to announce in the first half of 2020. Our team has been head-down building out infrastructure and adding headcount since the fund raise, and we expect 2020 to be a big year for our company. IZEA will enter the new year with our biggest sales team since 2016, which was a year of massive growth for our company, and that team will be armed with the best technology platform and solution set that we've ever had.

Our self-service business is small but growing with additional monetization opportunities coming online in the front half of this year. Our engineering team will be free of the burden associated with maintaining our old platforms, and we have rightsized our pricing methodology to better partner with customers and win more business. We believe the '20s will be a golden era for our space, and IZEA is well positioned to capture significant portion of this growing market.

Thank you for spending time with us this afternoon. I would now like to open up the call for Q&A.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Mike Malouf with Craig-Hallum.

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Michael Fawzy Malouf, Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, Research Division - Partner, Senior Research Analyst & Head of Boston Team [2]

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If we could just start off, InfluenceImpact sounds like a really interesting offering especially given just that data that you can provide. Can you talk a little bit about any impact with the sales uplift with that and maybe just some early indications of how that's being implemented?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [3]

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Yes. We are still early in that process. We have a relatively long sales cycle here, but that is being pitched specifically on the Managed Services side of the business. And so far, it's been very well received. We've also got a fair amount of press and excitement about that in the retail space. So the measurement is incredibly important to our end customers. It's something that we get asked about a lot, specifically for CPG customers. Being able to actually track the uplift that they're seeing at a physical store location really helps justify the spend. So we're confident that this is going to be something that there's going to be a lot of uptake on and will be something that is likely standardized in a lot of these Managed Services packages moving forward.

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Michael Fawzy Malouf, Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, Research Division - Partner, Senior Research Analyst & Head of Boston Team [4]

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Okay. Great. And then as we look into the SaaS business, down a little bit sequentially on the license side. Obviously, you're going through a little bit of churn with TapInfluence. I'm wondering if you can give us a sense or at least quantify about where you are in that process. You sort of have growth on one side and some churn on the other. And just kind of wondering, as we go into December, should we start to see sequential growth pick up in December or are we still going to see some offset from the churn?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [5]

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Yes. You're still going to see some offset from the churn in Q4 and that largely comes down to some customers that were paying, frankly, very large licensing fees where they were being overcharged and coming from those legacy Tap relationships, we want our customers to be able to spend the large majority of the dollars that they have allocated for influencer marketing towards the influencers themselves so that they actually get the -- to get the return. So we have been modifying some of those contracts, some proactively, some at the end of the period, and we'll feel the effects of that in Q4. But we're now through the full 1 year cycle with those TapInfluence customers and don't expect there to be impact beyond Q4. We'll be adding -- we expect to be adding more customers and licensing fees than any sort of adjustments or churn that we have.

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Michael Fawzy Malouf, Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, Research Division - Partner, Senior Research Analyst & Head of Boston Team [6]

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Okay. Good. So sort of back to growth on Q1.

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [7]

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We believe so.

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Michael Fawzy Malouf, Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, Research Division - Partner, Senior Research Analyst & Head of Boston Team [8]

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Okay. And then as it relates to the marketplace spend side, saw some weakness there as well. I'm just kind of wondering, as we go into December, we have some seasonality. That should help you, but then again you do have some of these SaaS customers churning off. So can you give us a sense of how you're sort of looking at December?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [9]

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Yes. I can't give specific insight into December. I can tell you that, certainly, the marketplace spend will be less due to some of those customers that have churned but also due to some challenges that customers that haven't churned are just experiencing it in their own organizations. So we have 2 large customers in particular that are just -- they're dealing with their own challenges. We've been feeling those challenges with those customers throughout the year. We have seen some rebound, but they're just not spending like they used to, and that will have an impact in Q4.

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Michael Fawzy Malouf, Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, Research Division - Partner, Senior Research Analyst & Head of Boston Team [10]

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Yes. Okay. All right. Great. And then just a question maybe for Justin. As we look into the G&A expense, you've done a great job of keeping that down. I'm just kind of wondering as you go through the next couple of quarters, are you expecting G&A to sort of stay flat from here? Or is that going to pick up?

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Justin Andrews, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - CFO [11]

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We don't know exactly what's going to happen with G&A. We don't -- we really can't get too much insight whether it's going to go up or down. Potentially, it could go either way kind of depending on what we decide to do with investment into new revenue lines and stuff like that. But right now, no real insight.

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Operator [12]

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Our next question comes from the line of Jon Hickman with Ladenburg Thalmann.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [13]

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So I want to follow up on Mike's question about the SaaS business. So you're telling us that the number of customers on the SaaS platform is at a record level. Is that true?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [14]

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Yes, yes.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [15]

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So the number of customers paying you recurring revenues every month because they're licensing it, that's -- is that a true statement?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [16]

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Yes. You have -- well, you have customers that are licensing in 2 different modes. You have the customers that are signing long-term licenses of 12 months that are IZEAx enterprise customers or Unity Suite customers. We also have customers that are the self-service customers that are coming in with their credit cards that have no long-term contracts but renew monthly automatically. So we -- when we talk about like bookings for SaaS, we would book contracts for the total amount of a SaaS license on Unity Suite, but we do not book the -- we don't assume any forward commitment from customers that are on Discovery.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [17]

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And so -- and then the marketplace spend is coming from the licensees as they do transactions through the network, right?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [18]

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Correct. Correct.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [19]

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So as the number of customers goes up, the marketplace spend should go up?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [20]

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Well, you have customers of different types. We have customers that are in Unity Suite that tend to spend on marketplace but realize that not all of them spend in marketplace. Some of them are providing product instead of payments because our platform supports any type of compensation that they want to provide, whether that be a gift card or promo code or any sort of product that they sell. And then you have the Discovery. And more recently, the Discovery pro offering, which is kind of a group license to the Discovery tool. Those customers are not -- they're never going to spend money through the platform. They're just going to pay us a licensing fee to get access to the creator base and the insights that we provide.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [21]

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Okay. So you talked a little bit about the Managed Services for the end of the year. The -- what's your -- with putting -- counting the churn, like you say you're going to get a restart to grow within Q1. So can you give us kind of a sense of is it flat or are we still going to see down numbers on SaaS?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [22]

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I mean what -- I think that you're going to probably still see down numbers from Q4 because you're seeing the people that churned and/or adjusted in Q3. And for some of those contracts, if we're rightsizing somebody who is paying tens of thousands of dollars into a much smaller licensing fee that's more appropriate for what their level of spend is, it takes multiple customers to replace that one customer. So you'll feel the effects of that in Q4.

I would say that broader speaking, what we're really excited about is that we've been building out the Managed Services sales team as well as the SaaS sales team. And we've got a nice sized SaaS team, including one of the people who was one of our best sellers on the Managed Services side who's now moved over to the SaaS organization, and we think that there is a lot of upside and potential there. So I think that we'll really start to feel those benefits come Q1, but we've got to kind of -- we've got to work our way through that churn and the pricing adjustments that we make.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [23]

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Okay. And then for Justin, now -- I mean there were a lot of onetime -- there was -- it sounds like there was a lot of stuff going on in Q3 with all the payments. Is there -- could you give us some sense of cash burn going forward on a quarterly basis?

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Justin Andrews, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - CFO [24]

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Yes. We can't really give forward projections on any of our cash burn, but again, everything should be pretty much in line with what you would expect with growth in sales.

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [25]

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Yes. I would add on to that, that the idea is that as we start to see the benefit of those salespeople that are coming online and starting to contribute and rebound on the Managed Services side, which is a major contributor to the overall gross margins for the company, that the burn should taper over time. But it's going to take some time for the -- for those salespeople to have the full effect and the bookings to flow through to revenue. So even though you had -- Q3 bookings were up year-over-year with that smaller sales team, those bookings are going to be recognized as revenue over the next, call it, 6 to 9 months.

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Jon Robert Hickman, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Special Situations Analyst [26]

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And so tell us again, how many sales guys do you have now through full time and then...

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [27]

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When we get to the -- by the end of this year, we expect to have just under 50 salespeople, which are in -- both in SaaS and Managed Services. And that will bring us back to our 2006 levels, what we were at the end of -- I'm sorry, not 2006, 2016 levels. One -- and that was a year of really significant growth for us. So we raised this round of capital to really be able to get aggressive again on the sales front, and that's really what our team has been focused on doing.

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Operator [28]

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Our next question comes from line of Curt Van Hill with Everest Group.

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Curt Wayne Van Hill, Everest Funds Management LLC - CIO and Chief Compliance Officer [29]

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Question for Justin, I think. Can you guys give me a little bit of color on the contract liabilities 5.4 in comparison to maybe accounts receivable?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [30]

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Okay. Let me get up. Curt, the majority of those are going to be payments due to the creators that are in our network.

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Curt Wayne Van Hill, Everest Funds Management LLC - CIO and Chief Compliance Officer [31]

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Creators in your network. So it's not reserved in your accounts receivable or cash anywhere?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [32]

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Well, no, we would have -- the accounts receivable are the payments due to us from our customers and then we have liabilities to pay the creators.

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Curt Wayne Van Hill, Everest Funds Management LLC - CIO and Chief Compliance Officer [33]

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Right. So these are the -- okay. So how long are those paid out?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [34]

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The way that our payments work are the creators get paid 45 days after their work is complete. So that's always kind of a rolling number for us.

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Operator [35]

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Our next question comes from the line of [Nadhil Shamil] with [CDI].

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Unidentified Analyst [36]

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My question is like there was a share buyback program. Is it completed? Like there's $1 million program, I think 1 million shares something? Is the buyback completed?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [37]

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No. I think what you're referring to is the authorization of the share buyback. That authorization goes through the end of next year, and that is at the discretion of the Board. So we haven't announced any sort of share buyback to date in terms of executing on that authorization. But the Board can choose to do that at any time. We are restricted by the same blackout windows as like a management stock purchase would be, so it has to happen within certain windows.

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Unidentified Analyst [38]

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Okay. So just one more question. So you have been talking lately about like 2016 was a great year. And so after 4 years, you're expecting a similar rate -- similar kind of growth. So what kind of opportunities were not there or there in 2016 that, our challenges which were not there that you see in 2020? Will there be any challenges which were not there in 2016 which can offset the opportunities in 2020?

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [39]

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No. The biggest difference between our sales structure now and in 2020 was that -- or sorry, in 2016, we had a much larger sales organization overall in 2016. But I would also say that that sales team was not as well equipped to sell as our sales team is today. We have invested a lot more in training and onboarding and continual education of that sales team, and I believe you're seeing that reflected in the most recent bookings. You have a 25% smaller team that's delivering 12% better results year-over-year. So that sales team is more effective than in previous years.

And we've been seeing that kind of increase pretty steadily over the past couple of years as the efficiency per salesperson. I think that a difference between 2016 and today is that there's certainly a lot more noise in the channel. There's certainly a lot more fragmentation in influencer marketing. But at the same time, there are a lot more dollars to go around.

I feel particularly confident in our team not just based on the productivity gains that they've had but also based on the types of relationships that they've been able to form directly with Fortune 500 and Fortune 10 corporations. And they've been able to grow that business, and we think that those relationships can continue to grow in 2020. And with more salespeople, it just gives us more at bats. A lot of this is just about getting in front of more customers to be able to tell the IZEA story, to be able to show them our platform. And that's why we've made that investment in growing out that team.

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Operator [40]

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We have reached the end of our question-and-answer session. Allow me to hand the floor back over to management for closing remarks.

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Edward H. Murphy, IZEA Worldwide, Inc. - Founder, Chairman, President & CEO [41]

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Thank you all for joining us today. A recap of this call will be available on izea.com, and you can check out the press release and financials on our site.

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Operator [42]

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Thank you. This will conclude today's teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time and have a wonderful day.