Investors with a keen eye to the live video conferencing technology boom should look at the entire space beyond Zoom.
Enter Personas Social Inc. (TSX-V.PRSN, OTCMKTS: PRSNF, Forum) – a unique company engaged in the business of offering live video conferencing technology, live streaming, social media products and services for use by consumers and businesses, with a focus on mobile products…providing social commerce-enabled products which allow for a monetizable user-experience to consumers and businesses alike. The company accomplishes this by offering products that are complete with enterprise-grade e-comm. Stockhouse Media’s Dave Jackson was joined by company CEO and Chairman Mark Itwaru to get our investor audience acquainted with this very ‘thinking outside the box company.
SH: To start off with, Mark, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the history of the company?
MI: Oh, a little bit about myself. I’m a serial entrepreneur. A few careers ago I was a technical guy at one of the large phone companies. During that tenure, I had patented a service that allowed people to shop online without the use of a credit card. It allowed people to shop online and have the cost of their purchases billed to their phone bill. I evolved that into one of the first E-wallets and had a success a very successful exit. We ended up processing, you know billions of dollars a year. I sold that company. I actually sold the book of business of that company. I kept intellectual property and I repurposed a lot of the intellectual property into the backend of my existing services and then what we’ve done since then is that we’ve layered on various video engagement technologies, live streaming video conferencing so that we can create an environment where people transact and interact with one another.
SH: Can you update our investor audience and your Personas shareholders on any new company developments, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant?
MI: Yeah, absolutely. So our company started off with a live streaming service, which is still alive and doing very well today. This past February we broke a record for revenues and we’ve been growing at a consistently been clip year over year. What we’ve in recent years added to that is video conferencing service. So within the context of COVID, there was a lot of people at home that couldn’t go to work for a variety of reasons and wanted to run home businesses there are platforms that are excellent, like zoom and what have you that facilitate business meetings and that type of video conferencing, what we did with Personas is that we built a video conferencing platform that allows people running home businesses to have their users engage in a platform that allows them to pay for content.
So imagine you’re somebody doing by the hour customer service or yoga instructor or a French teacher, and you want to run classes from home. Our platform allows you to send an invite to users, have them pay, have them subscribe to your course, and then provide you with the platform and all the tools to deliver the content. So that was our main new thrust during COVID. Now that COVID is hopefully coming to an end. What we find is that the users that we acquired still like the platform and are using it for the same reasons, running businesses and for a variety of other reasons.
SH: Can you tell us a bit about your Peeks social content creator platform to compete with ‘Only Fans’ and how it works?
MI: Yes. So Peek Social was our first product or service and it’s a video streaming platform that was designed to allow people to interact and transact with the global audience. So think of interactive broadcast television, everybody could have their own channel. You could broadcast yourself, you could sell good services, and what you have to a global audience. What we found is that a popular use case for it was similar to only fans which we believe puts us in a very strong position. They’re great company. However, we are the only company in that space that has two mobile apps, one in the Apple app store and Google place store, and based on our payment processing experience, we have robust uninterrupted payment processing services that allow us to pay content creators in 48 hours, which is very unique in the industry.
In addition to that, we have a variety of alternative payment processing services that allow people that are either credit challenged or not comfortable using credit cards, provide them a variety of ways for them to subscribe to and pay for content online. Our growth rates are strong, our platform is robust. Our platform has a unique ability to allow people to get famous fast. We have a service called get popular that allows content creators to purchase advertising units to advertise their own profiles. In advertising their own profiles. They’re able to acquire in a short period of time, thousands of followers, subscribers, and people that pay for their content, both on a pay-per-view use and on a longer-term subscription basis.
SH: For shareholders and potential investors, you’ve personally invested $13 million dollars of your own money into the company. Simply put, why?
MI: Yeah, the short answer is because I think it’s a great investment. We’ve developed a global monetizable live streaming platform. Well, actually it was one of the first ones ever with a potential audience of hundreds of millions of people, the growth potential and company’s enormous, our track record to date, been great. We have constant growth year over year, and I just thought it’s the best place to put my money, so yeah, I put in $13 million of my own cash in the company, and in 2022, we’re better positioned than we ever have been in the history of the company. Our sales growth and our revenue growth is strong and consistent. We have new services and new features coming out that we’re confident will significantly accelerate our growth.
SH: January net income increased by 29-percent year-over-year. Great news. What can our investor audience glean from this?
MI: What our investor audience can glean from this is that the company as of 2020 embarked on a plan to acquire more market share, to popularize the service with the newer audience to increase customer engagement and retention and on a very thin budget, like an incredibly thin budget and it’s worked exceptionally well. Year over year, our sales keep growing. The size of the market is enormous and there are decades of future growth ahead of us.
SH: You’ve also recently announced that your monthly net income has surpassed monthly expenses for the first time in the history of the company. This may be news to many investors. Can you unpack the benefits of it?
MI: Yeah, I’m a bit of an old-fashioned business guy. So I believe a company should make more money than it’s spent so here I’ve been investing money into the company to get it to a point of self-sustainability and we reached that point. So in the history of a company, there are a few milestones that are important. The first dollar you make is the first milestone, to be able to pay all of your expenses is the second milestone and the third one is just hitting all of our growth targets from here on in. So we’re in a strong position. We’re in a comfortable position. We’re able to reinvest capital into sales and marketing in a manner that’s not dilutive to the shareholder base meaning specifically like we don’t have to go out and do a huge raise to fund our sales and marketing efforts right now, their self finding and as a result of the being self-funding, the growth curve is sustaining itself and getting steeper and we are extremely happy about that.
SH: The company looks set for strong growth in 2022. How are you placed to expand operations to meet demand?
MI: We’re very well positioned to meet demand. Over the last year we spent a lot of time and resources bringing our technology in house to prepare for rapid expansion, prior to this we were using costly third-party hosting services and what have you but what we did over the last year is migrate the infrastructure and build it out to accommodate a large influx of new users. So we’re well positioned for that.
SH: So what separates Personas from the competition and makes your business model particularly unique?
MI: Yeah, what separates Personas from the competition is that it is a social network. It’s a live streaming eCommerce-enabled social network. So it’s the social aspect of it that really promotes user engagement, user retention, and ultimately user spend. Competitive sites are more of a site where you can browse around to find content that you might find appealing and pay for it, ours allows the creators to advertise themselves and makes content discovery very attractive and very easy for users, and the live aspect of it is proven to be very engaging.
SH: I have to mention your stock has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride this past year. What can you tell our investor audience regarding the current valuation of your stock and why you think it’s a good buy right now?
MI: Well, I think our stocks are a great buy right now. Right now we’re experiencing the highest revenue as we ever have in the history of the company. If I roll back four years, we had lower revenues, lower sales, higher overhead, and miles away from being able to sustain ourselves and our stock was valued at north of a dollar. Now it’s sitting around 4 or 5 cents. I bought in the past at this level, there’s just a lot of growth in the company. The model is solid. The system is solid and we’re really at the stage of just funding growth. So for interested investors, this is the best time. This would be the best time to invest in the company because the difficult battles are behind us. We’ve faced all the struggles everybody else does in this industry and came out on top and now we’re at the stage of basically adding money to marketing and advertising to grow our user base. That’s what we’re doing and there’s no end in sight.
SH: What’s the long-term strategy for the company moving forward and what should retail and institutional investors be looking out for?
MI: The long-term strategy for the company is to grow its existing service, its Peek Social Service, and introduce similar services that appeal to a wider audience. What we’ve seen over the last five years is that our most attractive feature is our get popular feature that allows people to assemble a large social media following in a very short period of time. We have our BTV service coming out. That is in all-ages service that will have that as its main driver, it’s to get famous fast. We’ve proven that over years is that we can deliver real followers to social media users in a very short period of time and this has value to a lot of people. We’re going to continue to build our Peek Service. We’re adding we’re constantly adding new payment processing technologies, new features, new services, improving the underlying technologies that allow it to work and we’re exploring other opportunities for video and live streaming such as some e-gaming partnerships and what have you. In addition to that, we’re looking for acquisition targets in our existing space and partnerships that would allow us to accelerate our growth.
SH: Can you tell our audience a little bit about your corporate management and board teams, along with the experience and innovative ideas they bring to the video conferencing and tech space?
MI: Yeah. I have a great board. I have Jim Westlake, who’s the Senior Executive at the Royal Bank of Canada, Fareed Amin who was an advisor to several national governments and he was a government deputy minister in the province of Ontario and I have William Lavin who had several successful technology startups over the years. They bring a variety of skill sets, especially when it comes to compliance, strategic alliances, government regulations, and investment. So I’m lucky to have the board that I have, and they really add a lot of value to everything that we’re doing in our existing business and then bring opportunities for new businesses.
SH: And finally, Mark, if there’s anything I’ve overlooked please feel free to elaborate.
MI: Yeah. All I could say is that our company right now is in the best position that it’s been in its entire history. We have strong sales, strong growth. We are in the process of funding, our sales and marketing through revenues. We want to accelerate the sales and marketing both through increased revenues and potentially additional investment to really give us the push into the mainstream so that more people know about our service.
For regular updates, visit personas.com.