Form 20-F
2022-12-31P4Y0.100.100.100.100.100.100.100.100.109900000falseFY0001783407No2010-10-01false 0001783407 2019-12-31 0001783407 2020-12-31 0001783407 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 2018-01-01 0001783407 2018-12-31 0001783407 2020-01-01 0001783407 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityNotPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CopyrightsMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SoftwareMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TrademarkAndOthersMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ElectronicEquipmentMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:FurnitureAndOfficeEquipmentMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VehiclesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:LeaseholdImprovementsMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanAmendedAndRestatedTwoThousandAndNineteenShareIncentivePlanMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:SupplierConcentrationRiskMember lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:CashAtBankMember lizi:CashAtBankAndDemandDepositsDenominatedFunctionalCurrencyUsdMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:DemandDepositsMember lizi:CashAtBankAndDemandDepositsDenominatedFunctionalCurrencyRmbMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:CashAtBankMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AlipayAndWechatPayMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 srt:SubsidiariesMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 srt:SubsidiariesMember lizi:CashAndCashEquivalentsTotalMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 currency:CNY 2019-12-31 0001783407 currency:USD 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OtherCurrencyMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:FairValueMeasurementsNonrecurringMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityNotPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CopyrightsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SoftwareMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TrademarkAndOthersMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ElectronicEquipmentMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:FurnitureAndOfficeEquipmentMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VehiclesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:LeaseholdImprovementsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanAmendedAndRestatedTwoThousandAndNineteenShareIncentivePlanMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember lizi:PreInitialPublicOfferingSeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesLiquidationValueMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementNonemployeeMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:IPOMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember us-gaap:SupplierConcentrationRiskMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:DemandDepositsMember lizi:CashAtBankAndDemandDepositsDenominatedFunctionalCurrencyRmbMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:DemandDepositsMember lizi:CashAtBankAndDemandDepositsDenominatedFunctionalCurrencyUsdMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:CashAtBankMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AlipayAndWechatPayMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:SubsidiariesMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:VieMember lizi:CashAndCashEquivalentsTotalMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ChongqingPiwanNetworkTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:BeijingHongyiyichuangInformationTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:LizhiIncMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:LizhiHoldingLimitedMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaInctiyaBviMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaHoldingLimitedMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:GuangzhouTiyaInformationTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyainctiyacaymanMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:NashorPteLtdMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaIncMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaPteLtdMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinOneYearMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinTwoYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinThreeYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinFourYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinFiveYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinSixYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinSevenYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinEightYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinNineYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsWithinTenYearsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OperatingLossCarryForwardsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 currency:CNY 2020-12-31 0001783407 currency:USD 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OtherCurrencyMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:UnusedLinesOfCreditMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SpdSiliconValleyBankMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:FairValueInputsLevel2Member us-gaap:FairValueMeasurementsRecurringMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:FairValueMeasurementsRecurringMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:FairValueMeasurementsNonrecurringMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AmericanDepositorySharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AmericanDepositarySharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanAmendedAndRestatedTwoThousandAndNineteenShareIncentivePlanMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 country:CN us-gaap:StateAdministrationOfTaxationChinaMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:SupplierConcentrationRiskMember lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 srt:MinimumMember country:HK us-gaap:InlandRevenueHongKongMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:CustomerBMember us-gaap:AccountsReceivableMember us-gaap:CustomerConcentrationRiskMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccountsReceivableMember lizi:CustomerAMember us-gaap:CustomerConcentrationRiskMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:TreasuryStockMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CostOfSalesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:SellingAndMarketingExpenseMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:GeneralAndAdministrativeExpenseMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ResearchAndDevelopmentExpenseMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockUnitsRSUMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AudioEntertainmentMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PodcastAdvertisingAndOthersMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreferredSharesMember 2019-01-01 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AmericanDepositorySharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:OfficeSpaceAndStaffQuartersMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AmericanDepositarySharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndTwelveIncentivePlanMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanAmendedAndRestatedTwoThousandAndNineteenShareIncentivePlanMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanMember us-gaap:CommonClassAMember srt:MinimumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanMember us-gaap:CommonClassAMember srt:MaximumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementNonemployeeMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockUnitsRSUMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:IPOMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 srt:MinimumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CostOfSalesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 country:SG 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ElectronicEquipmentMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:FurnitureAndOfficeEquipmentMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VehiclesMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:LeaseholdImprovementsMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TrademarkAndOthersMember srt:MaximumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TrademarkAndOthersMember srt:MinimumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ComputerSoftwareIntangibleAssetMember srt:MaximumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ComputerSoftwareIntangibleAssetMember srt:MinimumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CopyrightsMember srt:MaximumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CopyrightsMember srt:MinimumMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember us-gaap:SupplierConcentrationRiskMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaHoldingLimitedMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:GuangzhouTiyaInformationTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaPteLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ChongqingPiwanNetworkTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:LizhiIncMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:LizhiHoldingLimitedMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:BeijingHongyiyichuangInformationTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:GuangzhouLizhiNetworkTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:GuangzhouHuanliaoNetworkTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ChangshaLimangInteractionEntertainmentCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaIncMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:NashorPteLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyainctiyacaymanMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TiyaInctiyaBviMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:HuaianLizhiNetworkTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:WuhanLizhiNetworkTechnologyCoLtdMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 dei:AdrMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonClassAMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:LizhiBviMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccountsReceivableMember us-gaap:CustomerConcentrationRiskMember lizi:CustomerCMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccountsReceivableMember lizi:CustomerBMember us-gaap:CustomerConcentrationRiskMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AdditionalPaidInCapitalMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:TreasuryStockMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 dei:BusinessContactMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:SellingAndMarketingExpenseMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:GeneralAndAdministrativeExpenseMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ResearchAndDevelopmentExpenseMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:ServiceProviderConcentrationRiskMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccountsReceivableMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AudioEntertainmentMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PodcastAdvertisingAndOthersMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:EmployeeStockOptionMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2020-01-01 2020-12-31 0001783407 country:HK us-gaap:InlandRevenueHongKongMember 2018-04-01 2018-04-01 0001783407 lizi:AssessableProfitUptoTwoMillionMember country:HK us-gaap:InlandRevenueHongKongMember 2018-04-01 2018-04-01 0001783407 country:HK lizi:AssessableProfitGreaterThanTwoMillionMember us-gaap:InlandRevenueHongKongMember 2018-04-01 2018-04-01 0001783407 lizi:AmericanDepositorySharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AmericanDepositarySharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementNonemployeeMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:VariableInterestEntityPrimaryBeneficiaryMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CostOfSalesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:SellingAndMarketingExpenseMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:GeneralAndAdministrativeExpenseMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ResearchAndDevelopmentExpenseMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockUnitsRSUMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:AudioEntertainmentMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PodcastAdvertisingAndOthersMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:PreferredSharesMember 2018-01-01 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanMember us-gaap:CommonClassAMember 2020-03-17 0001783407 lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanMember us-gaap:CommonClassAMember 2020-03-18 0001783407 lizi:KastleLimitedMember lizi:TwoThousandAndNineteenIncentivePlanAmendedAndRestatedTwoThousandAndNineteenShareIncentivePlanMember 2019-09-01 2019-09-30 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2011-03-01 2011-03-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MatrixPartnersChinaIHongKongLimitedMember 2011-03-01 2011-03-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-01 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2012-03-01 2012-03-31 0001783407 lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2012-03-01 2012-03-31 0001783407 lizi:MatrixPartnersChinaIHongKongLimitedMember lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2012-03-01 2012-03-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember 2014-02-01 2014-02-28 0001783407 lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2014-02-01 2014-02-28 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2014-12-01 2014-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MatrixPartnersChinaIHongKongLimitedMember 2014-12-01 2014-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember 2014-12-01 2014-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MatrixPartnersChinaIHongKongLimitedMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2014-12-01 2014-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:MorningSideChinaTmtFundIiLpMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2014-12-01 2014-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:TwoThousandAndFourteenLoanMember 2014-12-01 2014-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2015-01-01 2015-01-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:PeopleBetterLimitedMember 2015-01-01 2015-01-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:ShunweiInternetLimitedMember 2015-01-01 2015-01-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-01 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:CyberDreamerLimitedMember 2017-06-01 2017-06-30 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:CyberDreamerLimitedMember 2017-07-01 2017-07-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember lizi:EvolutionMediaChinaLpMember 2017-07-01 2017-07-31 0001783407 lizi:CyberDreamerLimitedMember 2019-10-18 2019-10-18 0001783407 lizi:GuangzhouTiyaMember 2019-05-20 2019-05-20 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2011-03-07 2011-03-07 0001783407 us-gaap:IPOMember us-gaap:CommonClassAMember 2020-01-01 2020-01-01 0001783407 lizi:AdvertisingAndPromotionalServiceExpenseMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonClassAMember 2021-02-28 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonClassBMember 2021-02-28 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementNonemployeeMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementNonemployeeMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2018-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:TreasuryStockMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockUnitsRSUMember 2019-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockUnitsRSUMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RestrictedStockMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:TreasuryStockMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AdditionalPaidInCapitalMember 2020-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:ShareBasedPaymentArrangementEmployeeMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesAConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesBConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesCConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesC1PlusConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesDConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 lizi:SeriesD1ConvertibleRedeemablePreferredSharesMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:CommonStockMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:RetainedEarningsMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 us-gaap:AccumulatedOtherComprehensiveIncomeMember 2017-12-31 0001783407 srt:ParentCompanyMember 2017-12-31 iso4217:CNY iso4217:USD xbrli:shares xbrli:pure utr:Year utr:Day iso4217:USD xbrli:shares iso4217:CNY xbrli:shares lizi:Number
Table of Contents
 
 
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
 
 
FORM
20-F
 
 
(Mark One)
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
OR
 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report
                    
For the transition period from
                    
to
                    
Commission file number:
001-39177
 
 
LIZHI INC
.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
N/A
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
Yangcheng Creative Industry Zone,
No. 309 Middle Huangpu Avenue,
Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510655,
People’s Republic of China
(Address of principal executive offices)
Ms. Chengfang Lu
Acting Chief Financial Officer
Tel: +86 (20) 3866-4265
E-mail:
luchengfang@lizhi.fm
Yangcheng Creative Industry Zone,
No. 309 Middle Huangpu Avenue,
Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510655,
Republic of China People’s Republic of China
(Name, Telephone,
E-mail
and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
 
 
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of each class
  
Trading
Symbol
  
Name of each exchange
on which registered
American depositary shares, each ADS represents 20 Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share
 
LIZI
 
The Nasdaq Global Market
Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share*
 
N/A
 
The Nasdaq Global Market
 
*
Not for trading, but only in connection with the listing of the American depositary shares on the Nasdaq Global Market.
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
None
(Title of Class)
 
 
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.
As of February 28, 2021, there were 924,370,330 ordinary shares outstanding, being the sum of
693,155,330
Class A ordinary shares (excluding 15,446,330 Class A ordinary shares held by Kastle Limited) and
231,215,000
Class B ordinary shares.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.     Yes  
    No  
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.    Yes  ☐    No  ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.     Yes  
    No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation
S-T
(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).     Yes  
    No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a
non-accelerated
filer. See definition of “accelerated filer and large accelerated filer” in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
 
Large Accelerated Filer
 
  
Accelerated Filer
 
 
Non-accelerated Filer
 
           
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
Emerging growth company
 
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
 
U.S. GAAP  ☒  
        International Financial Reporting Standards as issued
        by the International Accounting Standards Board
        Other  ☐    
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards † provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
  
 
The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.     ☐  Item 17    ☐  Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act).    Yes  
    No  
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.    Yes  
    No  
 
 
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
        
Page
 
     1  
     3  
       4  
       4  
       4  
       4  
       56  
       85  
       85  
       104  
       113  
       114  
       115  
       115  
       125  
       126  
       128  
       128  
       128  
       128  
       130  
       130  
       130  
       130  
       130  
       131  
       131  
       131  
       132  
       132  
       132  
       132  

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION
Except where the context otherwise indicates and for the purpose of this annual report only:
 
   
“ACG” refers to animation, comics and games;
 
   
“AI” refers to artificial intelligence;
 
   
“active users” or “users” is used interchangeably in this annual report and refers to users who visited our platforms at least once in a given period, measured by the number of mobile devices that launched our mobile apps in a given period. The number of active users is calculated by treating each distinguishable mobile device as a separate user even though some individuals may access our platforms using more than one mobile device and multiple individuals may access our services using the same mobile device. An active user is not necessarily a registered user, since one does not have to register with our apps in order to access our audio content;
 
   
“ADSs” refers to the American depositary shares, each representing 20 of our Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
 
   
“average monthly active hosts” refers to the monthly average number of active hosts in a given period, calculated by dividing (i) the total number of users who accessed our LIZHI App as a host in a given month, or who historically accessed our LIZHI App as a host and remained an active user in a given month, in each month of such period by (ii) the number of months in the same period
 
   
“audio entertainment mobile MAUs” refers to the number of active users who have accessed our audio entertainment products in a given month on our apps;
 
   
“audio entertainment paying user” refers to a paying user that has purchased virtual items for our audio entertainment products at least once during the relevant period on our apps;
 
   
“average audio entertainment paying users” refers to the monthly average number of audio entertainment paying users in a given period on our apps, calculated by dividing (i) the total number of audio entertainment paying users in each month of such period by (ii) the number of months in the same period;
 
   
“average paying users” refers to the monthly average number of paying users in a given period across our platforms and apps, calculated by dividing (i) the total number of paying users in each month of such period by (ii) the number of months in the same period;
 
   
“China” or “PRC” refer to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purpose of this annual report only, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau;
 
   
“Class A ordinary shares” refers to our Class A ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
 
   
“Class B ordinary shares” refers to our Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
 
   
“Founders” refers to Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai, Mr. Ning Ding and the entities that hold shares on behalf of and are controlled by Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai and Mr. Ning Ding, as Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai and Mr. Ning Ding so designate;
 
   
“guild” refers to an organized group of hosts that recruit, manage, train and support its member hosts;
 
   
“host” and “content creator” refer to a user who has posted a podcast or hosted an audio entertainment program on our apps;
 
   
“MAUs” refers to the number of active users in a given month across our platforms and apps;
 
   
“MENA” refers to the Middle East and North Africa;
 
1

Table of Contents
   
“ordinary shares” refers to our Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares, par value US$0.0001 per share;
 
   
“paying user” refers to an user that has purchased virtual items or subscribed for paid podcasts at least once during the relevant period. A paying user is not necessarily a unique user, however, as a unique user may set up multiple user accounts on our platforms. The number of paying users we present in this annual report may not be equal to the number of unique individuals who actually purchase or consume virtual items or subscribe for paid podcasts on our platforms for any given period;
 
   
“RMB” or “Renminbi” refers to the legal currency of the PRC;
 
   
“Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association” refers to the second amended and restated memorandum and articles of association of our company adopted on October 23, 2019 which has become effective upon our initial public offering;
 
   
“total mobile MAUs” refers to the number of active users across our platforms and apps in a given month;
 
   
“UGC” refers to user-generated content;
 
   
“US$,” “dollars” or “U.S. dollars” refers to the legal currency of the United States;
 
   
“VIEs” refers to variable interest entities; and
 
   
“We,” “us,” “our company,” and “our,” refer to LIZHI INC., a Cayman Islands incorporated exempted company with limited liability, its subsidiaries, VIEs and the subsidiaries of its VIEs.
We have made rounding adjustments to some of the figures included in this annual report. Accordingly, numerical figures shown as totals or percentages may not be an arithmetic calculation of the figures that preceded them.
Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Renminbi to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to Renminbi in this annual report are made at RMB6.5250 to US$1.00, the exchange rate set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board on December 31, 2020. We make no representation that any Renminbi or U.S. dollar amounts could have been, or could be, converted into U.S. dollars or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate, the rates stated below, or at all. On March 19, 2021, the noon buying rate for Renminbi was RMB 6.5070 to US$1.00.
 
2

Table of Contents
FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This annual report contains statements that constitute forward-looking statements. Many of the forward- looking statements contained in this annual report can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “expect,” “should,” “plan,” “intend,” “estimate” and “potential,” among others.
Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places in this annual report and include, but are not limited to, statements regarding our intent, belief or current expectations. Forward-looking statements are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements due to of various factors, including, but not limited to, those identified under the section entitled “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factors” in this annual report. These risks and uncertainties include factors relating to:
 
   
our goals and growth strategies;
 
   
our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;
 
   
relevant government policies and regulations relating to our business and industry;
 
   
our expectation regarding the use of proceeds from our initial public offering in January 2020;
 
   
general economic and business condition in China and overseas countries and regions where we operate;
 
   
assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing;
 
   
the length and severity of the recent
COVID-19
outbreak and its impact on our business and industry;
 
   
other factors that may affect our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations; and
 
   
other risk factors discussed under “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factors.”
Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake any obligation to update them in light of new information or future developments or to release publicly any revisions to these statements in order to reflect later events or circumstances or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
 
3

Table of Contents
PART I
 
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
3.A.    Selected Financial Data
The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive loss data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020, selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 and selected consolidated cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report. The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive loss data for the year ended December 31, 2017, selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 and 2018 and selected consolidated cash flow data for the year ended December 31, 2017 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements not included in this annual report. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of results expected for future periods. You should read this Selected Financial Data section together with our consolidated financial statements and the related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” included elsewhere in this annual report.
 
4

Table of Contents
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
  
2017
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
US$
 
    
(in thousands, except for share and per share data)
 
Net revenues
     453,529        798,561        1,180,597        1,502,908        230,331  
Cost of revenues
     (330,822      (565,634      (910,155      (1,134,678      (173,897
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Gross profit
  
 
122,707
 
  
 
232,927
 
  
 
270,442
 
  
 
368,230
 
  
 
56,434
 
Operating expenses:
              
Selling and marketing expenses
     (206,795      (135,014      (208,550      (142,734      (21,875
General and administrative expenses
     (22,645      (26,702      (45,714      (88,856      (13,618
Research and development expenses
     (43,189      (83,209      (158,015      (225,329      (34,533
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total operating expenses
  
 
(272,629
  
 
(244,925
  
 
(412,279
  
 
(456,919
  
 
(70,026
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Operating loss
  
 
(149,922
  
 
(11,998
  
 
(141,837
  
 
(88,689
  
 
(13,592
Other income:
        
Interest (expenses)/income, net
     (2,008      211        300        (1,796      (275
Foreign exchange (losses)/gains
     (3,563      (58      1,178        (836      (128
Investment (losses)/income
     —          (458      —          1,241        190  
Government grants
     2,033        3,626        9,452        12,870        1,972  
Others, net
     (205      (675      (2,050      (3,975      (609
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Loss before income taxes
  
 
(153,665
  
 
(9,342
  
 
(132,957
  
 
(81,185
  
 
(12,442
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Income tax expense
     —          —          —          (999      (153
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Net loss
  
 
(153,665
  
 
(9,342
  
 
(132,957
  
 
(82,184
  
 
(12,595
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Accretions to preferred shares redemption value
     (291,275      (216,185      (940,186      (154,066      (23,612
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to our Company’s ordinary shareholders
  
 
(444,940
  
 
(225,527
  
 
(1,073,143
  
 
(236,250
  
 
(36,207
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Net loss
  
 
(153,665
  
 
(9,342
  
 
(132,957
  
 
(82,184
  
 
(12,595
Other comprehensive (loss)/income:
              
Foreign currency translation adjustments
     (876      2,649        671        (6,338      (971
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total other comprehensive (loss)/income
  
 
(876
  
 
2,649
 
  
 
671
 
  
 
(6,338
  
 
(971
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Total comprehensive loss
  
 
(154,541
  
 
(6,693
  
 
(132,286
  
 
(88,522
  
 
(13,566
Accretions to preferred shares redemption value
     (291,275      (216,185      (940,186      (154,066      (23,612
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Comprehensive loss attributable to our Company’s ordinary shareholders
  
 
(445,816
  
 
(222,878
  
 
(1,072,472
  
 
(242,588
  
 
(37,178
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to our Company’s ordinary shareholders per share
              
Basic
     (1.73      (0.87      (4.13      (0.27      (0.04
Diluted
     (1.73      (0.87      (4.13      (0.27      (0.04
Weighted average number of ordinary shares
              
Basic
     260,000,000        260,000,000        260,000,000        883,202,412        883,202,412  
Diluted
     260,000,000        260,000,000        260,000,000        883,202,412        883,202,412  
Net loss attributable to our Company’s ordinary shareholders per ADSs
              
Basic
     (34.23      (17.35      (82.55      (5.35      (0.82
Diluted
     (34.23      (17.35      (82.55      (5.35      (0.82
Weighted average number of ADSs
              
Basic
     13,000,000        13,000,000        13,000,000        44,160,121        44,160,121  
Diluted
     13,000,000        13,000,000        13,000,000        44,160,121        44,160,121  
 
5

Table of Contents
The following table presents our selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
 
    
As of December 31,
 
    
2017
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Summary Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
              
Cash and cash equivalents
     206,509        205,604        82,709        315,459        48,346  
Total current assets
     231,056        218,013        104,462        419,908        64,353  
Total assets
  
 
242,547
 
  
 
236,659
 
  
 
140,683
 
  
 
463,818
 
  
 
71,082
 
Deferred revenue
     5,878        10,668        14,530        17,001        2,606  
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities
     71,147        24,026        33,729        51,047        7,823  
Total current liabilities
  
 
155,009
 
  
 
155,814
 
  
 
192,124
 
  
 
288,629
 
  
 
44,234
 
Total liabilities
  
 
155,009
 
  
 
155,814
 
  
 
192,124
 
  
 
294,627
 
  
 
45,153
 
Total mezzanine equity:
  
 
790,619
 
  
 
1,006,804
 
  
 
1,946,990
 
  
 
—  
 
  
 
—  
 
Ordinary shares (US$0.0001 par value, 930,963,910 shares authorized as of December 31, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and 1,500,000,000 shares authorized as of December 31, 2020 respectively, 260,000,000 shares issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2017 and 2018, 285,428,430 shares issued and 260,000,000 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2019, and 941,464,520 shares issued and 924,318,450 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2020, respectively)
     171        171        189        640        98  
Treasury stock
     —          —          (18      (12      (2
Additional paid in capital
     —          —          —          2,409,753        369,311  
Accumulated deficit
     (704,361      (929,888      (2,003,031      (2,239,281      (343,185
Accumulated other comprehensive income/(loss)
     1,109        3,758        4,429        (1,909      (293
Total shareholders’ (deficit)/equity:
  
 
(703,081
  
 
(925,959
  
 
(1,998,431
  
 
169,191
 
  
 
25,929
 
Total liabilities, mezzanine equity and shareholders’ (deficit)/equity
  
 
242,547
 
  
 
236,659
 
  
 
140,683
 
  
 
463,818
 
  
 
71,082
 
 
6

Table of Contents
The following table presents our selected consolidated cash flow data for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
 
    
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2017
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
RMB
    
US$
 
    
(in thousands)
 
Net cash (used in)/generated from operating activities
     (31,334      13,962        (95,753      39,996        6,130  
Net cash used in investing activities
     (13,195      (17,375      (29,370      (94,559      (14,492
Net cash generated from financing activities
     237,787        —          —          298,046        45,677  
Effect of foreign exchange rate changes on cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash
     (5,152      2,508        2,228        (7,038      (1,079
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Net increase/(decrease) in cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash
  
 
188,106
 
  
 
(905
  
 
(122,895
  
 
236,445
 
  
 
36,236
 
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Cash, cash equivalents at the beginning of the year
  
 
18,403
 
  
 
206,509
 
  
 
205,604
 
  
 
82,709
 
  
 
12,676
 
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
Cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash at the end of the year
  
 
206,509
 
  
 
205,604
 
  
 
82,709
 
  
 
319,154
 
  
 
48,912
 
  
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
    
 
 
 
3.B.    Capitalization and Indebtedness
Not applicable.
3.C.    Reason for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
Not applicable.
3.D.    Risk Factors
Summary Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a number of risks, including risks that may prevent us from achieving our business objectives or may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, and prospects. These risks are discussed more fully below and include, but are not limited to, risks related to:
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
 
   
If we fail to retain our existing users, to keep them engaged, to further grow our user base or to increase paying ratio, our business, operation, profitability and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
 
   
The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.
 
   
Our content monitoring system may not be effective in preventing misconduct by our platforms’ users and misuse of our platforms and such misconduct or misuse may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
We may fail to offer attractive audio content on our platforms.
 
   
We have limited experience in international markets. If we fail to meet the challenges presented by our expansion overseas, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
 
   
If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our businesses in China do not comply with PRC regulations on foreign investment in internet and other related businesses, or if these regulations or their interpretation change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations.
 
7

Table of Contents
   
We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their shareholders for our operations in China, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership.
 
   
We may lose the ability to use and enjoy assets held by our VIEs and their subsidiaries that are important to our business if our VIEs and their subsidiaries declare bankruptcy or become subject to a dissolution or liquidation proceeding.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
 
   
Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to you and us.
 
   
Adverse changes in global or China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
Our auditor, like other independent registered public accounting firms operating in China, is not permitted to be subject to inspection by Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”), and consequently investors may be deprived of the benefits of such inspection. As a result of recent legislation, if such a PCAOB inspection of our auditor cannot be completed within the next three years, we will be required to remove our listing and cease all trading of our securities in the U.S. capital markets. During the intervening period, this and other recent legislative and regulatory developments related to U.S.-listed China-based companies due to lack of PCAOB inspection may have a material adverse impact on our listing and trading in the U.S. and the trading prices of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.
Risks Related to our American Depositary Shares
 
   
Our ADSs have experienced and may continue to experience price and volume fluctuations, which could lead to costly litigation for us and make an investment in us less appealing.
 
   
Under our dual-class share structure with different voting rights, holders of Class B ordinary shares have complete control of the outcome of matters put to a vote of shareholders, which may limit ability of holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs may view as beneficial.
 
   
The dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may adversely affect the trading market for our ADSs.
 
   
The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to direct the voting of the underlying Class A ordinary shares which are represented by your ADSs.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
If we fail to retain our existing users, to keep them engaged, to further grow our user base or to increase paying ratio, our business, operation, profitability and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
The size of our user base and the level of our user engagement are critical to our success. We generate substantially all of our net revenues from virtual gift sales for our audio entertainment. Therefore, our success in monetization primarily depends on our ability to maintain and increase the size of our user base and user engagement level. If our user base decreases or stops growing, our users become less active or interested, or the quality and quantity of our paying user base deteriorate, it is probable that they would spend less on our platforms or access our platforms less often in general. As a result, our business, financial condition and results of operations will be materially and adversely impacted.
Maintaining and improving the current size of user base and level of user engagement are critical to our continued success. To do so, we would have to ensure, among other things, that we adequately and timely respond to changes in user preferences, attract and retain popular hosts, continue to provide user-friendly experience and improve user experience, and curate our hosts to offer new and high-quality features and content that attract new users while keep the existing users interested. There is no guarantee that we could meet all of these goals. A number of factors could negatively affect user retention, growth and engagement, including if:
 
   
we fail to provide sufficient, high-quality user-generated audio content that keep our users interested and draw them to our platforms;
 
   
we are unable to provide user-friendly experience to our hosts or users or continue innovating our products to improve user experience;
 
   
we fail to identify key changes in user preferences in a timely manner or effectively respond to the changing user preferences;
 
   
we fail to keep pace with changes in technologies;
 
8

Table of Contents
   
technical or other problems prevent us from delivering our services in a rapid and reliable manner or otherwise adversely affect the user experience;
 
   
we fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations, including those related to illegal or inappropriate content;
 
   
our hosts fail to keep our users engaged with our services or platforms;
 
   
we suffer from negative publicity, fail to maintain our brand or if our reputation is damaged;
 
   
we fail to address user concerns related to privacy and communication, safety, security or other factors; and
 
   
there are adverse changes in our services that are mandated by, or that we elect to make to address, legislation, regulations, government mandates or app store policies.
The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
The PRC government has closely regulated the online audio and entertainment platforms in the past and may continue to tighten the regulation and control on those platforms. In accordance with the Notice on Further Regulating the Order of Online Audio-Visual Program Dissemination, which was issued by State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and became effective on March 16, 2018, online program service providers are forbidden to illegally seize, edit and adapt audio-visual programs, and online program service providers shall enhance management of certain audio-visual programs and naming and sponsorship of programs on their platforms. The provincial press, publication, radio and television administrative authorities shall supervise the local audio-visual program websites to further improve the program content monitoring system and ensure the online program service providers to fully implement the relevant requirements.
In August 2018, the National Office of Anti-Pornography and Illegal Publication, or the NOAPIP, the MIIT, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the National Radio and Television Administration and the Cyberspace Administration of China jointly issued the Notice on Strengthen the Management of Live Streaming Service, which required a real-name registration system for users to be put in place by live streaming service providers. Under this real-name registration system, we validate the identity information of the registered users primarily based on their mobile numbers. Currently, we are not required to obtain information such as legal names, citizen identification cards or other personal information during the registration process to validate the identify information of our users who are not a host. However, the PRC government may further tighten the real-name registration requirements or require us to implement a more thorough compulsory real-name registration system for all users on our platforms in the future. If we were required to implement a more rigid real-name registration system for users on our platforms, potential users may be deterred from registering with our platforms, which may in turn negatively affect the growth of our user base and prospect.
We also do not have full control over the behaviors of our hosts and users and the content generated by them, and therefore cannot assure you that our platforms would not be misused by others to engage in illegal or inappropriate activities. Due to the uncertainty of the evolving regulatory regime in the PRC, we may be subject to tightened implementation of applicable regulations in the future and additional restrictive measures may be imposed upon our platforms. Such evolving changes in regulatory regime may adversely affect our results of operations. Accordingly, we may be required to change our business strategies, substantially change the functions of our products, impose restrictions on user behaviors and content creation, or adjust our monetization methods. Also, we cannot assure you that our new products or features will meet the requirements of governmental authorities in China in a timely manner, or at all.
We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, we had approximately 6.2 million monthly active hosts on our LIZHI App, representing a 4.7% increase from 5.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Certain hosts are able to attract a large follower base. Hosts are rewarded usually for their high-quality content, which are the primary contributors to user stickiness on our platforms and are hard to be replicated by other hosts. Certain of our top hosts received a large portion of their virtual gifts from a limited number of paying users.
 
9

Table of Contents
Although we have signed contracts with some of our hosts or guilds that contain
non-compete
clauses, popular hosts may still choose to depart us when their contract period ends, and their departure may cause a corresponding decline in our user base. Sometimes, our hosts may leave us to join a competing platform, whereas hosts from a competing platform may also choose to join us, in both of which scenarios legal and commercial dispute may arise. These disputes may distract management and impose additional costs on us. Departures of our hosts, particularly popular hosts, will have a negative impact on our user retention and reputation which may be material to our operations. To retain popular hosts, we must devise better compensation schemes, improve our monetization capabilities and help the popular hosts reach a wider audience. Although we strive to improve ourselves in these respects, we cannot guarantee that our hosts will not leave us even if we do our best to retain them. We launched a short-term incentive program in the third quarter of 2019 to provide additional shared revenue to the hosts to encourage content creation, enhance user spending and attract more hosts and users to our new podcasts and interactive audio products and features. Such program has been gradually scaled down since February 2020. We may continue to launch such incentive programs at our discretion in the future. However, we cannot assure you that such incentive program will achieve the anticipated effect, or be effective at all. Our competitors may adopt similar incentive programs, and the incentive activities we provide to hosts may become less attractive, thereby impairing the effectiveness of our incentive program. Even if we continue to implement such incentive activities in the future, there is no guarantee that we will be able to attract or retain hosts through these activities. We may terminate such short-term incentive activities in the future, which may discourage hosts from engaging with users on our platforms and therefore have an adverse impact on our results of operations. In the event we
re-launch
such incentive program in the future, there will be no assurance that it will achieve the anticipated effect to attract talents and enhance user spending.
Meanwhile, we strive to discover and cultivate promising hosts. We cannot guarantee that the performance metrics and technology we use to track promising hosts will enable us to identify future popular hosts. We have developed AI technologies to identify the audio content that may become a hit and discover those hosts with unique and high-quality content. Then we train those hosts with necessary skillsets and, sometimes via guilds, promote those hosts on our platforms. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Our Content Creators.” Some of the hosts we identify as promising may turn out to be underperforming, and we may also fail to spot truly promising hosts in early stages of their career. In addition to a waste of resources, either one of these scenarios could prevent us from cultivating top hosts, which could weaken our core competitive strength against competing platforms and thus cause an outflow of users to those platforms.
Our content monitoring system may not be effective in preventing misconduct by our platforms’ users and misuse of our platforms and such misconduct or misuse may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our platforms allow hosts to publish and users to listen to podcasts, participate in audio entertainment activities and engage in interactions with each other. Our audio entertainment provides a virtual space for our users and hosts to discuss, share, comment and express themselves. Because we do not have timely or sufficient control over the activities conducted by our hosts and users and the content generated by them, our platforms may be misused by others to engage in illegal or inappropriate activities, or other activities that require permits, license or approval from the governmental authorities. If any illegal or unauthorized content is found on or linked to our platforms, we as the service provider may be held liable for infringement of the rights of our hosts or users or violation of relevant PRC laws and regulations. The government may impose other legal sanctions against us, including, in serious cases, suspending or revoking the licenses needed to operate our platforms.
We have deployed
AI-based
technologies supplemented by a team primarily consisting of staff outsourced from third parties, to monitor content for any illegal, fraudulent or inappropriate content or activities on our platforms. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Content Monitoring System.” If our AI system fails to interpret true and improper meaning of certain content, or if our monitoring team draws incorrect decision as to legality of certain content, illegal or unauthorized content may become accessible to our users via our platforms and expose us to various risks which may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. Despite our efforts to monitor content on our platforms and the actions of the hosts and users, our platforms were previously subject to restrictive measures taken by the government authority in the past for insufficient monitoring system. As a result of such incidents, we have adopted a more stringent content monitoring system to meet the tightened regulatory standards and to screen and remove all inappropriate content stored on our platforms. See “—The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.” However, we cannot assure you that our content monitoring system is sufficient to detect all improper or illegal content or activities in the future. We can neither assure you that we will not be subject to fines and other penalties in the future for improper or illegal content or activities on our platforms.
 
10

Table of Contents
We may also face tortious liabilities to third party for infringement of their rights. See “—We may be liable for intellectual property infringement relating to intellectual properties of third parties, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects” and “—We may be held liable for information or content displayed on, retrieved from or linked to our platforms, if such content is deemed to violate any PRC laws or regulations, or for improper or fraudulent activities conducted on our platforms, and PRC authorities may impose legal sanctions on us and our reputation may be damaged.”
We may fail to offer attractive audio content on our platforms.
In response to users’ growing interests, we have been devoted to expanding and diversifying our content offerings. If we fail to continue to expand and diversify our audio content offerings, identify trending and popular genres, or maintain the quality of our content, we may experience decreased user traffic and engagement, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, we largely rely on our hosts to create high-quality audio content as almost all of our audio content offerings are generated by users. We have in place a revenue sharing mechanism to encourage hosts to supply content that are attractive to our users. However, we may not be able to provide the most competitive compensation to hosts under this mechanism. We launched a short-term incentive program in the third quarter of 2019 to provide additional shared revenue to the hosts to encourage content creation, enhance user spending and attract more hosts and users to our new podcasts and interactive audio products and features, while it was gradually scaled down such program since February 2020. We cannot guarantee you that the hosts attracted to our platforms due to the short-term incentive program will remain active after we terminate such program. For details, please refer to “—We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.” If we fail to observe the latest trends and timely guide hosts and guilds accordingly, or fail to attract or maintain a good relationship with hosts who are capable of creating content based on popular genres, or if hosts fail to produce popular content, our users number may decline and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We have incurred net losses in the past, and we may continue to incur losses in the future.
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, we incurred a net loss of RMB9.3 million, RMB133.0 million and RMB82.2 million (US$12.6 million), respectively. Our net loss has increased significantly in 2019 as compared to 2018 and decreased in 2020 as compared to 2019. We may continue to be unprofitable or incur further net losses for the foreseeable future. The time it will take for us to eventually achieve profitability hinges on our ability to grow rapidly in a cost-effective way, and we may not be able to grow this way successfully.
Our ability to sustain profitability is affected by various external factors, many of which are beyond our control, such as the continual development of online audio and entertainment in China. We cannot assure you that we will be able to improve profitability in the future.
We may again incur losses in the near future due to our continued investment in services, products, technologies, research and development and our continued sales and marketing initiatives. Changes in the macroeconomic and regulatory environment or competitive dynamics and our inability to respond to these changes in a timely and effective manner may also impact our profitability. Accordingly, we cannot assure you that our company will turn profitable in the short term.
Our limited operating history with a relatively new business model in a relatively new market could make it difficult to evaluate our business and growth prospects.
Our LIZHI App commenced operations in 2013 and we have experienced a rapid growth in the number of total mobile MAUs, paying users and net revenue since 2017. However, our growth in the recent years may not be indicative of our future performance, as our operating results represent a limited size of samples of operating results and may be hard to be repeated in the future.
Many of the elements of our business are unique and evolving. The markets for online audio platforms are relatively new and rapidly developing and are subject to significant challenges, especially in terms of maintaining a stable paying user base and attracting new paying users, as well as complying with changes in regulatory requirements on online audio content and social interactions. There is no guarantee that we may succeed in adapting to such changes in the markets.
 
11

Table of Contents
As the online audio industry in China is relatively young, there are few proven methods of projecting user demand or available industry standards on which we can rely. Some of our current monetization methods are relatively recent innovations of the online audio industry and their long-term sustainability have not been tested. Meanwhile, we have explored and will continuously explore new monetization methods and client retention strategies, which may or may not be a success. Due to the initial success of the interactive audio products, we plan to continue to strengthen and expand our interactive audio product offerings. Since December 2020, we have entered into collaboration agreements with a number of major automobile manufacturers in China, including Xpeng Motors, GAC AION New Energy Automobile and GAC Motor, as well as automobile intelligent platforms, including BYD DiLink, a network linked automobiles intelligent system, and Huawei Mobile Services for Car, a smart
in-car
cloud service solution built by Huawei Terminal Cloud Services, to explore business opportunities in the
in-car
audio market. Currently, our
in-car
audio product together with our extensive audio content are available on certain models of such automobile companies via their
in-car
audio systems. In the future, we expect to further explore and develop new use cases, such as smart devices and connected cars, and other innovative audio applications for our products. In October 2020, we launched Tiya App in the United States, a voice-based social networking app, and are in the process of developing other social networking products and features. In January 2021, we also launched the LIZHI Podcast app, a new podcast app to provide high-quality curated podcast content drawn from our extensive content library built over the years as well as new podcasts to be provided by selected content creators. We cannot assure you that our efforts will continue to achieve satisfactory results. Neither could we assure you that our ongoing and future attempts to innovate our communities and monetize our users will always be successful, profitable or accepted, and therefore the income potential of our business is difficult to gauge. In addition, any new and experimental products that we may develop and launch in the future may not be well received by our targeted users and may be affected by adverse industry trends such as evolving development, interpretation and implementation of applicable laws and regulations. See “—The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Our growth prospects should be considered in light of the risks and uncertainties that fast-growing early-stage companies with limited operating history in an evolving industry may encounter, including, among others, risks and uncertainties regarding our ability to:
 
   
develop new monetization methods;
 
   
provide new content that is appealing to our users;
 
   
adapt to and comply with the evolving regulatory framework on online audio and entertainment;
 
   
compete with other innovative forms of entertainment for our users’ time;
 
   
maintain stable relationships with popular hosts;
 
   
expand to new geographic markets with high growth potential; and
 
   
cope with the
COVID-19
and its impact on our business, operation and financial condition.
Addressing these risks and uncertainties will require significant capital expenditures and allocation of valuable management and employee resources. For risks related to the
COVID-19,
see “— We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.”
If we fail to successfully address any of the above risks and uncertainties, the size of our user base, our revenue and operating margin may decline.
We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.
The outbreak of the
COVID-19
pandemic has brought uncertainties and interruptions to China’s macroeconomics and the global economy and may have adverse effects on our operations. The Chinese government as well as many other countries in the world have taken various measures to constrain the outbreak. The
COVID-19
pandemic has caused, and may continue to cause, companies in China, including us, to implement temporary adjustment of work schemes allowing employees to work from home and other measures that may impact our operation. We prioritize the health and safety of our employees, and have taken various preventative and quarantine measures across the Company soon after the outbreak. As a result of the
COVID-19
outbreak and its continued influence, our normal work schedule and results of operations may continue to be subject to potential adverse impact caused by
COVID-19,
and our revenues for the periods during which the
COVID-19
pandemic continues to have an impact may be difficult to predict. In addition, the disposable income of certain of our users may decrease or have decreased as a result of the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic, which may also adversely affect our performance. Over the course of 2020, since various measures that the Chinese government implemented to constrain the
COVID-19
outbreak have been relaxed, many aspects of daily life in China gradually returned to normal routine. However, the situation in China and other countries and regions is still evolving, bringing with it unprecedented levels of macroeconomic disruption and uncertainties across the globe. The extent to which
COVID-19
impacts our results will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including the duration and severity of the pandemic, the actions taken to contain the virus or treat its impact, the development and efficiency of vaccines and other actions taken by governments, companies and individuals in response to the virus and resulting economic disruption.
 
12

Table of Contents
If we fail to obtain or maintain the required licenses and approvals or if we fail to comply with laws and regulations applicable to our industry, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
The internet industry in China is highly regulated, which requires certain licenses, permits, filings and approvals to conduct and develop business. Currently, we have obtained valid ICP License for provision of internet information services, Internet Culture Operation License for operating online music products and online performances, Radio and Television Program Production and Operating Permit for producing radio program through our PRC VIEs.
Due to the uncertainties of interpretation and implementation of existing and future laws and regulations, the licenses we held may not be sufficient to meet regulatory requirements, which may restrain our ability to expand our business scope and may subject us to fines or other regulatory actions by relevant regulators if our practice is deemed as violating relevant laws and regulations. As we further develop and expand our business scope, we may need to obtain additional qualifications, permits, approvals or licenses. Moreover, we may be required to obtain additional licenses or approvals if the PRC government adopts more stringent policies or regulations for our industry.
To expand our business scope and explore innovative business models, we have adopted and will continue to adopt various operating strategies and measures. Due to the uncertainties of interpretation and application of pertinent laws by the government authority, we cannot guarantee that such strategies and measures will not be challenged under PRC laws and regulations and if so, relevant PRC government authorities may issue warnings, order us to rectify our violating operations and impose fines on us. In the case of serious violations as determined by relevant authorities at their discretion, they may ban the violating operations, seize our equipment in connection with such operations, impose a fine or revoke the license, which may materially and adversely affect our business.
On May 14, 2019, the Internal Office of Department of Culture and Tourism issued a notice that local culture and tourism authority will no longer be in charge of issuing approvals for Internet Culture Operation License to companies with the business scope in online gaming and publication of virtual currency. It is not clear from this notice or other applicable laws and regulations whether a second government office will regulate the online gaming and publication of virtual currency by form of an approval license or other methods. Our Internet Culture Operation Licenses were respectively renewed in July 2019, October 2019 and June 2020. We currently plan to apply for permit or approval on virtual currency operation from the applicable authority once the regulatory body is clarified.
Moreover, according to the Measures for Online Publication Service Administration, or Online Publication Measures, which was jointly promulgated by the SAPPRFT and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PRC, or the MIIT, came into effect on March 10, 2016, or Online Publication Measures, an Online Publishing Service License is required for the provision of online publishing services. Currently, we allow hosts to upload their recorded podcasts on our platforms, which may be considered as the “internet publications.” As of the date of this annual report, we have not obtained an Online Publishing Service License. However we have been accepted to register on National Internet Visual-Audio Platform System and such registration in practice has been recognized by SAPPRFT as an alternative approach for enterprises to operate in online visual-audio business without such Online Publishing Service License. If the relevant PRC government authority decides that we are operating without the proper license, we may be subject to penalties such as shutting down of the website, deletion of all relevant online publications, confiscation of income and major equipment and special tools relating to podcasts operation, fines or other penalties. As the internet industry in China is still at a relatively early stage of development, new laws and regulations may be adopted from time to time to address new issues that come to the authorities’ attention. Considerable uncertainties still exist with respect to the interpretation and implementation of existing and future laws and regulations governing our business activities. We cannot assure you that we will not be found in violation of any future laws and regulations or any of the laws or regulations currently in effect due to changes in the relevant authorities’ interpretation of these laws and regulations.
 
13

Table of Contents
As of the date of this annual report, we have not been subject to any material penalties from the relevant government authorities for failure to obtain any licenses for our business operations in the past. We cannot assure you, however, that the government authorities will not do so in the future. In addition, we may be required to obtain additional license or permits, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to timely obtain, maintain or renew all the required licenses or permits or make all the necessary filings in the future. If we fail to obtain, hold or maintain any of the required licenses or permits or make the necessary filings on time or at all, we may be subject to various penalties, such as confiscation of the net revenues that were generated through the unlicensed activities, the imposition of fines and the discontinuation or restriction of our operations. Any such penalties may disrupt our business operations and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business depends on a strong brand, and any failure to maintain, protect and enhance our brand would hurt our ability to retain or expand our user and customer base, or our ability to increase their level of engagement.
In China, we market our key services under the brand “LIZHI”. Our business and financial performance are highly dependent on the strength and the market perception of our brand and services. A well-recognized brand is critical to increasing our user base and, in turn, facilitating our efforts to monetize our services and enhancing our attractiveness to customers. Since we operate in a highly competitive market, brand maintenance and enhancement directly affect our ability to maintain our market position. From time to time, we conduct marketing activities across various media to enhance our brand and to guide public perception of our brand and services, and may further increase our marketing expenditures in the future. Also, we must continuously exercise strict quality control of our platforms to ensure that our brand image is not tarnished by substandard products or services. We must also find ways to distinguish our platforms from those of our competitors. If for any reason we are unable to maintain and enhance our brand recognition, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our business, results of operations and prospects may be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, we must actively protect and maintain the legal ownership of our trademarks under which we market our brand and operate our platforms and business. Any failure to register or maintain the registration of our trademarks in any geographic region in which we operate our business may result in an adverse and material effect on our operation and financial conditions. We currently have pending trademark applications that may be subject to governmental scrutiny or third-party objection. Although we have taken measures to reduce our risks of infringement, we cannot assure you that we would not be subject to trademark infringement claims due to such trademark uses by us, or that we have duly registered all the trademarks necessary for our operations with competent governmental authorities. We may also be subject to other intellectual property infringement claims. As competition intensifies and as litigation becomes a more common method for resolving commercial disputes in China, we face a higher risk of intellectual property infringement claims.
If we are unsuccessful in obtaining trademark protection for our trademarks, we may be required to change our brand names and may incur substantial costs in diverting the existing users and potential users to the entrance under a new name and may lose audience traffic to a material extent during the process. Any potential conflict over the usage of “LIZHI” brand may expose us to substantial legal costs and take up the time and energy of our management which could have been used on development of our business.
 
14

Table of Contents
We may not effectively sustain our rapid growth or manage the associated expenditures, and our brand, business and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We have experienced a period of significant rapid growth and expansion that impose a challenge on our management to maintain such growth in the future. However, given our limited operating history and the rapidly evolving market in which we operate, we may encounter difficulties as we establish and expand our operations, research and development, sales and marketing, and general and administrative capabilities. We cannot assure you that this level of growth will be sustainable or achieved at all in the future. We believe that our continued growth will depend on our ability to attract and retain users and high quality hosts, develop an infrastructure to service and support an expanding body of users and hosts, explore new monetization avenues, adapt to and comply with evolving regulatory framework, convert
non-paying
users to paying users, increase user engagement level and compete effectively in the online audio industry. We cannot assure you that we will be successful with any of the above.
To manage our growth and maintain profitability, we expect our costs and expenses to continue to increase in the future as we anticipate that we will need to continue to implement, from time to time, a variety of new and upgraded operational, informational and financial systems, procedures and controls on an
as-needed
basis. We will also need to further expand, train, manage and motivate our workforce and manage our relationships with hosts and users. All of these endeavors involve risks and will require substantial management efforts and skills and significant additional expenditures. Continued growth could end up straining our ability to maintain reliable service levels for all of our users and hosts, develop and improve our operational, financial, legal and management controls, and enhance our reporting systems and procedures. Managing our growth will require significant expenditures and the allocation of valuable management resources. If we fail to achieve the necessary level of efficiency in our organization as we grow, our business, operating results and financial condition could be harmed. In addition, the impact brought by the
COVID-19
pandemic on our business, operating results and financial condition in the foreseeable future is highly uncertain and cannot be predicted. See “— We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.”
Our existing revenue model may not remain effective and our business may suffer if we fail to successfully implement our monetization strategies.
Our apps are free to access, and we generate substantially all of our net revenues from virtual gift sales to users of our audio entertainment products. As a result, our revenue is affected by our ability to increase user engagement and convert
non-paying
users into paying users, which in turn depends on our ability to increase user base, cultivate and maintain hosts, and provide high-quality content and other services. If we are not successful in enhancing our ability to monetize our existing services or developing new approaches to monetization, we may not be able to maintain or increase our revenues and profits or recover any associated costs. We monitor market developments and may adjust our monetization strategies accordingly from time to time, which may result in decreases of our overall revenue or revenue contributions from some monetization channels. In addition, we may in the future introduce new services to further diversify our revenue streams, including services with which we have little or no prior development or operating experience. If these new or enhanced services fail to engage customers or platforms’ partners, we may fail to generate sufficient revenues to justify our investments, and our business and operating results may suffer as a result.
We mainly compete with other online audio and entertainment platforms. If we are unable to compete effectively, our business and operating results may be materially and adversely affected.
Our major competitors include other online audio and entertainment platforms with an established presence in the industry, and competition in our industry remains intense. As it is unlikely that users will listen to audio programs on two platforms simultaneously, and certain top hosts sign exclusive contracts with only one platform, we compete mainly for user traffic and top hosts. If we are not able to effectively compete with our competitors, our overall user base and level of user engagement may decrease, which may result in loss of top hosts to other platforms.
To better compete with competitors which may have more cash, traffic, technological advantages, top hosts, business networks and other resources than us, we may be required to spend additional resources, which may adversely affect our profitability. Furthermore, if we are involved in disputes with any of our competitors that result in negative publicity to us, such disputes, regardless of their veracity or outcome, may harm our reputation or brand image and in turn lead to reduced number of users and hosts. Our competitors may unilaterally decide to adopt a wide range of measures targeted at us, including approaching our top hosts, filing complaint against our platforms to remove our apps from application stores, or even attacking our platforms. Any legal proceedings or measures we take in response to competition and disputes with our competitors may be expensive, time-consuming and disruptive to our operations and divert our management’s attention.
 
15

Table of Contents
We believe that our ability to compete effectively depends upon many factors both within and beyond our control, including:
 
   
the popularity, usefulness, ease of use, performance and reliability of our services compared to those of our competitors, and the research and development abilities of us and our competitors;
 
   
the unique content, services, products and interactive community we offer on our platforms that distinguish ourselves from other competing platforms;
 
   
changes mandated by, or that we elect to make to address, legislation, regulations or government policies, some of which may have a disproportionate effect on us;
 
   
acquisitions or consolidation within our industry, which may result in more formidable competitors; and
 
   
our reputation and brand strength relative to our competitors.
In addition, our users have a vast array of entertainment choices. Other forms of entertainment, such as online video streaming, social networking, traditional PC and console games, as well as more traditional mediums such as television, movies and sports, are much more well-established in mature markets and may be perceived by our users to offer greater variety, affordability, interactivity and enjoyment. Our platforms compete against these other forms of entertainment for the discretionary time and spending of our users. If we are unable to sustain sufficient interest in our platforms in comparison to other forms of entertainment, including new forms of entertainment that may emerge in the future, our business model may no longer be viable.
Our revenue growth is heavily dependent on our paying user base. If we fail to grow our paying user base, our revenue may not increase, which may materially and adversely affect our business operation and financial results.
The number of our paying users had generally increased since 2017. Our average paying users decreased from approximately 434,100 in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 422,400 in the fourth quarter of 2020, and increased from approximately 351,700 in 2019 to approximately 446,100 in 2020. Whether we can continue this trend of growth depends on many factors, and many of them are out of our control. For example, our paying users may have less disposable income as they need to meet financial obligations elsewhere, they may decide to no longer support a particular host that they used to follow financially, and an overall worsening economic condition can lower disposable income for all existing paying users, causing them to spend less on our platforms. We expect that our business will continue to be heavily dependent on revenue collected from paying users in the near future. Any decline in the number or quality of our paying user base or our paying ratio may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial results. See “—Our existing revenue model may not remain effective and our business may suffer if we fail to successfully implement our monetization strategies.”
Also, a material portion of our revenue is contributed by a limited amount of key paying users. If we fail to maintain the number of such key paying users or their purchase on our platforms, our operations and financial results may be materially and adversely affected.
We cooperate with various guilds to cultivate and organize our hosts. If we are not able to maintain our relationship with guilds, our operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We cooperate with guilds to cultivate and organize hosts on our platforms. As we are open platforms that welcome all hosts to register on our websites, we believe cooperation with guilds increases our operational efficiency in terms of discovering, supporting and managing hosts in a more organized and structured manner.
 
16

Table of Contents
We pay our hosts and their guild fees determined based on a percentage of revenue from virtual gift sales that is attributed to the hosts’ programs according to the three-party contractual arrangements among us, hosts and their guilds. From time to time, there may be contractual disputes between hosts, guilds and/or us or involving a third party. Any such disputes may not only be costly and time-consuming to solve, but may also be detrimental to the quality of the content produced by our hosts, causing our hosts or guilds to leave our platforms, decrease user engagement on our platforms or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, many of those contractual arrangements with guilds are not exclusive. If we are not able to maintain our relationship with guilds, they may choose to devote their resources to hosts who release programs on the other platforms, or they may encourage their hosts to use other platforms, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be liable for intellectual property infringement relating to intellectual properties of third parties, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
We do not have full control over how and what the creators of our content will share, display on or link to our platforms. As substantially all of our content is generated by users who can be any person registered on our platforms, we do not have the capacity or resources to verify the originality of each content uploaded to our platforms or distinguish if proper license has been obtained or not with respect to any given content. We have been and may continue to be subject to intellectual property infringement claims by third parties for services we provide or for content displayed on, retrieved from, linked to, recorded, stored or make accessible on our platforms, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects. Although those allegations arise out of individual behaviors, platforms as service providers are often sued or investigated for any potential liabilities or misbehaviors. Under relevant PRC laws and regulations, internet service providers, which provide storage space for users to upload works or links to other services or content, could be held liable for copyright infringement under various circumstances, including situations where the internet service provider knows or should reasonably have known that the relevant content uploaded or linked to on its platform infringes upon the copyright of others and the internet service provider failed to take necessary actions to prevent such infringement, such as deletion, blocking or disconnection. Under the Tort Law of the PRC, the Civil Code of the PRC which repealed the Tort Law of the PRC with effect from January 1, 2021 and the Regulation on the Right to Communicate Works to the Public Over Information Networks, if an internet user infringes the civil rights, right to communicate works to the public over information networks or interests of another through using the internet, the person whose rights are infringed has the right to notify and request the internet service provider on which the infringement allegedly takes place to take necessary measures including the deletion, blocking or disconnection of an internet link. If, after being notified, the internet service provider fails to take necessary measures in a timely manner to end the infringement, it will be jointly and severally liable for any additional harm caused by its failure to act. In addition, if there is no evidence indicating that an internet service provider clearly knows the facts of infringement, or the internet service provider has taken measures to disconnect or remove relevant content after receiving notification from the owner, the internet service provider shall not be liable for compensation liability. Such defense is also referred to as the “safe harbor exemption.” However, the court practice is currently unclear whether or to what extent a platform would be liable for the unauthorized content performed or presented by hosts.
In addition, we cannot assure you that other aspects of our operations do not or will not infringe upon or violate intellectual property rights (including but not limited to trademarks, patents, copyrights,
know-how)
or other rights (including but not limited to portraiture right) owned or held by third parties. We have been involved in claims against us alleging our infringement of third-party intellectual property rights on certain computer software. Any such intellectual property rights infringement claim could result in costly remedial measures and may adversely affect our business and financial condition.
Furthermore, companies in the internet, technology and media industries are frequently involved in litigations based on allegations of infringement of intellectual property, unfair competition, invasion of privacy, defamation and other violations of other parties’ rights. Also, in China, as the internet-related industries have a relatively recent history and are constantly changing, the regulatory regimes on protection of intellectual property rights in internet-related industries, especially in our evolving online audio industry, are uncertain and still evolving. As we face increasing competition and as litigation becomes a more common method for resolving commercial disputes in China, we face a higher risk of being the subject of intellectual property infringement claims or other legal proceedings.
 
17

Table of Contents
We have adopted systematic methods to reduce our exposure to the risks of intellectual property infringement claims. Under our agreements with hosts, we are the owner of the intellectual property arising out of podcasts generation and live streaming activities on our platforms. When users register on our platforms, they agree to our standard agreement, under which they agree not to disseminate any content infringing on third-party copyright. We also require users to acknowledge and agree that they will not upload or perform content which may infringe upon others’ copyrights. However, we have historically allowed users to upload content without going through the registration process, and our platforms have, over the years, accumulated user-generated content for which users may not have obtained proper and complete copyright licenses. It is challenging for us to accurately identify such content and verify if proper license is obtained in each case. We also develop
AI-backed
technologies combined with manual supervision to screen for improper or illegal use of our platforms. We implant the “complaint” button on our operation interface which allows users to inform us of any risky or problematic content they are aware of. We also implement policies to take down content that has allegedly infringed a third party’s right in a timely manner to be eligible to invoke the safe harbor exemption for service providers. Our platforms also have procedures in place to block blacklisted users from uploading content for a temporary period of time or permanently. However, we cannot assure you those methods are sufficient to shield us from third party liabilities for intellectual property infringement, or our efforts will be considered favorably by a given court or relevant governmental authority. Liabilities for intellectual property infringement, or allegations of such infringement, may impose a burden on our management, cause penalties, lead to unfavorable media coverage and damage to our reputation, or even cause PRC authorities to impose sanctions on us, including, in serious cases, suspending our operation, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
We may be held liable for information or content displayed on, retrieved from or linked to our platforms, if such content is deemed to violate any PRC laws or regulations, or for improper or fraudulent activities conducted on our platforms, and PRC authorities may impose legal sanctions on us and our reputation may be damaged.
Our online audio platforms enable users to exchange information, generate content, advertise products and services, and engage in various other online activities. Although real-name registration is required for hosts by our platforms based on their citizen identity card and other identification information, we may not be able to verify the identity information provided by our hosts as true and accurate. For registration of users before they become hosts, we verify identities primarily based on verification text messages sent to their mobile devices, which may not always be reliable. Hosts and users may engage in illegal conversations or activities, including the publishing of inappropriate or illegal content on our platforms that may be unlawful under PRC laws and regulations.
We require users to agree to our terms of service upon account registration. Our terms of service set out types of content strictly prohibited on our platforms, and we have also developed a content monitoring system. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Content Monitoring System.” However, although we use our best efforts to monitor content on our platforms, it is impossible for us to detect every incident of inappropriate content on our platforms due to the immense quantity of user-generated content on our platforms. Our monitoring system, which is comprised of
AI-backed
technologies and manual scrutiny, may not detect each and every misconduct or illegal or inappropriate content. See “—Our content monitoring system may not be effective in preventing misconduct by our platforms users and misuse of our platforms and such misconduct or misuse may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
If we are deemed to have facilitated the appearance of inappropriate content placed by third parties on our platforms under PRC laws and regulations, we may be subject to fines or other disciplinary actions, including in serious cases suspension or revocation of the licenses necessary to operate our platforms, imposed by court or government authority. We had the experience in the past of being suspended or fined by a local government authority and reported by media for improper content on our platforms. Our apps had been removed from the app stores for inappropriate content placed by third parties on our platforms. See “—The PRC government may further tighten the regulation on online audio and entertainment platforms, which may materially and negatively affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations” and “—Our content monitoring system may not be effective in preventing misconduct by our platforms users and misuse of our platforms and such misconduct or misuse may materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Meanwhile, we may face claims for fraud, defamation, libel, negligence, copyright, patent or trademark infringement, other unlawful activities or other theories and claims based on the nature and content of the information delivered on or otherwise accessed through our platforms. In addition, if any third party suffers or alleges to have suffered physical, financial or emotional harm following contact initiated on our platforms or after hearing unsettling, inappropriate, fraudulent or misleading content that our content monitoring system failed to filter out, or if any third party suffers or alleges to have suffered damages as a result of improper or fraudulent activities on our platforms, we may face civil lawsuits or other liabilities initiated by the affected third party, or governmental or regulatory actions against us.
 
18

Table of Contents
In response to allegations of illegal or inappropriate activities conducted through our platforms or any negative media coverage about us, PRC government authorities may intervene and hold us liable for
non-compliance
with PRC laws and regulations concerning the dissemination of information on the internet and subject us to administrative penalties or other sanctions, such as requiring us to restrict or discontinue some of the features and services provided on our website and mobile application, or even revoke our licenses or permits to provide internet content service. Defending any such actions could be costly and require significant time and attention of our management and other resources, and may cause damages to our reputation, which would materially and adversely affect our business.
We rely on our mobile application to provide services to our users which, if inaccessible, may have material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We rely on third-party mobile application distribution channels such as Apple’s App Store, various Android’s App Stores and other channels to distribute our mobile application to users. We expect a substantial number of downloads of our mobile application will continue to be derived from these distribution channels. As such, the promotion, distribution and operation of our applications are subject to such distribution platforms’ standard terms and policies for application developers, which are subject to the interpretation of, and frequent changes by, these distribution channels. If Apple’s App Store or any other major distribution channels interpret or change their standard terms and conditions in a manner that is detrimental to us, or terminate their existing relationship with us, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. We have experienced in the past removal or suspension of our apps by mobile application stores for reasons such as government scrutiny on our business or industry or enhanced compliance requirements by such third-party platforms. Our apps are currently available for download in all major app stores, including Apple’s and Android’s App Stores. Although there is no any suspension events in 2020, we have experienced temporary removal from various applicable stores in the past. Those incidents of download suspension were temporary and did not affect our existing users, and therefore did not have any material adverse impact on our results of operations. We cannot assure you that our apps will not be removed again by a third party mobile application distribution channel in future and our business operation, reputation and financial conditions may be negatively affected. In addition, we may rely on such third party platforms as our payment channels including through
in-
app purchases. Any suspension or removal of our apps from these platforms may result in material adverse impact on our results of operations due to the unavailability of such payment channels.
Increases in the costs in relation to content creators, such as higher hosts’ compensation and costs of discovering and cultivating a top host, may have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend upon content creators, i.e., our podcasts and live streaming hosts, to continuously provide a large variety of high-quality content on our platforms, which is a key factor of engaging and satisfactory user experience that ensures long-term user stickiness. We also rely on our interactive audio products hosts to provide fun and engaging experience to users of Friends Hall and other interactive audio products. On one hand, we discover, curate and cultivate top hosts who self-register on our platforms as a host. On the other hand, we compete with other audio platforms for active, popular or celebrity hosts. To attract and retain top hosts and maintain the high level of content quality, we enter into contracts with our hosts under which such hosts are usually paid a certain percentage of the sales of virtual gifts or currency that they receive. The compensation to and the cost to discover, train and develop a top host may increase as the competition intensifies. If our content creators become too costly, we will not be able to produce high quality content at commercially acceptable costs. If our competitors’ platforms offer higher revenue sharing percentage with an intent to attract our popular hosts and content creators, costs to retain such hosts and content creators may increase. In addition, we launched a short-term incentive program in the third quarter of 2019 to provide additional shared revenue to the hosts and gradually scaled down such program since February 2020. We may terminate such incentive program in the near future which may discourage hosts from engaging with users on our platforms. For details, please refer to “—We may fail to attract, cultivate and retain talented and popular hosts, which may materially and negatively affect our user retention and thus our business and operations.” Furthermore, as our business and user base further expands, we may have to devote more resources in encouraging our hosts to produce content that meets the evolving interests of a diverse user base, which would increase the costs of content on our platforms. If we are unable to generate sufficient revenues that outpace our increased costs in relation to content creators, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
 
19

Table of Contents
Any compromise to the cyber security of our platforms could materially and adversely affect our business, reputation and results of operations.
On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress released the Cyber Security Law, which took effect on June 1, 2017. The Cyber Security Law requires network operators to fulfill certain obligations to safeguard security in the cyberspace and enhance network information management.
Our products and services are generally provided through the internet and involve the storage and transmission of users’ information. Any security breach would expose us to a risk of loss of information and result in litigation and potential liability. As the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade online or sabotage operating systems change frequently and often are not recognized until launched against a target, we may not be able to anticipate such techniques or implement adequate preventative measures. All of our user data is encrypted and saved in different places within our internal servers rather than client-based servers, protected by access control, and further backed up in our long-distance disaster recovery system, so as to minimize the possibility of data loss or breach. Upon a security breach, our technical team will be notified immediately and coordinate with the local supporting staff to diagnose and solve the technical problems. As of the date of this annual report, we have not experienced any material incidents of security breach.
Despite the security measures we have implemented, our facilities, systems and procedures and those of our third-party providers, may be vulnerable to security breaches, act of vandalism, software viruses, misplaced or lost data, programming or human errors or other similar events which may disrupt our delivery of services or expose the confidential information of our users and others. If an actual or perceived breach of our security occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures could be harmed, we may lose current and potential users and may be exposed to legal and financial risks, including legal claims, regulatory fines and penalties, which in turn could adversely affect our business, reputation and results of operations.
Spammers and malicious software and applications may affect user experience, which could reduce our ability to attract users and advertisers and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Spammers may use our platforms to send spam or illegal messages to users, which may affect user experience. As a result, our users may reduce using our products and services or stop using them altogether. In spamming activities, spammers typically create multiple user accounts for the purpose of sending a high volume of repetitive messages. Although we attempt to identify and delete accounts created for spamming purposes, we may not be able to effectively eliminate all spam messages from our platforms in a timely fashion. Any spamming activities could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, malicious software and applications may interrupt the operations of our platforms and pass on such malware to our users and hosts which could adversely hinder user experience. Although we have been successfully blocking these attacks in the past, we cannot guarantee that this will always be the case, and in the incident if users experience a malware attack by using our platforms, our users may associate the malware with our websites or mobile apps, and our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
Our operations depend on the performance of the internet infrastructure, fixed telecommunications networks and mobile operating systems in China, which may experience unexpected system failure, interruption, inadequacy or security breaches.
Almost all access to the internet in China is maintained through state-owned telecommunication operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or the MIIT. Moreover, we primarily rely on a limited number of telecommunication service providers to provide us with data communications capacity through local telecommunications lines and internet data centers to host our servers. We have limited access to alternative networks or services in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems with China’s internet infrastructure or the fixed telecommunications networks provided by telecommunication service providers. We cannot assure you that the internet infrastructure and the fixed telecommunications networks in China will be able to support the demands associated with the continued growth in internet usage. If we cannot increase our capacity to deliver our online services, we may not be able to the increases in traffic we anticipate from our expanding user base, and the adoption of our services may be hindered, which could adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
20

Table of Contents
In addition, we have no control over the costs of the services provided by telecommunication service providers. If the prices we pay for telecommunications and internet services rise significantly, our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. Furthermore, if internet access fees or other charges to internet users increase, some users may stop accessing or minimize their activities on the mobile internet and thus cause the growth of mobile internet users to decelerate. Such deceleration may adversely affect our ability to continue to expand our user base.
The proper functioning of our platforms are essential to our business. Any disruption to our IT systems could materially affect our ability to maintain the satisfactory performance of our platforms.
The proper functioning of our platforms are essential to our business. The satisfactory performance, reliability and availability of our IT systems are critical to our success and our ability to provide content to attract and retain users.
Our technology or infrastructure may not function properly at all times. Any system interruptions caused by telecommunications failures, computer viruses, hacking or other attempts to harm our systems could result in the unavailability or slowdown of our platforms and the attractiveness of content provided on our platforms. Our servers may also be vulnerable to computer viruses, physical or electronic
break-ins
and similar disruptions, which could lead to system interruptions, website or mobile app slowdown or unavailability or loss of data. Any of such occurrences could cause severe disruption to our daily operations. As a result, our reputation may be materially and adversely affected, our market share could decline and we could be subject to liability claims.
We use third-party services and technologies in connection with our business, and any disruption to the provision of these services and technologies to us could result in adverse publicity and a slowdown in the growth of our users, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business depends upon services provided by, and relationships with, third parties. We currently engage third-party service providers in certain areas of our operation such as monitoring of our podcasts and audio entertainment. If such third-party service providers fail to detect the illegal or inappropriate activities or content in our podcasts and audio entertainment, we may be subject to regulator’s disapproval or penalties as well as adverse media exposure which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, some third-party software we use in our operations is currently publicly available without charge. If the owner of any such software decides to make claims against us, charge users, or no longer makes the software publicly available, we may need to enter into settlement with such owners, incur significant cost to license the software, find replacement software or develop it on our own. If we are unable to find or develop replacement software at a reasonable cost, or at all, our business and operations may be adversely affected.
Our overall network relies on bandwidth connections provided by third-party operators and we expect this dependence on third parties to continue. The networks maintained and services provided by such third parties are vulnerable to damage or interruption, which could impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. See “—Our operations depend on the performance of the internet infrastructure, fixed telecommunications networks and mobile operating systems in China, which may experience unexpected system failure, interruption, inadequacy or security breaches.”
We also depend on the third party online payment systems for sales of our products and services. If any of these third-party online payment systems suffer from security breaches, users may lose confidence in such payment systems and refrain from purchasing our virtual gifts online, in which case our results of operations would be negatively impacted.
We exercise no control over the third parties with whom we have business arrangements. For some of services and technologies such as online payment systems, we rely on a limited number of third-party providers with limited access to alternative networks or services in the event of disruptions, failures or other problems. If such third parties increase their prices, fail to provide their services effectively, terminate their service or agreements or discontinue their relationships with us, we could suffer service interruptions, reduced revenues or increased costs, any of which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
21

Table of Contents
Concerns about the collection, use and disclosure of personal data and other privacy-related and security matters could deter customers and users from using our services and adversely affect our reputation and business.
Concerns about our practices with regard to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information or other privacy-related and security matters, even if unfounded, could damage our reputation and operations. On November 28, 2019, the Secretary Bureau of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the General Office of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the General Office of the Ministry of Public Security and the General Office of the State Administration for Market Regulation promulgated the Identification Method of Illegal Collection and Use of Personal Information Through App, which provides guidance for the regulatory authorities to identify the illegal collection and use of personal information through mobile apps, and for the app operators to conduct self-examination and self-correction and for other participants to voluntarily monitor compliance. Moreover, the PRC Constitution, the PRC Criminal Law, the General Rules of the PRC Civil Law and the PRC Internet Security Law protect individual privacy in general, which require certain authorization or consent from internet users prior to collection, use or disclosure of their personal data and also protection of the security of the personal data of such users. In particular, Amendment 7 to the PRC Criminal Law prohibits institutions, companies and their employees in the telecommunications and other industries from selling or otherwise illegally disclosing a citizen’s personal information obtained during the course of performing duties or providing services. While we strive to comply with all applicable data protection laws and regulations, as well as our own privacy policies, any failure or perceived failure to comply may result in proceedings or actions against us by government entities or private individuals, which could have an adverse effect on our business. Moreover, failure or perceived failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations related to the collection, use, or sharing of personal information or other privacy-related and security matters could result in a loss of confidence in us by customers and users, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
As we continue to expand overseas, foreign and international laws, regulations, standards, and other obligations, and changes in the interpretation of such laws, regulations, standards, and other obligations could result in increased regulation, increased costs of compliance and penalties for
non-compliance,
and limitations on data collection, use, disclosure, and transfer for us and our users. In 2016, the European Union (“EU”) adopted a new regulation governing data privacy called the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), which became effective in May 2018. The GDPR establishes new requirements applicable to the handling of personal data and imposes penalties for
non-compliance
of up to 4% of worldwide revenue. In addition, to the extent we deploy services of any third party supplies to support our overseas business, we must continue to seek assurances from our
sub-processors
that they are handling personal data in accordance with GDPR requirements in order to meet our own obligations under the GDPR. In addition, in June 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”), which takes effect on January 1, 2020, was enacted. The CCPA gives California consumers certain rights similar to those provided by the GDPR, and users may seek similar assurances from suppliers regarding compliance.
Unauthorized use of our intellectual property by our hosts and employees and other third parties and the expenses incurred in protecting our intellectual property rights may harm our brands and reputation and materially and adversely affect our business.
We regard our copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual properties as critical to our success, and rely on a combination of trademark and copyright laws, trade secrets protection, restrictions on disclosure and other agreements that restrict the use of our intellectual properties to protect these rights. Although our contracts with users typically prohibit the unauthorized use of our brands, images, characters and other intellectual property rights, we cannot assure you that they will always comply with these terms. These agreements may not effectively prevent disclosure of confidential information and may not provide an adequate remedy in the event of unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. We enter into confidentiality agreements and intellectual property ownership agreements with our employees, we cannot assure you that these confidentiality agreements will not be breached, that we will have adequate remedies for any breach, or that our proprietary technology,
know-how
or other intellectual property will not otherwise become known to third parties. In addition, third parties may independently discover trade secrets and proprietary information, limiting our ability to assert any trade secret rights against such parties.
 
22

Table of Contents
While we actively take steps to protect our proprietary rights, such steps may not be adequate to prevent the infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property. In addition, we cannot assure you that any of the above trademark applications will ultimately proceed to registration or will result in registration with adequate scope for our business. Some of our pending applications or registrations may be successfully challenged or invalidated by others. If our trademark applications are not successful, we may have to use different marks for affected products or services, or seek to enter into arrangements with any third parties who may have prior registrations, applications or rights, which might not be available on commercially reasonable terms, if at all.
Implementation of intellectual property laws in China has historically been lacking, primarily because of ambiguities in the laws and difficulties in enforcement. Accordingly, intellectual property right protection in China may not be as effective as in other jurisdictions with a more developed legal framework regulating intellectual property rights. Policing unauthorized use of our proprietary technology, trademarks and other intellectual property is difficult and expensive, and litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce our intellectual property rights. Future litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of our resources, and could disrupt our business, as well as materially adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our research and development expenditure may lower our profitability. Furthermore, if we fail to anticipate or successfully implement new technologies, our proprietary technologies or platforms could become unattractive or obsolete, and our revenues and market share may decline.
Our technological capabilities and infrastructure underlying our platforms are critical to our success. We have invested and will continue investing significant resources, including financial resources, in research and development to keep pace with technological advances in order to make our development capabilities, our platforms and our services competitive in the market. In order to continue attracting hosts to generate content on our platforms, we must provide new and attractive features for creating and optimizing audio content. If we fail to anticipate or implement new features to our hosts users, we may not be able to retain existing hosts and users or attract new members to join our community. Also, our operations and development rely heavily on our AI technologies. We have developed an
AI-based
system to accomplish tasks that usually require a massive amount of manpower, such as monitoring hundreds of millions of podcasts uploaded to our platforms to protect us from improper or illegal use of our platforms. The
AI-based
system also plays a key role in content distribution and recommendation. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Content Monitoring System.” If we cannot develop or maintain an effective operation of artificial intelligence to assist in those areas, or if we fail to improve our
AI-based
system to align with the fast increase of our data volume, we may not have the technologies required to support our business operations and development. We have incurred a significant amount of research and development expenses in the past and such expenses may continue to raise in future.
However, expenditures in research activities cannot guarantee a commercially practical result, or at all. Accordingly, our expenditures may not generate corresponding benefits, which in turn will reduce our profitability. Given the fast pace with which the internet technology has been and will continue to be developed, we may not be able to timely upgrade our streaming technology, our engines or the software framework for our platforms development in an efficient and cost-effective manner, or at all. New technologies in programming or operations could render our technologies, our platforms or products or services that we are developing or expect to develop in the future obsolete or unattractive, thereby limiting our ability to recover related product development costs, outsourcing costs and licensing fees, which could result in a decline in our revenues and market share.
Our business depends substantially on the continuing efforts of our executive officers, key employees and qualified personnel, and our business operations may be adversely and negatively impacted if we lose their services.
Our future success depends substantially on the continued efforts of our executive officers and key employees. In particular, we rely on the expertise, experience and vision of our founder and chief executive officer, Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai, as well as other members of our senior management team. If one or more of our executive officers or key employees were unable or unwilling to continue their services with us, we might not be able to replace them easily, in a timely manner, or at all. Since the user-generated audio content industry is characterized by high demand and intense competition for talents, we cannot assure you that we will be able to attract or retain qualified staff or other highly skilled employees. In addition, as our company is relatively young, our ability to train and integrate new employees into our operations may not meet the growing demands of our business which may materially and adversely affect our ability to grow our business and hence our results of operations.
 
23

Table of Contents
We do not have key man insurance for our executive officers or key employees. If any of our executive officers and key employees terminates their services with us, our business may be severely and adversely affected, our financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected and we may incur additional expenses to recruit, train and retain qualified personnel. If any of our executive officers or key employees joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose customers,
know-how
and key professionals and staff members. Each of our executive officers and key employees has entered into an employment agreement and a
non-compete
agreement with us. However, certain provisions under the
non-compete
agreement may be deemed invalid or unenforceable under PRC laws. If any dispute arises between our executive officers and key employees and us, we cannot assure you that we would be able to enforce these
non-compete
agreements in China, where these executive officers reside, in light of uncertainties with China’s legal system.
We rely on assumptions and estimates to calculate certain key operating metrics, such as total mobile MAUs and paying users, and real or perceived inaccuracies in such metrics may lead to inaccurate interpretation of our business operations by our management and investors, and harm our reputation and negatively affect our business.
The numbers of total mobile MAUs or paying users or certain other key operating metrics are calculated using internal company data. While these numbers are based on what we believe to be reasonable calculations for the applicable periods of measurement, there are inherent challenges in measuring users and user engagement across our large user base. The actual number of individual users, for example, is likely to be lower than that of registered user accounts, total mobile MAUs and paying users, potentially significantly, due to various reasons such as repetitive registration. Some of our user accounts may also be created for specific purposes such as to increase the number of votes for certain hosts in various contests, but the number of paying users and total mobile MAUs do not exclude user accounts created for such purposes. We measure the number of MAUs by the number of mobile devices, and we require phone number verification for registered accounts and require ID verification for live streaming host accounts. However, we have limited ability to validate or confirm the accuracy of information provided during the user registration process to ascertain whether a new user account created was actually created by an existing user who is registering duplicative accounts. The respective number of our total mobile MAUs and paying users may overstate the number of individuals who register on our platforms, sign onto our platforms, purchase virtual gifts or other products and services on our platforms and access own apps, respectively, which may lead to an inaccurate interpretation of our metric. The calculations of our active users may not accurately reflect the actual number of people using our platforms.
If the growth in the number of our registered user accounts, total mobile MAUs or paying users is lower than the actual growth in the number of individual registered, total mobile MAUs or paying users, or if our user base is overstated, our user engagement level, sales and our business may not grow as quickly as required to meet the demand of our user base, which may harm our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if our other key operating metrics, such as the total number of Golden Coins spent by our paying users on hosts are not accurately calculated, it may cause inaccurate evaluation of our business operations by our management and by investors which may also materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
In addition, our measures of such key operating metrics may differ from estimates published by third parties or from metrics used by other companies in similar industries due to differences in methodology. As a result, such key operating metrics may not be directly comparable to those similarly titled metrics used by other companies. If others do not perceive our key operating metrics to be accurate representations of our results of operations, or if we discover material inaccuracies in our key operating metrics, our reputation may be harmed and customers and platforms’ partners may be less willing to allocate their resources or spending to us, which could negatively affect our business and operating results.
We are subject to risks relating to litigation and disputes, which could adversely affect our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition.
We may be subject to litigation, disputes or claims of various types brought by our competitors, users, hosts, employees, or others against us in matters relating to intellectual property rights, contractual disputes and competition claims or claims and disputes involving misconducts of our hosts, users, and employees. For example, we have been subject to user complaints and disputes relating to virtual gifting transactions consummated on our platforms and may be subject to litigation or threatened proceedings with our users in the future. We cannot assure you that we will not be subject to similar disputes, complaints or legal proceedings in the future, which may damage our reputation, evolve into litigations or otherwise have a material adverse impact on our reputation and business.
 
24

Table of Contents
Litigation is expensive, subjects us to the risk of significant damages, requires significant management time and attention and could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The outcomes of actions we institute may not be successful or favorable to us. Lawsuits against us may also generate negative publicity that significantly harms our reputation, which may adversely affect our user base. We may also need to pay damages or settle lawsuits with a substantial amount of cash.
We have been involved in litigation arose in the ordinary course of business. Such lawsuits may involve intellectual property infringement on our platforms or commercial disputes with certain hosts. While we do not believe that any currently pending proceedings are likely to have a material adverse effect on us, if there were adverse determinations in legal proceedings against us, we could be required to pay substantial monetary damages or adjust our business practices, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We and certain of our directors and officers have been named as defendants in several shareholder class action lawsuits, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation.
We will have to defend against the putative class action 
lawsuits
described in “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Litigation,” including any appeals of such lawsuits should our initial defense be unsuccessful. We are currently unable to estimate the potential loss, if any, associated with the resolution of such lawsuits, if they proceed. We anticipate that we will continue to be a target for lawsuits in the future, including putative class action lawsuits brought by shareholders. There can be no assurance that we will be able to prevail in our defense or reverse any unfavorable judgment on appeal, and we may decide to settle lawsuits on unfavorable terms. Any adverse outcome of these cases, including any plaintiffs’ appeal of the judgment in these cases, could result in payments of substantial monetary damages or fines, or changes to our business practices, and thus have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation. In addition, there can be no assurance that our insurance carriers will cover all or part of the defense costs, or any liabilities that may arise from these matters. The litigation process may utilize a significant portion of our cash resources and divert management’s attention from the
day-to-day
operations of our company, all of which could harm our business. We also may be subject to claims for indemnification related to these matters, and we cannot predict the impact that indemnification claims may have on our business or financial results.
Some of our products and services contain open source software, which may pose particular risk to our proprietary software, products and services in a manner that negatively affects our business.
We use open source software in some of our products and services and will continue to use open source software in the future. There is a risk that open source software licenses could be construed in a manner that imposes unanticipated conditions or restrictions on our ability to provide or distribute our products or services. Additionally, we may face claims from third parties claiming ownership of, or demanding release of, the open source software or derivative works that we developed using such software. These claims could result in litigation and could require us to make our software source code freely available, purchase a costly license or cease offering the implicated products or services unless and until we can
re-engineer
them to avoid infringement. This
re-engineering
process could require significant additional research and development resources, and we may not be able to complete it successfully.
Negative publicity may materially and adversely affect our brand, reputation, business and growth prospects.
Negative publicity involving us, our hosts, our users, our management, our content, our platforms or our business model may materially and adversely harm our brand and our business. See “—We may be liable for intellectual property infringement relating to intellectual properties of third parties, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.” We cannot assure you that we will be able to defuse negative publicity about us, our management and/or our services to the satisfaction of our investors, users, customers and platforms’ partners. For instance, Mr. Yipeng Li, who has been our independent director since our initial public offering, was named as one of the defendants in an ongoing securities class action lawsuit against Sunlands Technology Group originally filed on June 27, 2019 with United States District Court Eastern District Court of New York (case number
1:19-cv-03744-FB-SMG),
alleging misrepresentation contained in the registration statement in connection with such company’s initial public offering. No conclusive judicial decision has been made with respect to this lawsuit. There has been negative publicity about our platforms and the misuse of our services by certain hosts and users. Such negative publicity may divert our management’s attention and materially and adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
25

Table of Contents
We generate a portion of our revenues from podcast, advertising and others. If we fail to maintain or grow podcast, advertising and others revenue, our financial results may be adversely affected.
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, we generated RMB13.5 million, RMB12.7 million and RMB21.8 million (US$3.3 million) of net revenues from podcast, advertising and others, representing 1.7%, 1.1% and 1.4% of our total net revenues for the same periods. While our revenue generated from podcast, advertising and others represents a small portion of our revenue, our financial results could be adversely affected if we fail to maintain or grow it in the future. In addition, one or a few of our advertising business customers may account for a large portion of the total accounts receivable. If we fail to collect our receivable balance from our key customers in our advertising business, our financial results may be adversely affected.
Advertisements shown on our platforms may subject us to penalties and other administrative actions.
We derived a small portion of our revenue from advertising business. Under PRC advertising laws and regulations, as a publisher of internet advertisements, we are obligated to monitor the advertising content shown on our platforms to comply with applicable laws and regulations. Violation of these laws and regulations may subject us to penalties, including fines, confiscation of our advertising income, orders to cease dissemination of the advertisements and orders to publish an announcement correcting any misleading information. In circumstances involving serious violations by us, PRC governmental authorities may force us to terminate our advertising operations or revoke our licenses.
We are subject to risks relating to our third-party online payment platforms.
Currently, we sell almost all of our products and services to our users through third-party online payment systems. We expect that an increasing amount of our sales will be conducted over the internet as a result of the growing use of online payment systems. We utilize third-party online payment platforms to receive cash proceeds from sales of our virtual currency through direct purchases on our platforms. Any scheduled or unscheduled interruption in the ability of our users to use these and other online payment platforms could adversely affect our payment collection, and in turn, our revenue. In addition, in online payment transactions, secure transmission of user information, such as debit and credit card numbers and expiration dates, personal information and billing addresses, over public networks, is essential to user privacy protection and maintaining their confidence in our platforms.
We do not have control over the security measures of our third-party payment platforms, and their security measures may not be adequate at present or may not be adequate with the expected increased usage of online payment platforms. We could be exposed to litigation and possible liability if online transaction safety of our users is compromised in transactions involving payments for our virtual currency, which could harm our reputation and our ability to attract users and may materially adversely affect our business. We also rely on the stability of such payment transmissions to ensure the continued payment services provided to our users. If any of these third-party online payment platforms fails to process, or ensure the security of, users’ payments for any reason, our reputation will be damaged and we may lose our paying users and discourage the potential purchases, which in turn, will materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and prospects.
Restrictions on virtual currency may adversely affect our revenues.
In 2016, we launched “Golden Coin,” the virtual currency that can be used by our users to purchase virtual gifts in relation to our audio entertainment products. Due to the relatively short history of virtual currency in China, the regulatory framework governing the industry is still under development.
The Notice on the Reinforcement of the Administration of Online Games issued by the Ministry of Culture and other governmental authorities on February 15, 2007 directs the People’s Bank of China to strengthen the administration of virtual currency to avoid any adverse impact on the PRC economic and financial system. This notice provides that the total amount of virtual currency issued by an operator and the amount of purchased by individual users should be strictly limited, with a strict and clear division between virtual transactions and real transactions carried out by way of electronic commerce. This notice also provides that virtual currency should only be used to purchase virtual items.
 
26

Table of Contents
On June 4, 2009, the Ministry of Culture and the MOFCOM jointly issued the Notice on Strengthening the Administration of Online Game Virtual Currency, or the Virtual Currency Notice. The term “virtual currency” is widely used in the live streaming industry, such term as used in our industry does not fall under the definition under the Virtual Currency Notice. Although we do not think Virtual Currency Notice applies to the operation of our live streaming platform, given the wide discretion of relevant governmental authorities and uncertainties in the regulatory environment, we cannot assure that relevant governmental authorities will not in the future interpret the Virtual Currency Notice in a different way and subject our operation to the scope of the Virtual Currency Notice or issue new rules to regulate the virtual currency in our industry. In that case, our operation may be adversely affected.
Our users may suffer from third party fraud when purchasing our virtual currency and we may suffer fraud when selling virtual currency to users.
We offer our users multiple options to purchase Golden Coin, our virtual currency. Users can purchase these virtual currencies directly on platforms, make
in-app
purchases using third-party payment channels. From time to time, certain third parties fraudulently claim that users can purchase Golden Coin through them. If our users choose to purchase our virtual currency from such third parties, they may suffer losses from such fraudulent activities by third parties. Although we are not directly responsible for such fraudulent activities conducted by third parties, our user experience may be adversely affected and they may choose to leave our platforms as a result. Such fraudulent activities by third parties might also generate negative publicity, disputes or even legal claims. The measures we take in response to such negative publicity, disputes or legal claims may be expensive, time consuming and disruptive to our operations and divert our management’s attention.
In addition, we have run into multiple incidents in the past where the users paid for our virtual currency through fraudulent methods, including illegal use of credit cards. Such incidents had not resulted in any material and adverse impact on our business and operations. While such incidents have decreased given tightened regulation, we may lose all the revenue we were supposed to generate from the sales as we were not able to collect or recover on any of it when such incidents occur. Although we have instated authentication mechanisms that help us detect such fraudulent paying methods, we still cannot guarantee that our mechanisms can prevent all fraudulent virtual currency purchases. These fraudulent transactions cause harm to our financial results and business operations.
Present and future business partnerships or acquisitions may fail and materially and adversely affect our business, reputation and results of operations.
We may enter into business partnerships, including joint ventures or minority equity investments, with third parties from time to time in connection with our business. These partnerships could subject us to a number of risks, including risks associated with sharing proprietary information,
non-performance
by third parties and increased expenses in establishing new business partnerships, any of which may materially and adversely affect our business. We may have limited ability to monitor or control the actions of these third parties and, to the extent any of these strategic third parties suffers negative publicity or harm to their reputation from events relating to their business, we may also suffer negative publicity or harm to our reputation by virtue of our association with any such third party.
In addition, we may acquire additional assets, products, technologies or businesses that are complementary to our existing business. Future acquisitions and the subsequent integration of new assets and businesses into our own would require significant attention from our management and could divert resources from our existing business, which in turn could adversely affect our operations. Acquired assets or businesses may not generate the financial results we expect. Acquisitions could result in the use of substantial amounts of cash, potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, significant goodwill impairment charges, amortization expenses for other intangible assets and exposure to potential unknown liabilities of the acquired businesses. Moreover, the costs of identifying and consummating acquisitions may be significant. In addition to possible shareholder approval, we may have to obtain approvals and licenses from government authorities and comply with applicable PRC laws and regulations, which could result in increased delays and costs.
 
27

Table of Contents
We may be unable to obtain additional capital in a timely manner or on acceptable terms. Furthermore, our future capital needs may cause us to be bound by covenants that restrict our operations, such as our ability to incur additional indebtedness or pay dividends.
We have conducted several rounds of financing since our inception. We also issued convertible loans in the past which have been fully converted to our preferred shares. In January 2020, we completed our initial public offering. As we continue to expand our operations, we may need to raise additional capital to meet our financing demand. If we are unable to obtain such capital in a timely manner or on acceptable terms, or if we enter into financing agreements imposing restrictions on our operations, such as our ability to incur additional indebtedness or distribute dividends, our business, operation and financial conditions may be negatively affected.
COVID-19,
a novel strain of coronavirus, has spread worldwide. The
COVID-19
outbreak has brought uncertainties and interruptions to global economy and caused significant volatility across the financial markets. We believe that our current cash and cash equivalents, together with our cash generated from operating activities, financing activities and our initial public offering, will be sufficient to meet our present anticipated working capital requirements and capital expenditures. However, if the impact of the
COVID-19
and volatility in the financial markets continue, our financing activities in future to raise additional capital may be materially and adversely affected, which may in turn have an adverse effect on our ability to meet our working capital requirement and our liquidity. For other risks related to the
COVID-19,
see “— We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.”
We have significant working capital requirements and had working capital deficits in the past. If we experience working capital deficits in the future, our business, liquidity, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
As a result of the efforts in expanding our business, we had a working capital deficit of RMB87.7 million as of December 31, 2019. Although we have received net proceeds from our initial public offering completed in January 2020 to meet our ongoing working capital needs and fund our continuous growth and achieved a positive working capital of RMB131.3 million (US$20.1 million) as of December 31, 2020, there is no assurance that we will generate sufficient net income or operating cash flows to meet our working capital requirements and repay our liabilities as they become due in the future due to a variety of factors, some of which are beyond our control. There can be no assurance that we will be able to continue to successfully taking measures such as prudently managing our working capital or raising additional equity or debt financing on terms that are acceptable to us. Our inability to take these actions as and when necessary could materially adversely affect our liquidity, results of operations, financial condition and ability to operate.
We do not currently have business insurance to cover our main assets and business. Any uninsured occurrence of business disruption, litigation or natural disaster could expose us to significant costs, which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
The insurance industry in China is still at an early stage of development, and insurance companies in China currently offer limited business-related insurance products. As such, we may not be able insure against certain risks related to our assets or business even if we desire to. In addition, the costs of insuring for such risks and the difficulties associated with acquiring such insurance on commercially reasonable terms make it impractical for us to have such insurance. We do not have any business liability or disruption insurance to cover our operations. Any uninsured occurrence of business disruption, litigation or natural disaster, or significant damages to our uninsured equipment or facilities could disrupt our business operations, requiring us to incur substantial costs and divert our resources, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we fail to implement and maintain an effective system of internal controls, we may be unable to accurately report our results of operations, meet our reporting obligations or prevent fraud, and investor confidence and the market price of our shares may be materially and adversely affected.
Since the completion of our initial public offering, we have become a public company in the United States subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. In accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or Section 404, we included a report from management on our internal control over financial reporting in our annual report on Form
20-F
beginning with this annual report this year. In addition, once we cease to be an “emerging growth company” as such term is defined in the JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm must attest to and report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. Our management may conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is not effective. Moreover, even if our management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm, after conducting its own independent testing, may issue a report that is qualified if it is not satisfied with our internal controls or the level at which our controls are documented, designed, operated or reviewed, or if it interprets the relevant requirements differently from us. In addition, after we become a public company, our reporting obligations may place a significant strain on our management, operational and financial resources and systems for the foreseeable future. We may be unable to timely complete our evaluation testing and any required remediation.
 
28

Table of Contents
During the course of documenting and testing our internal control procedures, in order to satisfy the requirements of Section 404, we may identify weaknesses and deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, as these standards are modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, we may not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404. Generally speaking, if we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could, in turn, limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations and lead to a decline in the trading price of our ADSs. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions.
We identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting as part of management’s assessment, and if we are unable to remediate and improve our internal controls, we may not be able to accurately or timely report our future financial results.
In the course of preparing our consolidated financial statements in the prior years, we identified one material weakness which has not been remedied in our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020. A “material weakness” is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of our annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The material weakness that was identified related to our lack of sufficient financial reporting and accounting personnel with appropriate experience of U.S. GAAP and SEC reporting requirements and our failure to establish and clearly communicate acceptable policies regarding U.S. GAAP financial reporting. While we are in the process of implementing plans to remediate this material weakness, there is no assurance that we will not have material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in the future.
The SEC, as required under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, has adopted rules requiring public companies to include a report of management on the effectiveness of such companies’ internal control over financial reporting in their respective annual reports. In addition, an independent registered public accounting firm for a public company may be required to issue an attestation report on the effectiveness of such company’s internal control over financial reporting. Our management may conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is not effective. Moreover, even if our management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm, after conducting its own independent testing, may issue a report that is qualified if it is not satisfied with our internal controls or the level at which our controls are documented, designed, operated or reviewed, or if it interprets the relevant requirements differently from us. We may be unable to timely complete our evaluation testing and any required remediation. If we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. This could in turn limit our access to capital markets, harm our results of operations, and lead to a decline in the trading price of our listed securities. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the stock exchange on which we list, regulatory investigations and civil or criminal sanctions.
We have granted share-based compensations in the past and will continue to grant share-based awards in the future, which may result in increased share-based compensation expenses and have an adverse effect on our future profit. Exercise of the share options, restricted shares or restricted share units granted will increase the number of our shares in circulation, which may adversely affect the market price of our shares.
We, through a wholly owned subsidiary, adopted a share incentive plan on September 30, 2018, which has been terminated and replaced in its entirety by a new share incentive plan adopted directly by us on May 31, 2019, or the 2019 Share Incentive Plan, for the purpose of granting share-based compensation awards to employees, directors and consultants to incentivize their performance and align their interests with ours. The maximum aggregate number of ordinary shares we are authorized to issue pursuant to all awards under the 2019 Share Incentive Plan is 40,000,000 Class A ordinary shares. In March 2020, we amended the 2019 Share Incentive Plan (the “Amended and Restated 2019 Share Incentive Plan”) to increase the maximum aggregate number of Class A ordinary shares we are authorized to issue under the Amended and Restated 2019 Share Incentive Plan to 100,000,000 Class A ordinary shares. We may adopt share incentive plans in the future that permits granting of share-based compensation awards to employees and directors, which will result in significant share-based compensation expenses to us.
As of February 28, 2021, awards to purchase 52,964,400 Class A ordinary shares under the Amended and Restated 2019 Share Incentive Plan have been granted and outstanding. A number of awards become vested upon the completion of our initial public offering in January 2020 and we recognized a significant amount of share-based compensation expenses upon then. As of December 31, 2020, our total unrecognized share-based compensation related to the Amended and Restated 2019 Share Incentive Plan amounted to RMB62.6 million(US$9.6 million). We believe the granting of share-based compensation awards is of significant importance to our ability to attract and retain key personnel and employees, and we will continue to grant share-based compensation awards to employees in the future. As a result, our expenses associated with share-based compensation may increase, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
 
29

Table of Contents
Competition for highly skilled personnel is often intense and we may incur significant costs or not successful in attracting, integrating, or retaining qualified personnel to fulfill our current or future needs. We have, from time to time, experienced, and we expect to continue to experience, difficulty in hiring and retaining highly skilled employees with appropriate qualifications. Our ability to attract or retain highly skilled employees may be adversely affected by declines in the perceived value of our equity or equity awards. Furthermore, there are no assurances that the number of shares reserved for issuance under our share incentive plans will be sufficient to grant equity awards adequate to recruit new employees and to compensate existing employees.
We may be the subject of allegations, harassing or other detrimental conduct by third parties, which could harm our reputation and cause us to lose market share, users and customers.
We have been subject to allegations by third parties or purported former employees, negative internet postings and other adverse public exposure on our business, operations and staff compensation. We may also become the target of harassment or other detrimental conduct by third parties or disgruntled former or current employees. Such conduct may include complaints, anonymous or otherwise, to regulatory agencies, media or other organizations. We may be subject to government or regulatory investigation or other proceedings as a result of such third-party conduct and may be required to spend significant time and incur substantial costs to address such third-party conduct, and there is no assurance that we will be able to conclusively refute each of the allegations within a reasonable period of time, or at all. Additionally, allegations, directly or indirectly against us, may be posted on the internet, including social media platforms by anyone, whether or not related to us, on an anonymous basis. Any negative publicity on us or our management can be quickly and widely disseminated. Social media platforms and devices immediately publish the content of their subscribers and participants post, often without filters or checks on accuracy of the content posted. Information posted may be inaccurate and adverse to us, and it may harm our reputation, business or prospects. The harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction. Our reputation may be negatively affected as a result of the public dissemination of negative and potentially false information about our business and operations, which in turn may cause us to lose market share, users or customers.
Non-compliance
on the part of our employees or third parties involved in our business could adversely affect our business.
Our compliance controls, policies and procedures may not protect us from acts committed by our employees, agents, contractors, or collaborators that violate the laws or regulations of the jurisdictions in which we operate, which may adversely affect our business.
In addition, our business partners or other third parties involved in our business through our business partners (such as contractors, guilds or other third parties entered into business relationship with our third-party business partners) may be subject to regulatory penalties or punishments because of their regulatory compliance failures, which may, directly or indirectly, disrupt our business. Although we conduct review of legal formalities and certifications before entering into contractual relationship with other businesses such as advertisers and guilds, and take measures to reduce the risks that we may be exposed to in case of any
non-compliance
by third parties, we cannot be certain whether such third party has infringed or will infringe any third parties’ legal rights or violate any regulatory requirements or rule out the likelihood of incurring any liabilities imposed on us due to any regulatory failures by third parties. We identify irregularities or
non-compliance
in the business practices of any parties with whom we pursue existing or future cooperation and we cannot assure you that any of these irregularities will be corrected in a prompt and proper manner. We cannot assure you that our business partners will be able to supervise and administrate those third parties actively involved in our business through these business partners in an effective way. The legal liabilities and regulatory actions on our business partners or other third parties involved in our business may affect our business activities and reputation and in turn, our results of operations.
 
30

Table of Contents
We face risks and uncertainties to comply with the laws, regulations and rules in various aspects in overseas jurisdictions. Failure to comply with such applicable laws, regulations and rules may subject our overseas operation to strict scrutiny by local authorities, which in turn may materially and adversely affect our globalized operations.
As we expand our operations overseas, we may have to adapt our business models or operations to the local markets due to various legal requirements and market conditions. Our international operations and expansion efforts may result in increased costs and are subject to various of risks, including content control from local authorities, uncertain enforcement of intellectual property rights and infringements, the complexity of compliance with foreign laws and regulations and cultural differences. Compliance with applicable foreign laws and regulations related to matters that are central to our business, including those related to content restrictions, data privacy, virtual gift sales, anti-corruption laws, anti-money laundry and minors protection, increases the costs and risk exposure of doing business in foreign jurisdictions. In some cases, compliance with the laws and regulations of one country could violate the laws and regulations of another country. As our globalized operations evolves, we cannot assure you that we are able to fully comply with the legal requirements of each foreign jurisdiction and successfully adapt our business models to local market conditions. Due to the complexity involved in our overseas business expansion, we cannot assure you that we are in compliance with all local laws or regulations, including license requirements, or that our existing licenses will be successfully renewed or expanded to cover all of our areas of operations.
In addition, cultural differences may also impose additional challenges to our efforts in content control. Therefore, such different and possibly more stringent regulatory and cultural environments may increase the risk exposure to our daily operations in foreign jurisdictions. Our failure to comply with other foreign laws, regulations and rules could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, global reputation and global growth efforts. In additional, each of foreign jurisdictions may have different regulatory framework, implementation and enforcement for online audio platforms, which may substantially increase our compliance costs to obtain, maintain or renew requisite licenses and permits or fulfil any required administrative procedures.
We have limited experience in international markets. If we fail to meet the challenges presented by our expansion overseas, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
We are exploring opportunities overseas. Starting from July 2019, we have launched certain localized tailored version of our overseas audio entertainment product in the Middle East and North Africa, or the MENA and gradually developed to reach more global audiences. In October 2020, we launched Tiya App, in the United States, an audio-based social networking product. Currently, Tiya App is operated in and has users from more than 200 countries worldwide. We have limited experience in international markets and we expect to enter and expand our operations in international markets. Global expansion could expose us to a number of risks, including:
 
   
compliance with applicable foreign laws and regulations, including but not limited to internet content provider licenses, internet content requirements, foreign exchange controls, cash repatriation restrictions, intellectual property protection rules and data privacy requirements;
 
   
tensions between China and the United States or among other government authorities in countries or regions where we operate;
 
   
challenges in identifying appropriate local business partners and establishing and maintaining good working relationships with them. Our business partners primarily include popular hosts and their agencies, third parties that promote our platforms and applications and third parties that provide us technology support;
 
   
challenges in formulating effective marketing strategies targeting users from various jurisdictions and cultures, who have a diverse range of preferences and demands;
 
   
challenges in attracting users to generate appealing content on our overseas platforms;
 
   
challenges associated with internet infrastructure and telecommunication network services overseas and risks of system security breaches;
 
31

Table of Contents
   
local competition;
 
   
local employment laws and practices;
 
   
fluctuations in currency exchange rates;
 
   
exposure to different tax jurisdictions that may subject us to greater fluctuations in our effective tax rate and assessments in multiple jurisdictions on various
tax-related
assertions, including transfer pricing adjustments and permanent establishment risks;
 
   
increased costs associated with doing business in foreign jurisdictions; and
 
   
COVID-19
outbreaks in various overseas locations.
Our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected by these and other risks associated with our global expansion.
We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics and other outbreaks, which could significantly disrupt our operations.
We may be subject to social and natural catastrophic events that are beyond our control, such as natural disasters, health epidemics or pandemic, riots, political and military upheavals and other outbreaks in the country or region where we have our operations or where a portion of our users or podcasts are located. Such events could significantly disrupt our operations and negatively impact our business, financial conditions and development.
We have incurred and will continue to incur additional costs as a result of being a public company.
As a public company, we are incurring and expect to continue to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. These additional costs could negatively affect our financial results. In addition, changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure, including regulations implemented by the Nasdaq, may increase legal and financial compliance costs and make some activities more time-consuming. These laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. We intend to invest resources to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards, and this investment may result in increased general and administrative expenses and a diversion of management’s time and attention from revenue-generating activities to compliance activities. If, notwithstanding our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards, we fail to comply, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed.
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
If the PRC government finds that the agreements that establish the structure for operating our businesses in China do not comply with PRC regulations on foreign investment in internet and other related businesses, or if these regulations or their interpretation change in the future, we could be subject to severe penalties or be forced to relinquish our interests in those operations.
PRC laws and regulations impose certain restrictions or prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies that engage in internet and other related businesses, including the provision of internet content. Specifically, foreign ownership is prohibited in industries of online audio program services and internet cultural business (excluding music), foreign ownership of an internet content provider in managing value-added telecommunications business may not exceed 50%, and the major foreign investor is required to have a record of good performance and operating experience. We are a company registered in the Cayman Islands and Beijing Hongyiyichuang Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“Hongyi Technology”) and Guangzhou Tiya Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“Guangzhou Tiya”) (our wholly-owned subsidiaries in China) are considered foreign-invested enterprises, or WFOEs. To comply with PRC laws and regulations, our WFOEs conduct our business in China mainly through Guangzhou Lizhi Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“Guangzhou Lizhi”) and Guangzhou Huanliao Network Technology Co., Ltd. (“Guangzhou Huanliao”), our VIEs, and their respective subsidiaries, based on a series of contractual arrangements by and among our WFOEs, our VIEs and the respective shareholders of our VIEs. As a result of these contractual arrangements, we exert control over our consolidated affiliated entities, including our VIEs and their subsidiaries, and consolidate their financial results in our financial statements under U.S. GAAP. Our consolidated affiliated entities hold the licenses, approvals and key assets that are essential for our operations. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our VIEs and Our VIEs’ Respective Shareholders.”
 
32

Table of Contents
In the opinion of our PRC counsel, JunHe LLP, based on its understanding of the relevant PRC laws and regulations, each of the contractual arrangements among each of Guangzhou Lizhi and Guangzhou Huanliao, our VIEs, and their respective shareholders is valid, binding and enforceable in accordance with its terms. However, we have been further advised by our PRC counsel that there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current or future PRC laws and regulations. Thus, the PRC government may ultimately take a view contrary to the opinion of our PRC counsel. In addition, PRC government authorities may deem that foreign ownership is directly or indirectly involved in each of our VIE’s shareholding structure. If we are found in violation of any PRC laws or regulations, or if the contractual arrangements among any of our WFOEs, our VIEs and/or their respective shareholders are determined as illegal or invalid by the PRC court, arbitral tribunal or regulatory authorities, the relevant governmental authorities would have broad discretion in dealing with such violation, including, without limitation:
 
   
revoking the business licenses and/or operating licenses of such entities;
 
   
imposing fines on us;
 
   
confiscating any of our income that they deem to be obtained through illegal operations;
 
   
discontinuing or placing restrictions or onerous conditions on our operations;
 
   
placing restrictions on our right to collect revenues;
 
   
shutting down our servers or blocking our apps/websites;
 
   
requiring us to restructure the operations in such a way as to compel us to establish a new enterprise,
re-apply
for the necessary licenses or relocate our businesses, staff and assets;
 
   
imposing additional conditions or requirements with which we may not be able to comply; or
 
   
taking other regulatory or enforcement actions against us that could be harmful to our business.
The imposition of any of these penalties may result in a material and adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business operations. In addition, if the imposition of any of these penalties causes us to lose the rights to direct the activities of our VIEs or the right to receive their economic benefits, we would no longer be able to consolidate their financial results.
We rely on contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their shareholders for our operations in China, which may not be as effective in providing operational control as direct ownership.
Due to PRC restrictions or prohibitions on foreign ownership of internet and other related businesses in China, we operate our business in China through our VIEs and their subsidiaries, in which we have no ownership interest. We rely on a series of contractual arrangements with our VIEs and their shareholders, including the powers of attorney, to control and operate business of our VIEs. These contractual arrangements are intended to provide us with effective control over our VIEs and allow us to obtain economic benefits from them. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our VIEs and Our VIEs’ Respective Shareholders” for more details about these contractual arrangements. In particular, our ability to control the VIEs depends on the powers of attorney, pursuant to which Hongyi Technology and Guangzhou Tiya (our WFOEs) can exercise all shareholders rights in our VIEs. We believe these powers of attorney are legally enforceable but may not be as effective as direct equity ownership.
 
33

Table of Contents
Although we have been advised by our PRC counsel, JunHe LLP, that each of the contractual arrangements among each of our WFOEs, our VIEs, and shareholders of our VIEs is valid, binding and enforceable under existing PRC laws and regulations, these contractual arrangements may not be as effective in providing control over our VIEs and their subsidiaries as direct ownership. If our VIEs or their shareholders fail to perform their respective obligations under the contractual arrangements, we may incur substantial costs and expend substantial resources to enforce our rights. Although Hongyi Technology or Guangzhou Tiya has an option, subject to the registration process with PRC governmental authorities, to purchase the equity of our VIEs, if the shareholders of VIEs do not cooperate or there are any disputes relating to these contractual arrangements, we will have to enforce our rights under these contracts under PRC laws through arbitration, litigation and other legal proceedings, the outcome of which is uncertain. These contractual arrangements are governed by and interpreted in accordance with PRC law, and disputes arising from these contractual arrangements will be resolved through arbitration in China. However, the legal system in China, particularly as it relates to arbitration proceedings, is not as developed as the legal system in many other jurisdictions, such as the United States. There are very few precedents and little official guidance as to how contractual arrangements in the context of a variable interest entity should be interpreted or enforced under PRC law. There remain significant uncertainties regarding the ultimate outcome of arbitration should legal action become necessary. These uncertainties could limit our ability to enforce these contractual arrangements. In addition, arbitration awards are final and can only be enforced in PRC courts through arbitration award recognition proceedings, which could cause additional expenses and delays. In the event we are unable to enforce these contractual arrangements or we experience significant delays or other obstacles in the process of enforcing these contractual arrangements, we may not be able to exert effective control over our VIEs and may lose control over the assets owned by our VIEs. As a result, we may be unable to consolidate the financial results of such entities in our consolidated financial statements, our ability to conduct our business may be negatively affected, and our operations could be severely disrupted, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may lose the ability to use and enjoy assets held by our VIEs and their subsidiaries that are important to our business if our VIEs and their subsidiaries declare bankruptcy or become subject to a dissolution or liquidation proceeding.
Our VIEs and their subsidiaries hold certain assets that are important to our operations, including the ICP License, the Internet Culture Operation License and Radio and Television Program Production and Operating Permit. Under our contractual arrangements, the shareholders of our VIEs may not voluntarily liquidate our VIEs or approve them to sell, transfer, mortgage or dispose of their assets or legal or beneficial interests exceeding certain threshold in the business in any manner without our prior consent. However, in the event that the shareholders breach this obligation and voluntarily liquidate our VIEs, or our VIEs declare bankruptcy, or all or part of their assets become subject to liens or rights of third-party creditors, we may be unable to continue some or all of our operations, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Furthermore, if our VIEs or their subsidiaries undergo a voluntary or involuntary liquidation proceeding, their shareholders or unrelated third-party creditors may claim rights to some or all of its assets, hindering our ability to operate our business, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Contractual arrangements we have entered into with our VIEs may be subject to scrutiny by the PRC tax authorities. A finding that we owe additional taxes could negatively affect our financial condition and the value of your investment.
Pursuant to applicable PRC laws and regulations, arrangements and transactions among related parties may be subject to audit or challenge by PRC tax authorities. We may be subject to adverse tax consequences if the PRC tax authorities determine that the contractual arrangements among each of our WFOEs, our VIEs, and shareholders of our VIEs are not on an arm’s length basis and therefore constitute favorable transfer pricing. As a result, the PRC tax authorities could require that our VIEs adjust their taxable income upward for PRC tax purposes. Such an adjustment could increase our WFOEs tax expenses, subject our WFOEs to late payment fees and other penalties for underpayment of taxes. As a result, our consolidated results of operations may be adversely affected.
If the chops of our PRC subsidiaries, our VIEs and their subsidiaries, are not kept safely, are stolen or are used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized purposes, the corporate governance of these entities could be severely and adversely compromised.
In China, a company chop or seal serves as the legal representation of the company towards third parties even when unaccompanied by a signature. Each legally registered company in China is required to maintain a company chop, which must be registered with the local Public Security Bureau. In addition to this mandatory company chop, companies may have several other chops which can be used for specific purposes. The chops of our PRC subsidiaries, our VIEs and their subsidiaries are generally held securely by personnel designated or approved by us in accordance with our internal control procedures. To the extent those chops are not kept safe, are stolen or are used by unauthorized persons or for unauthorized purposes, the corporate governance of these entities could be severely and adversely compromised and those corporate entities may be bound to abide by the terms of any documents so chopped, even if they were chopped by an individual who lacked the requisite power and authority to do so. If any of our authorized personnel obtains, misuses or misappropriates our chops for whatever reason, we could experience disruptions in our operations. We may also have to take corporate or legal action, which could require significant time and resources to resolve while distracting management from our operations. Any of the foregoing could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
 
34

Table of Contents
Our shareholders or the shareholders of our VIEs may have potential conflicts of interest with us, which may materially and adversely affect our business.
The shareholders of our VIEs include persons who are also our shareholders or affiliates of our shareholders, and, in some cases, our directors or officers. Conflicts of interest may arise between the roles of them as shareholders, directors or officers of our company and as shareholders of our VIEs. For individuals who are also our directors and officers, we rely on them to abide by the laws of the Cayman Islands, which provide that directors and officers owe a fiduciary duty to our company to act in good faith and in the best interest of our company and not to use their positions for personal gain. The shareholders of our VIEs have executed powers of attorney to appoint Hongyi Technology or Guangzhou Tiya (our WFOEs) to vote on their behalf and exercise voting rights as shareholders of our VIEs. We cannot assure you that when conflicts arise, these shareholders will act in the best interest of our company or that conflicts will be resolved in our favor. If we cannot resolve any conflicts of interest or disputes between us and these shareholders, we would have to rely on legal proceedings, which may be expensive, time-consuming and disruptive to our operations. There is also substantial uncertainty as to the outcome of any such legal proceedings.
Additionally, we rely on our shareholders and the shareholders of our VIEs to secure, both at the internal and external level, all the necessary approvals, permits, filings or other formalities and proceedings in relation to their respective investment in us and/or our VIEs. We cannot assure you that our shareholders and shareholders of our VIEs have obtained all of such necessary approvals, permits, filings or other formalities and proceedings. The failure to obtain such approvals, permits, filings or other formalities and proceedings may adversely affect our business and results of operation.
Certain existing shareholders have substantial influence over our company and their interests may not be aligned with the interests of our other shareholders.
As of the date of this annual report, our founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai, through entities controlled by him, holds 22.4% of our total outstanding ordinary shares, representing 64.5% of our total voting power, excluding 15,446,330 Class A ordinary shares held by Kastle Limited which holds such Class A ordinary shares in trust for the benefit of certain of our senior management and directors. As a result, Mr. Lai is expected to have substantial influence over our business, including significant corporate actions such as mergers, consolidations, sales of substantially all of our assets, election of directors and related party transactions.
Our controlling shareholders may take actions that are not in the best interest of us or our other shareholders and conflicts of interest between them and us may arise as a result of their operation of or investment in businesses that compete with us. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could deprive our shareholders of a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of the ADSs. These actions may be taken even if they are opposed by our other shareholders, including holders of our ADSs. In addition, the significant concentration of share ownership may adversely affect the trading price of the ADSs due to investors’ perception that conflicts of interest may exist or arise. For more information regarding our principal shareholders and their affiliated entities, see “Item 6, Directors, Senior Management and Employees—6.E. Share Ownership.”
We may rely on dividends paid by our PRC subsidiaries to fund cash and financing requirements. Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us could have a material adverse effect on our ability to conduct our business and to pay dividends to holders of the ADSs and our ordinary shares.
We are a holding company, and we may rely on dividends to be paid by our PRC subsidiaries to fund our cash and financing requirements, including the funds necessary to pay dividends and other cash distributions to the holders of the ADSs and our ordinary shares and service any debt we may incur. If our PRC subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other distributions to us.
 
35

Table of Contents
Under PRC laws and regulations, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in China, such as Hongyi Technology or Guangzhou Tiya, may pay dividends only out of its accumulated profits as determined in accordance with PRC accounting standards and regulations. In addition, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise is required to set aside at least 10% of its
after-tax
profits each year, after making up previous years’ accumulated losses, if any, to fund certain statutory reserve funds, until the aggregate amount of such fund reaches 50% of its registered capital. At the discretion of the board of directors of the wholly foreign-owned enterprise, it may allocate a portion of its
after-tax
profits based on PRC accounting standards to staff welfare and bonus funds. These reserve funds and staff welfare and bonus funds are not distributable as cash dividends. For more detail on those limits, see “—Risks Related to Doing Business in China—Our PRC subsidiaries and PRC VIEs are subject to restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements.” Any limitation on the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends or make other distributions to us could materially and adversely limit our ability to grow, make investments or acquisitions that could be beneficial to our business, pay dividends, or otherwise fund and conduct our business.
Substantial uncertainties exist with respect to whether the foreign investor’s controlling PRC onshore variable interest entities via contractual arrangements will be recognized as “foreign investment” and how it may impact the viability of our current corporate structure and operations.
On March 15, 2019, the National People’s Congress of the PRC adopted the PRC Foreign Investment Law, which came into force on January 1, 2020. The PRC Foreign Investment Law defines the “foreign investment” as the investment activities in China conducted directly or indirectly by foreign investors in the following manners: (i) the foreign investor, by itself or together with other investors establishes a foreign invested enterprises in China; (ii) the foreign investor acquires shares, equities, asset tranches, or similar rights and interests of enterprises in China; (iii) the foreign investor, by itself or together with other investors, invests and establishes new projects in China; (iv) the foreign investor invests through other approaches as stipulated by laws, administrative regulations or otherwise regulated by the State Council. The PRC Foreign Investment Law keeps silent on how to define and regulate the “variable interest entities,” while adding a
catch-all
clause that “other approaches as stipulated by laws, administrative regulations or otherwise regulated by the State Council” can fall into the concept of “foreign investment,” which leaves uncertainty as to whether the foreign investor’s controlling PRC onshore variable interest entities via contractual arrangements will be recognized as “foreign investment.” Pursuant to the PRC Foreign Investment Law, PRC governmental authorities will regulate foreign investment by applying the principle of
pre-entry
national treatment together with a “negative list,” which will be promulgated by or promulgated with approval by the State Council. Foreign investors are prohibited from making any investments in the industries which are listed as “prohibited” in such negative list; and, after satisfying certain additional requirements and conditions as set forth in the “negative list,” are allowed to make investments in the industries which are listed as “restricted” in such negative list. For any foreign investor that fails to comply with the negative list, the competent authorities are entitled to ban its investment activities, require such investor to take measures to correct its
non-compliance
and impose other penalties.
The internet content service, internet audio-visual program services and online culture activities that we conduct through our consolidated variable interest entities are subject to foreign investment restrictions/ prohibitions set forth in the Special Management Measures for the Market Entry of Foreign Investment (Negative List) (2019 Version) and the Special Administrative Measures for the Access of Foreign Investment (Negative List) (2020 Version) issued by MOFCOM and the National Development and Reform Commission. It is unclear whether any new “negative list” to be issued under the PRC Foreign Investment Law will be different from the foregoing lists that already exist.
The PRC Foreign Investment Law leaves leeway for future laws, administrative regulations or provisions of the State Council to provide for contractual arrangements as a form of foreign investment. It is therefore uncertain whether our corporate structure will be seen as violating foreign investment rules as we are currently using the contractual arrangements to operate certain businesses in which foreign investors are currently prohibited from or restricted to investing. Furthermore, if future laws, administrative regulations or provisions of the State Council mandate further actions to be taken by companies with respect to existing contractual arrangements, we may face substantial uncertainties as to whether we can complete such actions in a timely manner, or at all. If we fail to take appropriate and timely measures to comply with any of these or similar regulatory compliance requirements, our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations could be materially and adversely affected.
 
36

Table of Contents
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
Uncertainties in the interpretation and enforcement of PRC laws and regulations could limit the legal protections available to you and us.
The PRC legal system is based on written statutes where prior court decisions have limited value as precedents. Our PRC subsidiaries, VIEs and WFOEs, are subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign- invested enterprises as well as various Chinese laws and regulations generally applicable to companies incorporated in China. However, since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system continues to rapidly evolve, the interpretations of many laws, regulations and rules are not always uniform and enforcement of these laws, regulations and rules involves uncertainties.
From time to time, we may have to resort to administrative and court proceedings to enforce our legal rights. However, since PRC administrative and court authorities have significant discretion in interpreting and implementing statutory and contractual terms, it may be more difficult to evaluate the outcome of administrative and court proceedings and the level of legal protection we enjoy than in more developed legal systems. Furthermore, the PRC legal system is based in part on government policies and internal rules that may have retroactive effect. As a result, we may not be aware of our violation of these policies and rules until sometime after the violation. Such uncertainties, including uncertainty over the scope and effect of our contractual, property (including intellectual property) and procedural rights, could materially and adversely affect our business and impede our ability to continue our operations.
Regulation and censorship of information disseminated over the mobile and internet in China may adversely affect our business and subject us to liability for content on our platforms.
Internet companies in China are subject to a variety of existing and new rules, regulations, policies, and license and permit requirements. In connection with enforcing these rules, regulations, policies and requirements, relevant government authorities may suspend services by, or revoke licenses of, any internet or mobile content service provider that is deemed to provide illicit content online or on mobile devices, and such activities may be intensified in connection with any ongoing government campaigns to eliminate prohibited content online. For example, in 2016, the Office of the Anti-Pornography and Illegal Publications Working Group, the State Internet Information Office, the MIIT, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Public Security jointly launched a “Clean Up the Internet 2016” campaign. Based on publicly available information, the campaign aims to eliminate pornographic information and content in the internet information services industry by, among other things, holding liable individuals and corporate entities that facilitate the distribution of pornographic information and content. Publicly traded companies voluntarily initiated self-investigations to filter and remove content from their websites and cloud servers.
We endeavor to eliminate illicit content from our platforms. We have made substantial investments in resources, including artificial intellectual technology to work together with a team of specialized individuals, to monitor content that users post on our platforms and the way in which our users engage with each other through our platforms. We use a variety of methods to ensure our platforms remains a healthy and positive experience for our users. See “Item 4. Information of the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Content Monitoring System.” Although we employ these methods to filter content posted on our platforms, we cannot be sure that our internal content control efforts will be sufficient to remove all content that may be viewed as indecent or otherwise
non-compliant
with PRC law and regulations. Government standards and interpretations as to what constitutes illicit online content or behavior are subject to interpretation and may change in a manner that could render our current monitoring efforts insufficient. The Chinese government has wide discretion in regulating online activities and, irrespective of our efforts to control the content on our platforms, government campaigns and other actions to reduce illicit content and activities could subject us to negative press or regulatory challenges and sanctions, including fines, suspension or revocation of our licenses to operate in China or a suspension or ban on our mobile or online platforms, including suspension or closure of one or more parts of or our entire business. Further, our senior management could be held criminally liable if we are deemed to be profiting from illicit content on our platforms. Although our business and operations have not been materially and adversely affected by government campaigns or any other regulatory actions in the past, we cannot assure you that our business and operations will be immune from government actions or sanctions in the future. If government actions or sanctions are brought against us, or if there are widespread rumors that government actions or sanctions have been brought against us, our reputation could be harmed, we may lose users and customers, our revenues and results of operation may be materially and adversely affected and the value of our ADSs could be dramatically reduced.
 
37

Table of Contents
Adverse changes in global or China’s economic, political or social conditions or government policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our revenues are substantially sourced from China. Accordingly, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects are influenced by economic, political and legal developments in China. Economic reforms begun in the late 1970s have resulted in significant economic growth. However, any economic reform policies or measures in China may from time to time be modified or revised. China’s economy differs from the economies of most developed countries in many respects, including with respect to the amount of government involvement, level of development, growth rate, control of foreign exchange and allocation of resources. While the PRC economy has experienced significant growth in the past 40 years, growth has been uneven across different regions and among different economic sectors and the rate of growth has been slowing.
China’s economic conditions are sensitive to global economic conditions. The global financial markets have experienced significant disruptions since 2008 and the United States, Europe and other economies have experienced periods of recession. The global macroeconomic environment is facing new challenges and there is considerable uncertainty over the long-term effects of the expansionary monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the central banks and financial authorities of some of the world’s leading economies. Recent international trade disputes, including tariff actions announced by the United States, the PRC and certain other countries, and the uncertainties created by such disputes may cause disruptions in the international flow of goods and services and may adversely affect the Chinese economy as well as global markets and economic conditions. There have also been concerns about the economic effect of the military conflicts and political turmoil or social instability in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and other places. Any severe or prolonged slowdown in the global economy may adversely affect the Chinese economy which in turn may adversely affect our business and operating results.
The PRC government exercises significant control over China’s economic growth through strategically allocating resources, controlling the payment of foreign currency-denominated obligations, setting monetary policy and providing preferential treatment to particular industries or companies. Although the PRC economy has grown significantly in the past decade, that growth may not continue, as evidenced by the slowing of the growth of the PRC economy since 2012. Any adverse changes in economic conditions in China, in the policies of the PRC government or in the laws and regulations in China could have a material adverse effect on the overall economic growth of China. Such developments could adversely affect our business and operating results, lead to reduction in demand for our services and adversely affect our competitive position.
Currently there is no law or regulation specifically governing virtual asset property rights and therefore it is not clear what liabilities, if any, online platform operator may have for virtual assets.
While participating on our platforms, our users acquire, purchase and accumulate some virtual assets, such as gifts or certain status. Such virtual assets can be important to users and have monetary value and, in some cases, are sold for actual money. In practice, virtual assets can be lost for various reasons, often through unauthorized use of the user account of one user by other users and occasionally through data loss caused by delay of network service, network crash or hacking activities. Currently, there is no PRC law or regulation specifically governing virtual asset property rights. As a result, there is uncertainty as to who the legal owner of virtual assets is, whether and how the ownership of virtual assets is protected by law, and whether an operator of online platform such as us would have any liability, whether in contract, tort or otherwise, to users or other interested parties, for loss of such virtual assets. Based on recent PRC court judgments, the courts have typically held online platform operators liable for losses of virtual assets by platform users, and ordered online platform operators to return the lost virtual items to users or pay damages and losses if the online platform operators fail to fulfill their obligations as the service provider. In case of a loss of virtual assets, we may be sued by our users and held liable for damages, which may negatively affect our reputation and business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
38

Table of Contents
Under the PRC enterprise income tax law, we may be classified as a PRC “resident enterprise,” which could result in unfavorable tax consequences to us and our shareholders and ADS holders and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
Under the PRC enterprise income tax law that became effective on January 1, 2008 and last amended on December 29, 2018, an enterprise established outside the PRC with “de facto management bodies” within the PRC is considered a “resident enterprise” for PRC enterprise income tax purposes and is generally subject to a uniform 25% enterprise income tax rate on its worldwide income. On April 22, 2009, the State Taxation Administration, or the SAT, issued the Circular Regarding the Determination of Chinese-Controlled Overseas Incorporated Enterprises as PRC Tax Resident Enterprise on the Basis of De Facto Management Bodies, or SAT Circular 82, which provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a
PRC-controlled
enterprise that is incorporated offshore is located in China. Further to SAT Circular 82, on August 3, 2011, the SAT issued the Administrative Measures of Enterprise Income Tax of Chinese-Controlled Offshore Incorporated Resident Enterprises (Trial), or SAT Bulletin 45, which became effective on September 1, 2011, to provide more guidance on the implementation of SAT Circular 82.
According to SAT Circular 82, an offshore incorporated enterprise controlled by a PRC enterprise or a PRC enterprise group will be considered a PRC tax resident enterprise by virtue of having its “de facto management body” in China and will be subject to PRC enterprise income tax on its worldwide income only if all of the following conditions are met: (a) the senior management and core management departments in charge of its daily operations function have their presence mainly in the PRC; (b) its financial and human resources decisions are subject to determination or approval by persons or bodies in the PRC; (c) its major assets, accounting books, company seals, and minutes and files of its board and shareholders’ meetings are located or kept in the PRC; and (d) not less than half of the enterprise’s directors or senior management with voting rights habitually reside in the PRC. SAT Bulletin 45 provides further rules on residence status determination, post-determination administration as well as competent tax authorities procedures.
Although SAT Circular 82 and SAT Bulletin 45 apply only to offshore incorporated enterprises controlled by PRC enterprises or PRC enterprise group and not those controlled by PRC individuals or foreigners, JunHe LLP, our legal counsel as to PRC law, has advised us that the determination criteria set forth therein may reflect SAT’s general position on how the term “de facto management body” could be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises, regardless of whether they are controlled by PRC enterprises, individuals or foreigners.
We do not meet all of the conditions set forth in SAT Circular 82. Therefore, we believe that we should not be treated as a “resident enterprise” for PRC tax purposes even if the standards for “de facto management body” prescribed in the SAT Circular 82 applied to us. For example, our minutes and files of the resolutions of our board of directors and the resolutions of our shareholders are maintained outside the PRC.
However, it is possible that the PRC tax authorities may take a different view. JunHe LLP, our legal counsel as to PRC law, has advised us that if the PRC tax authorities determine that our Cayman Islands holding company or any British Virgin Islands or Hong Kong subsidiary is a PRC resident enterprise for PRC enterprise income tax purposes, its world-wide income could be subject to PRC tax at a rate of 25%, which could reduce our net income. In addition, we will also be subject to PRC enterprise income tax reporting obligations. Although dividends paid by one PRC tax resident to another PRC tax resident should qualify as
“tax-exempt
income” under the enterprise income tax law, we cannot assure you that dividends paid by our PRC subsidiaries to us or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries will not be subject to a 10% withholding tax if we or any of our Hong Kong subsidiaries were treated as a PRC resident enterprise, as the PRC foreign exchange control authorities, which enforce the withholding tax on dividends, and the PRC tax authorities have not yet issued guidance with respect to the processing of outbound remittances to entities that are treated as resident enterprises for PRC enterprise income tax purposes.
If we are treated as a resident enterprise,
non-PRC
resident ADS holders and shareholders may also be subject to PRC withholding tax on dividends paid by us and PRC tax on gains realized on the sale or other disposition of ADSs or ordinary shares, if such income is sourced from within the PRC. The tax would be imposed at the rate of 10% in the case of
non-PRC
resident enterprise ADS holders and shareholders and 20% in the case of
non-PRC
resident individual ADS holders and shareholders. In the case of dividends, we would be required to withhold the tax at source. Although our holding company is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, it remains unclear whether dividends received and gains realized by our
non-PRC
resident ADS holders and shareholders will be regarded as income from sources with the PRC if we are classified as a PRC resident enterprise. Any PRC tax liability may be reduced under applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements, but it is unclear whether our
non-PRC
ADS holders and shareholders would be able to obtain the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise. Any such PRC tax liability will reduce the returns on your investment in our ADSs.
 
39

Table of Contents
There are uncertainties with respect to indirect transfers of PRC taxable properties.
We face uncertainties on the reporting and consequences on private equity financing transactions, private share transfers and share exchange involving the transfer of shares in our company by
non-resident
investors. According to the Notice on Several Issues Concerning Enterprise Income Tax for Indirect Share Transfer by
Non-PRC
Resident Enterprises, issued by the State Taxation Administration on February 3, 2015, or SAT Circular 7, an “indirect transfer” of assets of a PRC resident enterprise, including a transfer of equity interests in a
non-PRC
holding company of a PRC resident enterprise, by
non-PRC
resident enterprises may be
re-characterized
and treated as a direct transfer of PRC taxable properties, if such transaction lacks reasonable commercial purpose and was undertaken for the purpose of reducing, avoiding or deferring PRC enterprise income tax. As a result, gains derived from such indirect transfer may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax, and tax filing or withholding obligations may be triggered, depending on the nature of the PRC taxable properties being transferred. According to SAT Circular 7, “PRC taxable properties” include assets of a PRC establishment or place of business, real properties in the PRC, and equity investments in PRC resident enterprises, in respect of which gains from their transfer by a direct holder, being a
non-PRC
resident enterprise, would be subject to PRC enterprise income taxes. When determining if there is a “reasonable commercial purpose” of the transaction arrangement, factors to be taken into consideration include: whether the main value of the equity interest of the relevant offshore enterprise derives from PRC taxable properties; whether the assets of the relevant offshore enterprise mainly consists of direct or indirect investment in China or if its income mainly derives from China; whether the offshore enterprise and its subsidiaries directly or indirectly holding PRC taxable properties have a real commercial nature which is evidenced by their actual function and risk exposure; the duration of existence of the business model and organizational structure; the replicability of the transaction by direct transfer of PRC taxable properties; and the tax situation of such indirect transfer outside China and its applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements. In respect of an indirect offshore transfer of assets of a PRC establishment or place of business of a foreign enterprise, the resulting gain is to be included with the annual enterprise filing of the PRC establishment or place of business being transferred, and would consequently be subject to PRC enterprise income tax at a rate of 25%. Where the underlying transfer relates to PRC real properties or to equity investments in a PRC resident enterprise, which is not related to a PRC establishment or place of business of a
non-resident
enterprise, a PRC enterprise income tax at 10% would apply, subject to available preferential tax treatment under applicable tax treaties or similar arrangements, and the party who is obligated to make the transfer payments has the withholding obligation. Where the payer fails to withhold any or sufficient tax, the transferor shall declare and pay such tax to the competent tax authority by itself within the statutory time limit. Currently, SAT Circular 7 does not apply to the sale of shares or ADSs by investors through a public stock exchange where such shares or ADSs were acquired in a transaction on a public stock exchange.
We cannot assure you that the PRC tax authorities will not, at their discretion, adjust any capital gains and impose tax return filing and withholding or tax payment obligations and associated penalties with respect to any internal restructuring, and our PRC subsidiaries may be requested to assist in the filing. Any PRC tax imposed on a transfer of our shares not through a public stock exchange, or any adjustment of such gains would cause us to incur additional costs and may have a negative impact on the value of your investment in our company.
Implementation of the labor laws and regulations in China may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Pursuant to the Labor Contract Law of PRC that took effect in January 2008, its implementation rules that took effect in September 2008 and its amendment that took effect in July 2013, employers are subject to stricter requirements in terms of signing labor contracts, minimum wages, paying remuneration, determining the term of employees’ probation and unilaterally terminating labor contracts. Due to lack of detailed interpretative rules and uniform implementation practices and broad discretion of the local competent authorities, it is uncertain as to how the labor contract law and its implementation rules will affect our current employment policies and practices. Our employment policies and practices may violate the labor contract law or its implementation rules, and we may thus be subject to related penalties, fines or legal fees. Compliance with the labor contract law and its implementation rules may increase our operating expenses, in particular our personnel expenses. In the event that we decide to terminate some of our employees or otherwise change our employment or labor practices, the labor contract law and its implementation rules may also limit our ability to effect those changes in a desirable or cost-effective manner, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations. On October 28, 2010, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the PRC Social Insurance Law, or the Social Insurance Law, which became effective on July 1, 2011 and was last amended in December 2018. According to the Social Insurance Law, employees must participate in pension insurance, work-related injury insurance, medical insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance and the employers must, together with their employees or separately, pay the social insurance premiums for such employees.
 
40

Table of Contents
We expect our labor costs to increase due to the implementation of these new laws and regulations. As the interpretation and implementation of these new laws and regulations are still evolving, we cannot assure you that our employment practice will at all times be deemed in full compliance with labor-related laws and regulations in China, which may subject us to labor disputes or government investigations. If we are deemed to have violated relevant labor laws and regulations, we could be required to provide additional compensation to our employees and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
We have accrued in the financial statements but not made full contributions to the social insurance plans and the housing provident fund for employees as required by the relevant PRC laws and regulations. As of the date of this annual report, we are not aware of any notice from regulatory authorities or any claim or request from these employees in this regard.
Further, labor disputes, work stoppages or slowdowns at our company or any of our third-party service providers could significantly disrupt our daily operation or our expansion plans and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
China’s M&A Rules and certain other PRC regulations establish complex procedures for certain acquisitions of Chinese companies by foreign investors, which could make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions in China.
The Regulations on Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, or the M&A Rules, and other recently adopted regulations and rules concerning mergers and acquisitions established additional procedures and requirements that could make merger and acquisition activities by foreign investors more time consuming and complex. For example, the M&A Rules require that MOFCOM be notified in advance of any
change-of-control
transaction in which a foreign investor takes control of a PRC domestic enterprise, if (i) any important industry is concerned, (ii) such transaction involves factors that impact or may impact national economic security, or (iii) such transaction will lead to a change in control of a domestic enterprise which holds a famous trademark or PRC time-honored brand. Moreover, the PRC Anti-Monopoly Law promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress effective 2008 requires that transactions which are deemed concentrations and involve parties with specified turnover thresholds (i.e., during the previous fiscal year, (i) the total global turnover of all operators participating in the transaction exceeds RMB10 billion and at least two of these operators each had a turnover of more than RMB400 million within China, or (ii) the total turnover within China of all the operators participating in the concentration exceeded RMB2 billion, and at least two of these operators each had a turnover of more than RMB400 million within China) must be cleared by the anti-monopoly enforcement authority before they can be completed. In addition, in 2011, the General Office of the State Council promulgated a Notice on Establishing the Security Review System for Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, also known as Circular 6, which officially established a security review system for mergers and acquisitions of domestic enterprises by foreign investors. Further, MOFCOM promulgated the Regulations on Implementation of Security Review System for the Merger and Acquisition of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors, effective 2011, to implement Circular 6. Under Circular 6, a security review is required for mergers and acquisitions by foreign investors having “national defense and security” concerns and mergers and acquisitions by which foreign investors may acquire the “de facto control” of domestic enterprises with “national security” concerns. Under the foregoing MOFCOM regulations, MOFCOM will focus on the substance and actual impact of the transaction when deciding whether a specific merger or acquisition is subject to security review. If MOFCOM decides that a specific merger or acquisition is subject to a security review, it will submit it to the Inter-Ministerial Panel, an authority established under Circular 6 led by the National Development and Reform Commission, and MOFCOM under the leadership of the State Council, to carry out security review. The regulations prohibit foreign investors from bypassing the security review by structuring transactions through trusts, indirect investments, leases, loans, control through contractual arrangements or offshore transactions. There is no explicit provision or official interpretation stating that the merging or acquisition of a company engaged in the internet content business requires security review, and there is no requirement that acquisitions completed prior to the promulgation of the Security Review Circular are subject to MOFCOM review.
 
41

Table of Contents
In the future, we may grow our business by acquiring complementary businesses. Complying with the requirements of the above-mentioned regulations and other relevant rules to complete such transactions could be time consuming, and any required approval processes, including obtaining approval from MOFCOM or its local counterparts may delay or inhibit our ability to complete such transactions. We believe that it is unlikely that our business would be deemed to be in an industry that raises “national defense and security” or “national security” concerns. However, MOFCOM or other government agencies may publish explanations in the future determining that our business is in an industry subject to the security review, in which case our future acquisitions in China, including those by way of entering into contractual control arrangements with target entities, may be closely scrutinized or prohibited.
PRC regulations relating to offshore investment activities by PRC residents may limit our PRC subsidiary’s ability to increase their registered capital or distribute profits to us or otherwise expose us to liability and penalties under PRC law.
The SAFE promulgated the Circular on Relevant Issues Relating to Domestic Resident’s Investment and Financing and Roundtrip Investment through Special Purpose Vehicles, or SAFE Circular 37, in July 2014 that requires PRC residents or entities to register with SAFE or its local branch in connection with their establishment or control of an offshore entity established for the purpose of overseas investment or financing. In addition, such PRC residents or entities must update their SAFE registrations when the offshore special purpose vehicle undergoes material events relating to any change of basic information (including change of such PRC citizens or residents, name and operation term), increases or decreases in investment amount, transfers or exchanges of shares, or mergers or divisions. According to the Notice on Further Simplifying and Improving Policies for the Foreign Exchange Administration of Direct Investment released on February 13, 2015 by the SAFE, local banks will examine and handle foreign exchange registration for overseas direct investment, including the initial foreign exchange registration and amendment registration, under SAFE Circular 37 from June 1, 2015.
If our shareholders who are PRC residents or entities do not complete their registration with the local SAFE branches, our PRC subsidiaries may be prohibited from distributing their profits and proceeds from any reduction in capital, share transfer or liquidation to us, and we may be restricted in our ability to contribute additional capital to our PRC subsidiaries. Moreover, failure to comply with the SAFE registration described above could result in liability under PRC laws for evasion of applicable foreign exchange restrictions. We have requested PRC residents who, to our knowledge, hold direct or indirect interest in us to make the necessary applications, filings and amendments as required under SAFE regulations. However, we may not at all times be fully aware or informed of the identities of all our shareholders or beneficial owners that are required to make such registrations, and we cannot compel our beneficial owners to comply with SAFE registration requirements. As a result, we cannot assure you that all of our shareholders or beneficial owners who are PRC residents or entities have complied with, and will in the future make or obtain any applicable registrations or approvals required by, SAFE regulations. Failure by such shareholders or beneficial owners to comply with SAFE regulations, or failure by us to amend the foreign exchange registrations of our PRC subsidiaries, could subject us to fines or legal sanctions, restrict our overseas or cross-border investment activities, limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to make distributions or pay dividends or affect our ownership structure, which could adversely affect our business and prospects.
PRC regulation of direct investment and loans by offshore holding companies to PRC entities may delay or limit us from using the proceeds of our initial public offering to make additional capital contributions or loans to our PRC subsidiaries.
We are an offshore holding company conducting our operations in China through our PRC subsidiaries, VIEs and their subsidiaries. We may make loans to our PRC subsidiaries, VIEs and their subsidiaries, or we may make additional capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries.
Any capital contributions or loans that we, as an offshore entity, make to our PRC subsidiaries, including from the proceeds of our initial public offering, are subject to PRC regulations. For example, none of our loans to a PRC subsidiary can exceed the difference between its total amount of investment and its registered capital approved under relevant PRC laws, or certain amount calculated based on elements including capital or net assets and the cross-border financing leverage ratio and the loans must be registered with the local branch of SAFE and the competent development and reform commission in case of any external debts of more than one year. Our capital contributions to our PRC subsidiaries must be approved by or filed with the MOFCOM or its local counterpart.
 
42

Table of Contents
On March 30, 2015, SAFE issued the Circular on the Reforming of the Management Method of the Settlement of Foreign Currency Capital of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, or SAFE Circular 19, which took effect on June 1, 2015. Under SAFE Circular 19, a foreign-invested enterprise, within the scope of business, may choose to convert its registered capital from foreign currency to RMB on a discretionary basis, and the RMB capital so converted can be used for equity investments within PRC, provided that such usage shall fall into the scope of business of the foreign-invested enterprise, which will be regarded as the reinvestment of foreign- invested enterprise. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations Related to Foreign Exchange.”
In light of the various requirements imposed by PRC regulations on loans to and direct investment in PRC entities by offshore holding companies, we cannot assure you that we will be able to complete the necessary registration or obtain the necessary approval on a timely basis, or at all. If we fail to complete the necessary registration or obtain the necessary approval, our ability to make loans or equity contributions to our PRC subsidiaries may be negatively affected, which could adversely affect our PRC subsidiaries’ liquidity and its ability to fund its working capital and expansion projects and meet its obligations and commitments.
Our PRC subsidiaries and PRC VIEs are subject to restrictions on paying dividends or making other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements.
We are a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, our subsidiaries and our VIEs (including their subsidiaries) located in the PRC have not paid dividends. However, the payment of dividends by our PRC subsidiaries and PRC VIEs is an important source of income for us to meet our financing need, and such payment is and may be subject to various restrictions. Current PRC regulations permit our PRC subsidiaries to pay dividends to us only out of their accumulated
after-tax
profits upon satisfaction of relevant statutory condition and procedures, if any, determined in accordance with Chinese accounting standards and regulations. In addition, each of our PRC subsidiaries is required to set aside at least 10% of its accumulated profits each year, if any, to fund certain reserve funds until the total amount set aside reaches 50% of its registered capital. As of December 31, 2020, we had not made appropriations to statutory reserves as our subsidiaries and our VIEs (including their subsidiaries) reported accumulated loss. Furthermore, if our PRC subsidiaries, VIEs and their subsidiaries incur debt on their own behalf in the future, the instruments governing the debt may restrict their ability to pay dividends or make other payments to us, which may restrict our ability to satisfy our liquidity requirements. In addition, the EIT Law, and its implementation rules provide that withholding tax rate of 10% will be applicable to dividends payable by Chinese companies to
non-PRC-resident
enterprises unless otherwise exempted or reduced according to treaties or arrangements between the PRC central government and governments of other countries or regions where the
non-PRC-resident
enterprises are incorporated.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and the value of your investment.
The value of the RMB against the U.S. dollar and other currencies is affected by changes in China’s political and economic conditions and by China’s foreign exchange policies, among other things. In July 2005, the PRC government changed its
decades-old
policy of pegging the value of the RMB to the U.S. dollar, and the RMB appreciated more than 20% against the U.S. dollar over the following three years. Between July 2008 and June 2010, this appreciation halted and the exchange rate between the RMB and the U.S. dollar remained within a narrow band. Since June 2010, the RMB has fluctuated against the U.S. dollar, at times significantly and unpredictably. On November 30, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the regular five-year review of the basket of currencies that make up the Special Drawing Right, or the SDR, and decided that with effect from October 1, 2016, RMB is determined to be a freely usable currency and will be included in the SDR basket as a fifth currency, along with the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the RMB has depreciated significantly in the backdrop of a surging U.S. dollar and persistent capital outflows of China. While appreciating approximately by 7% against the U.S. dollar in 2017, the Renminbi in 2018 depreciated approximately by 5% against the U.S. dollar. With the development of the foreign exchange market and progress towards interest rate liberalization and RMB internationalization, the PRC government may in the future announce further changes to the exchange rate system and we cannot assure you that the RMB will not appreciate or depreciate significantly in value against the U.S. dollar in the future. It is difficult to predict how market forces or PRC or U.S. government policy may impact the exchange rate between the RMB and the U.S. dollar in the future.
 
43

Table of Contents
There remains significant international pressure on the Chinese government to adopt a flexible currency policy to allow the RMB to appreciate against the U.S. dollar. Significant revaluation of the RMB may have a material adverse effect on your investment. Substantially all of our revenues and costs are denominated in RMB. Any significant revaluation of RMB may materially and adversely affect our revenues, earnings and financial position, and the value of, and any dividends payable on, our ADSs in U.S. dollars. To the extent that we need to convert U.S. dollars into RMB for capital expenditures and working capital and other business purposes, appreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar would have an adverse effect on the RMB amount we would receive from the conversion. Conversely, a significant depreciation of the RMB against the U.S. dollar may significantly reduce the U.S. dollar equivalent of our earnings, which in turn could adversely affect the price of our ADSs, and if we decide to convert RMB into U.S. dollars for the purpose of making payments for dividends on our ordinary shares or ADSs, strategic acquisitions or investments or other business purposes, appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the RMB would have a negative effect on the U.S. dollar amount available to us.
Very limited hedging options are available in China to reduce our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. To date, we have not entered into any hedging transactions in an effort to reduce our exposure to foreign currency exchange risk. While we may decide to enter into hedging transactions in the future, the availability and effectiveness of these hedges may be limited and we may not be able to adequately hedge our exposure or at all. In addition, our currency exchange losses may be magnified by PRC exchange control regulations that restrict our ability to convert RMB into foreign currency. As a result, fluctuations in exchange rates may have a material adverse effect on your investment.
Governmental control of currency conversion may limit our ability to utilize our revenues effectively and affect the value of your investment.
The PRC government imposes control on the convertibility of the RMB into foreign currencies and, in certain cases, the remittance of currency out of China. We receive substantially all of our revenues in RMB.
Under existing PRC foreign exchange regulations, payments of current account items, including profit distributions, interest payments and trade and service-related foreign exchange transactions, can be made in foreign currencies without prior SAFE approval by complying with certain procedural requirements. Therefore, our PRC subsidiaries are able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to us without prior approval from SAFE. However, approval from or registration with appropriate government authorities is required where RMB is to be converted into foreign currency and remitted out of China to pay capital expenses such as the repayment of loans denominated in foreign currencies. The PRC government may also at its discretion restrict access to foreign currencies for current account transactions in the future. If the foreign exchange control system prevents us from obtaining sufficient foreign currencies to satisfy our foreign currency demands, we may not be able to pay dividends in foreign currencies to our shareholders, including holders of our ADSs.
Failure to comply with PRC regulations regarding the registration requirements for employee stock ownership plans or share option plans may subject the PRC plan participants or us to fines and other legal or administrative sanctions.
Pursuant to SAFE Circular 37, PRC residents who participate in share incentive plans in overseas
non-publicly-listed
companies may submit applications to SAFE or its local branches for the foreign exchange registration with respect to offshore special purpose companies. In the meantime, our directors, executive officers and other employees who are PRC citizens or who are
non-PRC
residents residing in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year, subject to limited exceptions, and who have been granted incentive share awards by us, may follow the Circular on Issues Concerning the Foreign Exchange Administration for Domestic Individuals Participating in Stock Incentive Plan of Overseas Publicly-Listed Company, or the SAFE Circular 7, promulgated by the SAFE in 2012. Pursuant to the SAFE Circular 7, PRC citizens and
non-PRC
citizens who reside in China for a continuous period of not less than one year who participate in any stock incentive plan of an overseas publicly listed company, subject to a few exceptions, are required to register with SAFE through a qualified PRC agent, which could be the PRC subsidiaries of such overseas listed company, and complete certain other procedures. The PRC agent shall amend the SAFE registration within three months in the event that there is any material changes to the share incentive plan, the PRC agent or the overseas entrusted institution or other material changes. In addition, an overseas entrusted institution must be retained to handle matters in connection with the exercise or sale of stock options and the purchase or sale of shares and interests. We and our executive officers and other employees who are PRC citizens or who reside in the PRC for a continuous period of not less than one year and who have been granted options are subject to these regulations. However, we cannot assure you that the SAFE registrations for the participants of our share incentive plan could be completed and updated in a timely manner. Failure to complete the SAFE registrations or to amend such registrations in time may subject them to fines, and legal sanctions and may also limit our ability to contribute additional capital into our PRC subsidiaries and limit our PRC subsidiaries’ ability to distribute dividends to us. We also face regulatory uncertainties that could restrict our ability to adopt additional incentive plans for our directors, executive officers and employees under PRC law. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations Related to Employee Stock Incentive Plan.”
 
44

Table of Contents
The SAT has issued certain circulars concerning equity incentive awards. Under these circulars, our employees working in China who exercise share options, restricted shares or restricted share units will be subject to PRC individual income tax. Each of our PRC subsidiaries has obligations to file documents related to employee share options, restricted shares or restricted share units with relevant tax authorities and to withhold individual income taxes of those employees. If our employees fail to pay or we fail to withhold their income taxes according to relevant laws and regulations, we may face sanctions imposed by the tax authorities or other PRC governmental authorities. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.B. Business Overview—Regulation—Regulations related to Employee Stock Incentive Plan.”
Our leased property interests may be defective and our right to lease the properties affected by such defects may be challenged, which could adversely affect our business.
As of December 31, 2020, we lease nine premises in China, including our headquarters in Guangzhou. As to some of our leased properties, our landlords did not provide us with sufficient property title certificates or other supporting documents to prove ownership of the leased properties. We also lease some properties constructed on lands allocated by government on certain conditions. The lease of structures on allocated lands shall meet relevant requirements and be approved by the competent authorities. If our landlords’ ownership of the leased properties is successfully challenged by a third party or our landlords lease the relevant properties on allocated lands without approval, our lease agreements may not be enforceable and we may be forced to vacate the premise and relocate to a different premise. We cannot assure you that we will cause all of our landlords to provide sufficient property title certificates and obtain approvals in time, or at all, and if we have to relocate, our business may be disrupted and we may incur additional expenses. Some of such landlords have not registered the lease agreements with the government authorities or have not completed the registration process with respect to their ownership rights to the leased premises. We may be subject to monetary fines due to failure by the landlords to complete the registration process as required by applicable laws.
We may also be forced to relocate our operations if the landlords do not obtain valid title and approvals to or complete the required registrations with local housing authorities in a timely manner or at all. We might not be able to locate desirable alternative sites for our operations in a timely and cost-effective manner which may adversely affect our business.
Proceedings instituted by the SEC against certain
PRC-based
accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In December 2012, the SEC instituted administrative proceedings against the Big Four China-based accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, alleging that these firms had violated U.S. securities laws and the SEC’s rules and regulations thereunder by failing to provide to the SEC the firms’ audit work papers with respect to certain
PRC-based
companies that are publicly traded in the United States.
On January 22, 2014, the administrative law judge, or the ALJ, presiding over the matter rendered an initial decision that each of the firms had violated the SEC’s rules of practice by failing to produce audit papers and other documents to the SEC. The initial decision censured each of the firms and barred them from practicing before the SEC for a period of six months.
 
45

Table of Contents
On February 6, 2015, the four China-based accounting firms each agreed to a censure and to pay a fine to the SEC to settle the dispute and avoid suspension of their ability to practice before the SEC and audit U.S.-listed companies. The settlement required the firms to follow detailed procedures and to seek to provide the SEC with access to Chinese firms’ audit documents via the CSRC. Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the four China-based accounting firms was deemed dismissed with prejudice four years after entry of the settlement. The four-year mark occurred on February 6, 2019.
In the event that the SEC restarts the administrative proceedings, depending upon the final outcome, listed companies in the United States with major PRC operations may find it difficult or impossible to retain auditors in respect of their operations in the PRC, which could result in financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act, including possible delisting. Moreover, any negative news about the proceedings against these audit firms may cause investor uncertainty regarding
PRC-based,
United States-listed companies and the market price of our ADSs may be adversely affected.
If our independent registered public accounting firm was denied, even temporarily, the ability to practice before the SEC and we were unable to timely find another registered public accounting firm to audit and issue an opinion on our financial statements, our financial statements could be determined not to be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act. Such a determination could ultimately lead to the delisting of our ADSs from the Nasdaq or deregistration from the SEC, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of our ADSs in the United States.
Our auditor, like other independent registered public accounting firms operating in China, is not permitted to be subject to inspection by Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”), and consequently investors may be deprived of the benefits of such inspection. As a result of recent legislation, if such a PCAOB inspection of our auditor cannot be completed within the next three years, we will be required to remove our listing and cease all trading of our securities in the U.S. capital markets. During the intervening period, this and other recent legislative and regulatory developments related to U.S.-listed China-based companies due to lack of PCAOB inspection may have a material adverse impact on our listing and trading in the U.S. and the trading prices of our ADSs and/or ordinary shares.
Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issued the audit reports included elsewhere in this annual report, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), or PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance with applicable professional standards. Our auditor is located in, and organized under the laws of, the PRC, which is a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities. In May 2013, PCAOB announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Enforcement Cooperation with the CSRC and the PRC Ministry of Finance, which establishes a cooperative framework between the parties for the production and exchange of audit documents relevant to investigations undertaken by PCAOB, the CSRC or the PRC Ministry of Finance in the United States and the PRC, respectively. PCAOB continues to be in discussions with the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or CSRC, and the PRC Ministry of Finance to permit joint inspections in the PRC of audit firms that are registered with PCAOB and audit Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges.
On December 7, 2018, the SEC and the PCAOB issued a joint statement highlighting continued challenges faced by the U.S. regulators in their oversight of financial statement audits of U.S.-listed companies with significant operations in China. On April 21, 2020, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and PCAOB Chairman William D. Duhnke III, along with other senior SEC staff, released a joint statement highlighting the risks associated with investing in companies based in or have substantial operations in emerging markets including China, reiterating past SEC and PCAOB statements on matters including the difficulty associated with inspecting accounting firms and audit work papers in China and higher risks of fraud in emerging markets and the difficulty of bringing and enforcing SEC, Department of Justice and other U.S. regulatory actions, including in instances of fraud, in emerging markets generally. In response to the U.S. President Trump’s Memorandum on Protecting United States Investors from Significant Risks from Chinese Companies, on August 6, 2020, the U.S. President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (the “PWG”) released a report where it recommends that the SEC take steps to enhanced listing requirements on companies from certain jurisdictions, such as China, that do not provide the PCAOB with sufficient access to audit working papers. The proposed enhanced listing standards require, as a condition to initial and continued exchange listing, unrestricted PCAOB access to work papers of the principal audit firm for the audit of the listed company. Companies that are unable to satisfy this standard as a result of governmental restrictions may satisfy this standard by providing
a co-audit from
an audit firm with comparable resources and experience where the PCAOB determines it has sufficient access to audit work papers and practices to conduct an appropriate inspection of
the co-audit firm.
The proposed new listing standards provide for a transition period until January 1, 2022 for currently listed companies. After this transition period, if currently listed companies were unable to meet the enhanced listing standards, then they would become subject to securities exchange rules and processes that could lead to
possible de-listing if
not cured. The measures in the PWG report are presumably subject to the standard SEC rulemaking process before becoming effective. On August 10, 2020, the SEC announced that SEC Chairman Jay Clayton had directed the SEC staff to prepare proposals in response to the PWG report, and that the SEC was soliciting public comments and information with respect to these proposals. The PCAOB’s inspections of other firms outside China have identified deficiencies in those firms’ audit procedures and quality control procedures, which may be addressed as part of the inspection process to improve future audit quality. However, it remains unclear what additional actions the SEC and the stock exchanges will take in response to the PWG report.
 
46

Table of Contents
This lack of PCAOB inspections in China prevents the PCAOB from fully evaluating audits and quality control procedures of our independent registered public accounting firm. As a result, we and investors in our ordinary shares are deprived of the benefits of such PCAOB inspections. The inability of the PCAOB to conduct inspections of auditors in China makes it more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of our independent registered public accounting firm’s audit procedures or quality control procedures as compared to auditors outside of China that are subject to PCAOB inspections, which could cause investors and potential investors in our stock to lose confidence in our audit procedures and reported financial information and the quality of our financial statements.
As part of a continued regulatory focus in the United States on access to audit and other information currently protected by national law, in particular China’s, in June 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced bills in both houses of the U.S. Congress, which if passed, would require the SEC to maintain a list of issuers for which PCAOB is not able to inspect or investigate an auditor report issued by a foreign public accounting firm. The proposed Ensuring Quality Information and Transparency for Abroad-Based Listings on our Exchanges (EQUITABLE) Act prescribes increased disclosure requirements for these issuers and, beginning in 2025, the delisting from U.S. national securities exchanges such as the NYSE of issuers included on the SEC’s list for three consecutive years. On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed S. 945, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the Kennedy Bill. On July 21, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which contains provisions comparable to the Kennedy Bill. On August 6, 2020, the PWG released a report where it recommends that the SEC take steps to enhanced listing requirements on companies from certain jurisdictions, such as China, that do not provide the PCAOB with sufficient access to audit working papers, as discussed above. If either of these bills or the PWG report is enacted into law, or if we fail to meet the requirements thereunder due to factors beyond our control, we could face
possible de-listing from
the Nasdaq, deregistration from the SEC and/or other risks, which may materially and adversely affect, or effectively terminate, our ADS trading in the United States.
In addition to the proposed U.S. legislation and policies relating to Chinese companies’ compliance with applicable U.S. securities laws, our business and prospect may also be negatively affected by other changes in governmental policies including sanctions and export controls administered by U.S. government authorities, including those imposed as a result of a material deterioration of the political or economic relations between China and the United States and other geopolitical challenges. There is no assurance that the governmental authorities in the United States will not take any such actions against us or our controlling shareholder or affiliates in the event the tensions between China and the United States escalate, which could result in a material and adverse impact on our business and prospect.
Risks Related to our American Depositary Shares
Our ADSs have experienced and may continue to experience price and volume fluctuations, which could lead to costly litigation for us and make an investment in us less appealing.
Stock markets are subject to significant price and volume fluctuations that may be unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies and the market price of our ADSs may therefore frequently change as a result. For example, during the year ended December 31, 2020, the high and low closing prices of our ADSs were US$11.63 and US$1.96 per ADS, respectively, but in February 2021 the closing price of our ADSs reached US$15.82 per ADS. We believe the recent changes in our financial condition or results of operations are consistent with the recent change in our ADS price: our net revenues during the fiscal year 2020 increased by 27.3% from the prior year and our net loss decreased from RMB133.0 million in 2019 to RMB82.2 million in 2020. In addition, the market price of our ADSs have fluctuated and may continue to fluctuate substantially due to a variety of other factors, including quarterly fluctuations in our results of operations, our ability to execute on our current growth strategy in a timely fashion, announcements about technological innovations or new products or services by us or our competitors, market acceptance of new products and services offered by us, changes in our relationships with our suppliers or customers, our ability to meet analysts’ expectations, changes in the information technology environment, changes in earnings estimates by analysts, sales of our ADSs by existing holders, and the loss of key personnel. Possible exogenous incidents and trends may also impact capital markets and our own ADS prices, including but not limited to foreign and cross border altercations, political unrest, and cyberterrorism on a global scale.
The trading price of our ADSs is likely to be volatile and could fluctuate widely due to factors beyond our control. This may happen because of broad market and industry factors, including the performance and fluctuation of the market prices of other companies with business operations located mainly in China that have listed their securities in the United States. In addition to market and industry factors, the price and trading volume for our ADSs may be highly volatile for factors specific to our own operations, including the following:
 
47

Table of Contents
   
variations in our revenues, earnings, cash flow and data related to our user base or user engagement;
 
   
announcements of new investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships or joint ventures by us or our competitors;
 
   
announcements of new product and service offerings, solutions and expansions by us or our competitors;
 
   
changes in financial estimates by securities analysts;
 
   
detrimental adverse publicity about us, our products and services or our industry;
 
   
additions or departures of key personnel;
 
   
release of
lock-up
or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding equity securities or sales of additional equity securities; and
 
   
potential litigation or regulatory investigations.
Any of these factors may result in large and sudden changes in the volume and price at which our ADSs will trade. In particular, since the
COVID-19
outbreaks, concerns over the economic slowdown resulting from the
COVID-19
have led to a significant decrease in the major indices of the U.S. capital markets and an increase in the market volatility, which have, and may continue to have, adversely affected the market price of our ADSs. For risks related to the
COVID-19,
see “—Risks Related to Our Business and Industry—We face risks related to the outbreak of
COVID-19.”
In the past, shareholders of public companies have often brought securities class action suits against those companies following periods of instability in the market price of their securities. If we were involved in a class action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit, which could harm our results of operations. Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Under our dual-class share structure with different voting rights, holders of Class B ordinary shares have complete control of the outcome of matters put to a vote of shareholders, which may limit ability of holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any change of control transactions that holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs may view as beneficial.
We have adopted a dual-class share structure such that our ordinary shares consist of Class A ordinary shares and Class B ordinary shares. In respect of matters requiring the votes of shareholders, each Class A ordinary share is entitled to one vote, and each Class B ordinary share is entitled to 10 votes. Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time by the holder thereof, while Class A ordinary shares are not convertible into Class B ordinary shares under any circumstances. Upon any sale, transfer, assignment or disposition of any Class B ordinary shares by a holder thereof to any person who is not a Founder or an affiliate of a Founder, each of such Class B ordinary shares will be automatically and immediately converted into one Class A ordinary share. There is no limit on the circumstances where holders of Class B ordinary shares may transfer or otherwise dispose of their Class B ordinary shares. As of February 28, 2021, two of our directors, Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai and Mr. Ning Ding, beneficially own all of our issued Class B ordinary shares. They in the aggregate hold approximately 26.7% of our total issued and outstanding share capital and 77.4% of the aggregate voting power of our total issued and outstanding share capital, excluding 15,446,330 Class A ordinary shares held by Kastle Limited, which holds such Class A ordinary shares in trust for the benefit of certain of our senior management and directors as of February 28, 2021. As a result of this dual-class share structure, the holders of our Class B ordinary shares have complete control over the outcome of matters put to a vote of shareholders and have significant influence over our business, including decisions regarding mergers, consolidations, liquidations and the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, election of directors and other significant corporate actions. The holders of Class B ordinary shares control the outcome of a shareholder vote (i) with respect to matters requiring an ordinary resolution which requires the affirmative vote of a simple majority of shareholder votes; and (ii) with respect to matters requiring a special resolution which requires the affirmative vote of no less than
two-thirds
of shareholder votes. The holders of Class B ordinary shares may take actions that are not in the best interest of us or our other shareholders or holders of the ADSs. It may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could have the effect of depriving our other shareholders of the opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and may reduce the price of the ADSs. This concentrated control will limit the ability of the holders of our Class A ordinary shares and the ADSs to influence corporate matters and could discourage others from pursuing any potential merger, takeover or other change of control transactions that holders of Class A ordinary shares and ADSs may view as beneficial.
 
48

Table of Contents
The dual-class structure of our ordinary shares may adversely affect the trading market for our ADSs.
S&P Dow Jones and FTSE Russell have recently announced changes to their eligibility criteria for inclusion of shares of public companies on certain indices, including the S&P 500, to exclude companies with multiple classes of shares and companies whose public shareholders hold no more than 5% of total voting power from being added to such indices. In addition, several shareholder advisory firms have announced their opposition to the use of multiple class structures. As a result, the dual class structure of our ordinary shares may prevent the inclusion of our ADSs representing Class A ordinary shares in such indices and may cause shareholder advisory firms to publish negative commentary about our corporate governance practices or otherwise seek to cause us to change our capital structure. Any such exclusion from indices could result in a less active trading market for our ADSs. Any actions or publications by shareholder advisory firms critical of our corporate governance practices or capital structure could also adversely affect the value of our ADSs.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the market price for our ADSs and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our ADSs will be influenced by research or reports that industry or securities analysts publish about our business. If one or more analysts who cover us downgrade our ADSs, the market price for our ADSs would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause the market price or trading volume for our ADSs to decline.
Our ADSs may become the target of a “short squeeze”.
In recent months, securities of certain companies have increasingly experienced significant and extreme volatility in stock price due to short sellers of shares of common stock and buy-and-hold decisions of longer investors, resulting in what is sometimes described as a “short squeeze.” Short squeezes have caused extreme volatility in those companies and in the market and have led to the price per share of those companies to trade at a significantly inflated rate that is disconnected from the underlying value of the company. Sharp rises in a company’s stock price may force traders in a short position to buy the stock to avoid even greater losses. Many investors who have purchased shares in those companies at an inflated rate face the risk of losing a significant portion of their original investment as the price per share has declined steadily as interest in those stocks have abated. We may be a target of a short squeeze, and investors may lose a significant portion or all of their investment if they purchase our ADSs at a rate that is significantly disconnected from our underlying value.
Because we do not expect to pay dividends in the foreseeable future, you must rely on price appreciation of our ADSs for return on your investment.
We currently intend to retain most, if not all, of our available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. As a result, we do not expect to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should not rely on an investment in our ADSs as a source for any future dividend income.
Our board of directors has complete discretion as to whether to distribute dividends, subject to certain requirements of Cayman Islands law. In addition, our shareholders may by ordinary resolution declare a dividend, but no dividend may exceed the amount recommended by our board of directors. Under Cayman Islands law, a Cayman Islands company may pay a dividend out of either profit or share premium account, provided that in no circumstances may a dividend be paid if this would result in the company being unable to pay its debts as they fall due in the ordinary course of business. Even if our board of directors decides to declare and pay dividends, the timing, amount and form of future dividends, if any, will depend on, among other things, our future results of operations and cash flow, our capital requirements and surplus, the amount of distributions, if any, received by us from our subsidiaries, our financial condition, contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Accordingly, the return on your investment in our ADSs will likely depend entirely upon any future price appreciation of our ADSs. There is no guarantee that our ADSs will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which you purchased the ADSs. You may not realize a return on your investment in our ADSs and you may even lose your entire investment in our ADSs.
The sale or potential sales of our ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.
Sales of our ADSs in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our ADSs to decline. The ADSs representing our ordinary shares sold in our initial public offering are freely transferable by persons other than our “affiliates” without restriction or further registration under the Securities Act. The remaining ordinary shares outstanding will be available for sale, upon the expiration of a
180-day
lock-up
period beginning from our initial public offering, subject to volume and other restrictions as applicable under Rules 144 and 701 under the Securities Act. To the extent ordinary shares are sold into the market, the market price of the ADSs could decline.
 
49

Table of Contents
Certain holders of our Class A ordinary shares may cause us to register under the Securities Act the sale of their shares. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in ADSs representing these shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act immediately upon the effectiveness of the registration. Sales of these registered shares in the form of ADSs in the public market could cause the price of our ADSs to decline.
The voting rights of holders of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement, and you may not be able to exercise your right to direct the voting of the underlying Class A ordinary shares which are represented by your ADSs.
As a holder of our ADSs, you will only be able to exercise the voting rights with respect to the underlying Class A ordinary shares representing your ADSs in accordance with the provisions of the deposit agreement. Under the deposit agreement, you must vote by giving voting instructions to the depositary. Upon receipt of your voting instructions, the depositary will vote the underlying Class A ordinary shares representing your ADSs in accordance with these instructions. You will not be able to directly exercise your right to vote with respect to the underlying Class A ordinary shares representing your ADSs unless you withdraw the shares and become the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date for the general meeting. Under our Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association, the minimum notice period required for convening a general meeting is seven days. When a general meeting is convened, you may not receive sufficient advance notice enable you to withdraw the shares underlying your ADSs and become the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date of the general meeting to allow you to vote with respect to any specific matter. In addition, under our Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association , for the purposes of determining those shareholders who are entitled to attend and vote at any general meeting, our directors may close our register of members or fix in advance a record date for such meeting, and such closure of our register of members or the setting of such a record date may prevent you from withdrawing the shares underlying your ADSs and becoming the registered holder of such shares prior to the record date, so that you would not be able to attend the general meeting or to vote directly. Where any matter is to be put to a vote at a general meeting, the depositary will use its best endeavors to notify you of the upcoming vote and to deliver our voting materials to you. We cannot assure you that you will receive the voting materials in time to ensure that you can instruct the depositary to vote your shares. In addition, the depositary and its agents are not responsible for failing to carry out voting instructions or for their manner of carrying out your voting instructions. This means that you may not be able to exercise your right to vote and you may have no legal remedy if the shares underlying your ADSs are not voted as you requested.
Except in limited circumstances, the depositary for our ADSs will give us a discretionary proxy to vote the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs if you do not vote at shareholders’ meetings, which could adversely affect your interests.
Under the deposit agreement for the ADSs, if you do not timely and properly give voting instructions to the depository as to how to vote the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs, the depositary will give us or our nominee a discretionary proxy to vote the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs at shareholders’ meetings unless:
 
   
we have failed to timely provide the depositary with notice of meeting and related voting materials;
 
   
we have instructed the depositary that we do not wish a discretionary proxy to be given;
 
   
we have informed the depositary that there is substantial opposition as to a matter to be voted on at the meeting;
 
   
a matter to be voted on at the meeting would have a material adverse impact on shareholders; or
 
   
the voting at the meeting is to be made on a show of hands.
 
50

Table of Contents
The effect of this discretionary proxy is that if you do not timely and properly give voting instructions to the depository as to how to vote the Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs at shareholders’ meetings, you cannot prevent such Class A ordinary shares underlying your ADSs from being voted, except under the circumstances described above. This may make it more difficult for shareholders to influence the management of our company. Holders of our Class A ordinary shares are not subject to this discretionary proxy.
Your rights to pursue claims against the depositary as a holder of ADSs are limited by the terms of the deposit agreement.
Under the deposit agreement, any action or proceeding against or involving the depositary, arising out of or based upon the deposit agreement or the transactions contemplated thereby or by virtue of owning the ADSs may only be instituted in a state or federal court in New York, New York, and you, as a holder of our ADSs, will have irrevocably waived any objection which you may have to the laying of venue of any such proceeding, and irrevocably submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of such courts in any such action or proceeding. However, the depositary may, in its sole discretion, require that any dispute or difference arising from the relationship created by the deposit agreement be referred to and finally settled by an arbitration conducted under the terms described in the deposit agreement. The arbitration provisions in the deposit agreement do not preclude you from pursuing claims under federal securities laws in federal courts. Also, we may amend or terminate the deposit agreement without your consent. If you continue to hold your ADSs after an amendment to the deposit agreement, you agree to be bound by the deposit agreement as amended.
ADSs holders may not be entitled to a jury trial with respect to claims arising under the deposit agreement, which could result in less favorable outcomes to the plaintiff(s) in any such action.
The deposit agreement governing the ADSs representing our Class A ordinary shares provides that, to the fullest extent permitted by law, ADS holders waive the right to a jury trial for any claim they may have against us or the depositary arising out of or relating to our shares, the ADSs or the deposit agreement, including any claim under the U.S. federal securities laws.
If we or the depositary were to oppose a jury trial based on this waiver, the court would have to determine whether the waiver was enforceable based on the facts and circumstances of the case in accordance with applicable state and federal law. To our knowledge, the enforceability of a contractual
pre-dispute
jury trial waiver in connection with claims arising under the federal securities laws has not been finally adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court. However, we believe that a contractual
pre-dispute
jury trial waiver provision is generally enforceable, including under the laws of the State of New York, which govern the deposit agreement, or by a federal or state court in the City of New York, which has
non-exclusive
jurisdiction over matters arising under the deposit agreement. In determining whether to enforce a contractual
pre-dispute
jury trial waiver, courts will generally consider whether a party knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived the right to a jury trial. We believe that this would be the case with respect to the deposit agreement and the ADSs. It is advisable that you consult legal counsel regarding the jury waiver provision before investing in the ADSs.
If you or any other holders or beneficial owners of ADSs bring a claim against us or the depositary in connection with matters arising under the deposit agreement or the ADSs, including claims under federal securities laws, you or such other holder or beneficial owner may not be entitled to a jury trial with respect to such claims, which may have the effect of limiting and discouraging lawsuits against us or the depositary. If a lawsuit is brought against us or the depositary under the deposit agreement, it may be heard only by a judge or justice of the applicable trial court, which would be conducted according to different civil procedures and may result in different outcomes than a trial by jury would have, including outcomes that could be less favorable to the plaintiff(s) in any such action.
Nevertheless, if this jury trial waiver is not permitted by applicable law, an action could proceed under the terms of the deposit agreement with a jury trial. No condition, stipulation or provision of the deposit agreement or the ADSs serves as a waiver by any holder or beneficial owner of ADSs or by us or the depositary of compliance with any substantive provision of the U.S. federal securities laws and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder.
 
51

Table of Contents
Your right to participate in any future rights offerings may be limited, which may cause dilution to your holdings.
We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. However, we cannot make such rights available to you in the United States unless we register both the rights and the securities to which the rights relate under the Securities Act or an exemption from the registration requirements is available. Under the deposit agreement, the depositary will not make rights available to you unless both the rights and the underlying securities to be distributed to ADS holders are either registered under the Securities Act or exempt from registration under the Securities Act. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or securities or to endeavor to cause such a registration statement to be declared effective and we may not be able to establish a necessary exemption from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, you may be unable to participate in our rights offerings in the future and may experience dilution in your holdings.
You may not receive dividends or other distributions on our ordinary shares and you may not receive any value for them, if it is illegal or impractical to make them available to you.
The depositary of our ADSs has agreed to pay to you the cash dividends or other distributions it or the custodian receives on Class A ordinary shares or other deposited securities underlying our ADSs, after deducting its fees and expenses. You will receive these distributions in proportion to the number of Class A ordinary shares your ADSs represent. However, the depositary is not responsible if it decides that it is unlawful or impractical to make a distribution available to any holders of ADSs. For example, it would be unlawful to make a distribution to a holder of ADSs if it consists of securities that require registration under the Securities Act but that are not properly registered or distributed under an applicable exemption from registration. The depositary may also determine that it is not feasible to distribute certain property through the mail. Additionally, the value of certain distributions may be less than the cost of mailing them. In these cases, the depositary may determine not to distribute such property. We have no obligation to register under U.S. securities laws any ADSs, Class A ordinary shares, rights or other securities received through such distributions. We also have no obligation to take any other action to permit the distribution of ADSs, Class A ordinary shares, rights or anything else to holders of ADSs. This means that you may not receive distributions we make on our Class A ordinary shares or any value for them if it is illegal or impractical for us to make them available to you. These restrictions may cause a material decline in the value of our ADSs.
You may be subject to limitations on transfer of your ADSs.
Your ADSs are transferable on the books of the depositary. However, the depositary may close its books at any time or from time to time when it deems expedient in connection with the performance of its duties. The depositary may close its books from time to time for a number of reasons, including in connection with corporate events such as a rights offering, during which time the depositary needs to maintain an exact number of ADS holders on its books for a specified period. The depositary may also close its books in emergencies, and on weekends and public holidays. The depositary may refuse to deliver, transfer or register transfers of our ADSs generally when our share register or the books of the depositary are closed, or at any time if we or the depositary thinks that it is advisable to do so because of any requirement of law or of any government or governmental body, or under any provision of the deposit agreement, or for any other reason in accordance with the terms of the deposit agreement. As a result, you may be unable to transfer your ADSs when you wish to.
Certain judgments obtained against us by our shareholders may not be enforceable.
We are an exempted company limited by shares incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. We conduct substantially all of our operations in China and substantially all of our assets are located in China. In addition, a majority of our directors and executive officers reside within China, and most of the assets of these persons are located within China. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for you to effect service of process within the United States upon these individuals, or to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States in the event that you believe your rights have been infringed under the U.S. federal securities laws or otherwise. Even if you are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Cayman Islands and of the PRC may render you unable to enforce a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors and officers.
 
52

Table of Contents
Our memorandum and articles of association contain anti-takeover provisions that could have a material adverse effect on the rights of holders of our ordinary shares and ADSs.
Our Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association contain certain provisions to limit the ability of others to acquire control of our company or cause us to engage in
change-of-control
transactions, including a provision that grants authority to our board of directors to establish and issue from time to time one or more series of preferred shares without action by our shareholders and to determine, with respect to any series of preferred shares without action by our shareholders and to determine, with respect to any series of preferred shares, the terms and rights of that series. These provisions could have the effect of depriving our shareholders and ADSs holders of the opportunity to sell their shares or ADSs at a premium over the prevailing market price by discouraging third parties from seeking to obtain control of our company in a tender offer or similar transactions.
You may face difficulties in protecting your interests, and your ability to protect your rights through U.S. courts may be limited, because we are incorporated under Cayman Islands law.
We are an exempted company limited by shares incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Our corporate affairs are governed by our Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association, the Companies Act (as amended) of the Cayman Islands and the common law of the Cayman Islands. The rights of shareholders to take action against the directors, actions by minority shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors to us under Cayman Islands law are to a large extent governed by the common law of the Cayman Islands. The common law of the Cayman Islands is derived in part from comparatively limited judicial precedent in the Cayman Islands as well as from the common law of England and Wales, the decisions of whose courts are of persuasive authority, but are not binding, on a court in the Cayman Islands. The rights of our shareholders and the fiduciary duties of our directors under Cayman Islands law are not as clearly established as they would be under statutes or judicial precedent in some jurisdictions in the United States. In particular, the Cayman Islands has a less developed body of securities laws than the United States. Some U.S. states, such as Delaware, have more fully developed and judicially interpreted bodies of corporate law than the Cayman Islands. In addition, Cayman Islands companies may not have standing to initiate a shareholder derivative action in a federal court of the United States.
Shareholders (not being a director) of Cayman Islands exempted companies with limited liability like us have no general rights under Cayman Islands law to inspect corporate records or to obtain copies of lists of shareholders of these companies. Our directors have discretion under our Second Amended and Restated Memorandum and Articles of Association, to determine whether or not, and under what conditions, our corporate records may be inspected by our shareholders, but are not obliged to make them available to our shareholders. This may make it more difficult for you to obtain the information needed to establish any facts necessary for a shareholder resolution or to solicit proxies from other shareholders in connection with a proxy contest.
As a result of all of the above, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions taken by management, members of the board of directors or controlling shareholders than they would as public shareholders of a company incorporated in the United States.
We are an emerging growth company and may take advantage of certain reduced reporting requirements.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the JOBS Act, and we may take advantage of certain exemptions from various requirements applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies including, most significantly, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 for so long as we are an emerging growth company until the fifth anniversary from the date of our initial listing. As a result, if we elect not to comply with such auditor attestation requirements, our investors may not have access to certain information they may deem important.
The JOBS Act also provides that an emerging growth company does not need to comply with any new or revised financial accounting standards until such date that a private company is otherwise required to comply with such new or revised accounting standards. Pursuant to the JOBS Act, we have elected to take advantage of the benefits of this extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards as required when they are adopted for public companies. As a result, our operating results and financial statements may not be comparable to the operating results and financial statements of other companies who have adopted the new or revised accounting standards.
After we are no longer an “emerging growth company,” we expect to incur significant expenses and devote substantial management effort toward ensuring compliance with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes- Oxley Act of 2002 and the other rules and regulations of the SEC, which may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
 
53

Table of Contents
We are a foreign private issuer within the meaning of the rules under the Exchange Act, and as such we are exempt from certain provisions applicable to U.S. domestic public companies.
Because we qualify as a foreign private issuer under the Exchange Act, we are exempt from certain provisions of the securities rules and regulations in the United States that are applicable to U.S. domestic issuers, including:
 
   
the rules under the Exchange Act requiring the filing with the SEC of quarterly reports on Form
10-Q
or current reports on Form
8-K;
 
   
the sections of the Exchange Act regulating the solicitation of proxies, consents, or authorizations in respect of a security registered under the Exchange Act;
 
   
the sections of the Exchange Act requiring insiders to file public reports of their stock ownership and trading activities and liability for insiders who profit from trades made in a short period of time; and
 
   
the selective disclosure rules by issuers of material nonpublic information under Regulation FD.
We will be required to file an annual report on Form
20-F
within four months of the end of each fiscal year. In addition, we intend to publish our results on a quarterly basis as press releases, distributed pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Nasdaq. Press releases relating to financial results and material events will also be furnished to the SEC on Form
6-K.
However, the information we are required to file with or furnish to the SEC will be less extensive and less timely compared to that required to be filed with the SEC by U.S. domestic issuers. As a result, you may not be afforded the same protections or information that would be made available to you were you investing in a U.S. domestic issuer.
We are a “controlled company” within the meaning of the rules of the Nasdaq and, as a result, can rely on exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements that provide protection to shareholders of other companies.
We are a “controlled company” as defined under the rules of the Nasdaq since our founders, Mr. Jinnan (Marco) Lai and Mr. Ning Ding, beneficially owns more than 50% of our total voting power. For so long as we remain a controlled company under this definition, we are permitted to elect to rely, and currently we intend to rely, on certain exemptions from corporate governance rules, including the exemption from the rule that a majority of our board of directors must be independent directors. As a result, you may not have the same protection afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to these corporate governance requirements.
As an exempted company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with limited liability, we are permitted to adopt certain home country practices in relation to corporate governance matters that differ significantly from the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards; these practices may afford less protection to shareholders than they would enjoy if we complied fully with the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards.
As an exempted company incorporated in the Cayman Islands company with limited liability that is listed on the Nasdaq, we are subject to the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards. However, Nasdaq rules permit a foreign private issuer like us to follow the corporate governance practices of its home country. Certain corporate governance practices in the Cayman Islands, which is our home country, may differ significantly from the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards. We have relied on and plan to rely on home country practice with respect to our corporate governance. Specifically, we do not plan to have a majority of independent directors serving on our board of directors or to establish a nominating committee and a compensation committee composed entirely of independent directors. For details, please refer to “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—6.C. Board Practices—Board of Directors.” As a result, our shareholders may be afforded less protection than they otherwise would enjoy under the Nasdaq corporate governance listing standards applicable to U.S. domestic issuers.
There can be no assurance that we will not be a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for any taxable year, which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. investors in the ADSs or ordinary shares.
In general, a
non-U.S.
corporation is a passive foreign investment company for U.S. federal income tax purposes, or PFIC, for any taxable year in which (i) 75% or more of its gross income consists of passive income; or (ii) 50% or more of the value of its assets (generally determined on an average quarterly basis) consists of assets that produce, or are held for the production of, passive income. For purposes of the above calculations, a
non-U.S.
corporation that owns (or is treated as owning for U.S. federal income tax purposes), directly or indirectly, at least 25% by value of the shares of another corporation is treated as if it held its proportionate share of the assets of the other corporation and received directly its proportionate share of the income of the other corporation. Passive income generally includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties and certain gains. Cash is generally a passive asset for these purposes. Goodwill (the value of which generally may be determined by reference to the excess of the sum of the corporation’s market capitalization and liabilities over the value of its assets) is generally characterized as a
non-passive
or passive asset based on the nature of the income produced in the activity to which the goodwill is attributable.
 
54

Table of Contents
Based on the composition of our income and assets and the estimated value of our assets, including goodwill, which is based on the price of our ADSs, we believe that we were not a PFIC for our taxable year ended on December 31, 2020. However, our PFIC status for any taxable year will depend on the composition of our income and assets and the value of our assets from time to time (which may be determined, in large part, by reference to the market price of the ADSs, which has been and may continue to be volatile). Therefore, the risk of us being or becoming a PFIC will increase if during any taxable year our ADS price declines significantly.
Moreover, it is not entirely clear how the contractual arrangements between our WFOEs, our VIEs and the shareholders of our VIEs will be treated for purposes of the PFIC rules, and we may be or become a PFIC if our VIEs are not treated as owned by us for these purposes. In addition, the extent to which our goodwill should be characterized as an active asset is not entirely clear. We also hold a substantial amount of cash. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will not be a PFIC for our 2021 or any future taxable year. If we were a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. taxpayer holds ADSs or ordinary shares, the U.S. taxpayer generally would be subject to adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences, including increased tax liability on disposition gains and “excess distributions,” and additional reporting requirements. See “Item 10. Additional Information—10.E. Taxation—Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations—Passive Foreign Investment Company Rules.”
We have incurred and will continue to incur increased costs as a result of being a public company, particularly after we cease to qualify as an “emerging growth company.”
As a public company, we are incurring and expect to continue to incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as rules subsequently implemented by the SEC and Nasdaq, impose various requirements on the corporate governance practices of public companies. We expect these rules and regulations to increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some corporate activities more time-consuming and costly. We expect to incur significant expenses and devote substantial management effort toward ensuring compliance with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the other rules and regulations of the SEC. For example, as a public company, we need to increase the number of independent directors and adopt policies regarding internal controls and disclosure controls and procedures. We also expect that operating as a public company will make it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. In addition, we will incur additional costs associated with our public company reporting requirements. It may also be more difficult for us to find qualified persons to serve on our board of directors or as executive officers. We are currently evaluating and monitoring developments with respect to these rules and regulations, and we cannot predict or estimate with any degree of certainty the amount of additional costs we may incur or the timing of such costs.
In the past, shareholders of a public company often brought securities class action suits against the company following periods of instability in the market price of that company’s securities. If we were involved in a class action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations, which could harm our results of operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—We and certain of our directors and officers have been named as defendants in several shareholder class action lawsuits, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation.” Any such class action suit, whether or not successful, could harm our reputation and restrict our ability to raise capital in the future. In addition, if a claim is successfully made against us, we may be required to pay significant damages, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
55

Table of Contents
ITEM 4.
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
4.A.    History and Development of the Company
Corporate History
We commenced operations in 2010 with the establishment of Guangzhou Lizhi.
In November and October 2010, each of Lizhi Holding Limited and LIZHI INC., our wholly owned subsidiaries, was incorporated in Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands, respectively.
In March 2011, Beijing Hongyi Technology Co., Ltd., or Hongyi Technology, our wholly owned subsidiary, was established in the PRC. In March 2011, due to the restrictions imposed by PRC laws and regulations on foreign ownership of companies engaged in value-added telecommunication services and certain other businesses, Hongyi Technology entered into a series of contractual arrangements, as supplemented and amended, with Guangzhou Lizhi and then shareholders of Guangzhou Lizhi, by which Hongyi Technology may exert control over Guangzhou Lizhi and consolidate Guangzhou Lizhi’s financial statements under U.S. GAAP. For details, please refer to “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our VIEs and Our VIEs’ Respective Shareholders.”
In October 2013, we launched our LIZHI App operated by Guangzhou Lizhi.
In November and December 2015, each of Changsha Limang Interactive Entertainment Co., Ltd., or Changsha Limang, and Huai’an Lizhi Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Huai’an Lizhi, was established in the PRC, respectively. In March 2017, Wuhan Lizhi Network Technology Co., Ltd., or Wuhan Lizhi, was established in the PRC. In January, February and April 2019, each of Guangzhou Moyin Network Technology Co., Ltd., Guangzhou Teqi Network Technology Co., Ltd. and Chongqing Piwan Network Technology Co., Ltd. was established in the PRC, respectively. These entities are wholly and directly held by Guangzhou Lizhi and provide supporting services to our apps.
In July 2016, Guangzhou Huanliao Network Technology Co., Ltd., was established in the PRC by Guangzhou Lizhi. Currently, Guangzhou Huanliao focuses on the operation of Huanliao, an audio-based social app recently launched by us which is still at a nascent stage. In March 2019, Guangzhou Tiya, our wholly owned subsidiary, was established in the PRC. In May 2019, Guangzhou Tiya entered into a series of contractual arrangements with Guangzhou Huanliao and then shareholder of Guangzhou Huanliao, by which Guangzhou Tiya may exert control over Guangzhou Huanliao and consolidate Guangzhou Huanliao’s financial statements under U.S. GAAP. For details, please refer to “Item 4. Information on the Company—4.C. Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our VIEs and Our VIEs’ Respective Shareholders.”
As such, we refer to each of Hongyi Technology and Guangzhou Tiya as our wholly foreign owned entity, or WFOE, and to each of Guangzhou Lizhi and Guangzhou Huanliao as our variable interest entity, or VIE, in this annual report.
In January 2019, LIZHI INC., our current ultimate holding company, was incorporated under the laws of the Cayman Islands as part of the restructuring transactions in contemplation of our initial public offering. In connection with its incorporation, in March 2019, we completed a share swap transaction and issued ordinary and preferred shares of LIZHI INC. to the then existing shareholders of LIZHI INC., or Lizhi BVI, a company incorporated under the laws of the British Virgin Islands, based on their then respective equity interests held in Lizhi BVI. Lizhi BVI then became our wholly owned subsidiary.
NASHOR PTE. LTD. (formerly known as SUGAR CHAT PTE. LTD.) was incorporated in April 2019 and TIYA PTE. LTD. was incorporated in July 2019 under the laws of Singapore for the purposes of carrying out our overseas operations.
We are a holding company and do not directly own any substantive business operations in the PRC. We currently focus our business operations within the PRC through our VIEs, Guangzhou Lizhi and Guangzhou Huanliao. See “Item 3. Key Information—3.D. Risk Factors —Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure.” Guangzhou Lizhi and Guangzhou Huanliao and their respective subsidiaries hold our ICP License, Internet Culture Operation License, Radio and Television Program Production and Operating Permit, and other licenses or permits that are necessary for our business operations in the PRC.
 
56

Table of Contents
In January 2020, we completed an initial public offering in which we offered and sold an aggregate of 82,000,000 Class A ordinary shares in the form of ADSs. On January 17, 2020, the ADSs have been listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “LIZI.”
Corporate Information
Our principal executive offices are located at Yangcheng Creative Industry Zone, No. 309 Middle Huangpu Avenue, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510655, People’s Republic of China. Our telephone number at this address is +86 20 8381-8791. Our registered office in the Cayman Islands is located at the offices of Osiris International Cayman Limited, Suite
#4-210,
Governors Square, 23 Lime Tree Bay Avenue, PO Box 32311, Grand Cayman
KY1-1209,
Cayman Islands. Our agent for service of process in the United States is Cogency Global Inc. located at 10 E. 40th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10016. Our corporate website is www.lizhi.fm. The information contained in our website is not a part of this annual report.
The SEC maintains an internet site at http://www.sec.gov that contains reports, information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC.
4.B.    Business Overview
We have built an audio ecosystem with a global presence consisting of audio-based social networks, podcast content portfolios and audio communities.
LIZHI App, our flagship platform, is a leading online UGC audio community, interactive audio entertainment platform and online audio platform in China. Since its launch in 2013, LIZHI App is dedicated to allowing users to record and share their lives with voices on mobile devices with the help of intuitive recording, and to reach their audience through various discovery tools. We have amassed extensive and growing user-generated audio content since then. Through our extensive podcast library, we attract a growing and engaging user base, which we believe presents attractive monetization opportunities.
With user interactions built into every podcast, live streaming and social audio entertainment products, our users not only listen to audio contents on our platforms, but also create, store, discover, and share audio contents and interact with each other through different channels. We launched audio live streaming as our first audio entertainment product feature in 2016, making it possible for our users to enjoy a multi-dimensional, interactive audio experience. Through LIZHI App, users can follow their favorite hosts and channels, become hosts and create their own podcasts, perform in live streaming, and interact with others through various interactive features. Today, we also offer engaging and diversified entertainment experiences through audio.
We believe this audio-centric interaction is a natural extension of the power of voices. Since our launch, we have also introduced a wide range of interactive audio products to drive user interactions, such as
Friends Hall
and
Voice ID Card
on LIZHI App.
We plan to expand our overseas presence. Starting from July 2019, we have launched certain localized tailored version of our overseas audio entertainment product in the Middle East and North Africa, or the MENA and gradually developed to reach more global audiences.
In October 2020, we launched Tiya App, an audio-based social networking product, in the United States. Shortly after its launch in the United States, Tiya ranked among the top four social networking apps in the United States in November 2020 according to the ranking published by App Annie. Currently, Tiya App is operated in and has users from more than 200 countries. We have not launched Tiya App in China mainland.
Since December 2020, we have entered into collaboration agr