ear-10k_20201231.htm

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

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 FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM                      TO                     

Commission File Number 001-39616

 

Eargo, Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

27-3879805

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

1600 Technology Drive, 6th Floor

San Jose, California 95110

95110

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (650) 351-7700

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Trading

Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, par value $0.0001 per share

 

EAR

 

The Nasdaq Global Select Market

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act.  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, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

  

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, 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.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  YES  NO 

The Registrant did not have a public float on the last business day of its most recently completed second fiscal quarter because there was no public market for the Registrant’s common equity as of such date.

The number of shares of Registrant’s Common Stock outstanding as of March 8, 2021 was 38,295,422.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

None.

 

 


 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

Item 1.

Business

4

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

30

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

71

Item 2.

Properties

72

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

72

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

72

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

73

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

75

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

77

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

94

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

95

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

122

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

122

Item 9B.

Other Information

123

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

124

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

130

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

137

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

140

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

142

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

143

Item 16

Form 10-K Summary

143

 

 

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Special note regarding forward-looking statements

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements about us and our industry that involve substantial risks, uncertainties and assumptions. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including statements regarding our strategy, future financial condition, future operations, projected costs, prospects, plans, objectives of management and expected market growth, are forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terminology such as “aim,” “anticipate,” “assume,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “design,” “due,” “estimate,” “expect,” “goal,” “intend,” “may,” “objective,” “plan,” “positioned,” “potential,” “predict,” “seek,” “should,” “target,” “will,” “would” and other similar expressions that are predictions of or indicate future events and future trends, or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

our ability to attract and retain customers;

 

our expectations concerning additional orders by existing customers;

 

our expectations regarding the potential market size and size of the potential consumer populations for our products and any future products, including our ability to increase insurance coverage of Eargo hearing aids;

 

our ability to release new hearing aids and the anticipated features of any such hearing aids;

 

developments and projections relating to our competitors and our industry, including competing products;

 

our ability to maintain our competitive technological advantages against new entrants in our industry;

 

the pricing of our hearing aids;

 

our expectations regarding the ability to make certain claims related to the performance of our hearing aids relative to competitive products;

 

our expectations with regard to changes in the regulatory landscape for hearing aid devices, including the implementation of the pending over-the-counter hearing aid pathway regulatory framework;

 

our commercialization and marketing capabilities and expectations;

 

our relationships with, and the capabilities of, our component manufacturers, suppliers and freight carriers;

 

the implementation of our business model and strategic plans for our business and products and technology;

 

the scope of protection we are able to establish and maintain for intellectual property rights covering our products, including the projected terms of patent protection;

 

our ability to effectively manage our growth;

 

our expectations regarding the time during which we will be an emerging growth company under the JOBS Act;

 

our estimates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to, its duration and its impact on our business and results of operations;

 

estimates of our expenses, future revenue, capital requirements, our needs for additional financing and our ability to obtain additional capital; and

 

our future financial performance.

We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking

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statements, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, performance or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur at all. You should refer to the section titled “Risk Factors” for a discussion of important factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by our forward-looking statements. Furthermore, if our forward-looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

Overview

We are a medical device company dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with hearing loss. We developed the Eargo solution to create a hearing aid that consumers actually want to use. Our innovative product and go-to-market approach address the major challenges of traditional hearing aid adoption, including social stigma, accessibility and cost. We believe our Eargo hearing aids are the first and only virtually invisible, rechargeable, completely-in-canal, FDA-regulated, exempt Class I and Class II devices for the treatment of hearing loss. Our rapid pace of innovation is enabled by our deep industry and technical expertise across mechanical engineering, product design, audio processing, clinical and hearing science, consumer electronics and embedded software design, and is supported by our strategic intellectual property portfolio. Our differentiated, consumer-first approach empowers consumers to take control of their hearing by improving accessibility, with personalized, high-quality telecare-based hearing support from licensed hearing professionals. We believe that our differentiated hearing aids, consumer-oriented approach and strong brand have fueled the rapid adoption of our products and high customer satisfaction, as evidenced by over 60 thousand Eargo hearing aid systems sold, net of returns, as of December 31, 2020. We believe this represents the beginning of our penetration into a large, growing and underserved market of people with hearing loss, which we estimate included approximately 43 million adults in the United States and more than 465 million adults globally in 2019.

Hearing loss is a natural consequence of aging and has a significant impact on quality of life. Globally, hearing loss is one of the most prevalent health conditions, and it is the third most common medical condition in the United States—more prevalent than both diabetes and cancer. As demographic trends shift and people continue to live longer, we expect that the proportion of the population with hearing loss will continue to rise, further expanding this already large market.

We estimate that in 2019, 37 million individuals over the age of 50 in the United States had mild to moderate hearing loss. Of these 37 million, our initial marketing efforts are focused on individuals with annual incomes above the median household national average. We estimate that this group consisted of approximately 14 million people and represented an initial target market of over $30 billion in 2019.

Age-related hearing loss in the United States is predominantly addressed by the use of FDA-regulated hearing aids. Despite the significant individual and societal impact of hearing loss, we estimate only approximately 27% of the estimated approximately 43 million adults with hearing loss in the United States in 2019 owned a hearing aid. We believe the low adoption and underserved nature of this market is a direct result of the limitations of and stigma associated with traditional hearing aids and the cumbersome manner in which they are sold.

Hearing aids are traditionally distributed through a business-to-business model in which hearing aid manufacturers rely on a fragmented network of independent hearing clinics to sell their devices to consumers. Purchasing a hearing aid through a clinic can be a lengthy, inconvenient and disempowering process that generally requires a series of in-clinic appointments with a licensed hearing professional for assessment, fitting, programming, ongoing adjustments and maintenance. We believe the separation of the manufacturer from the consumer is not necessary, adds an incremental layer of cost and has contributed to the historical lack of innovation in this market, resulting in products that fail to meet consumer needs.

Designing hearing aids that offer high quality audio performance in a virtually invisible and comfortable form factor that address the needs of consumers presents significant engineering challenges. These challenges have historically been difficult to reconcile in a single device, resulting in the traditional landscape of products that reflect trade-offs between functionality, comfort, visibility and ease of use. Behind-the-ear devices represented approximately 88% of hearing aids dispensed in the United States in 2019 but have a highly visible form factor that contributes to the stigma of hearing loss and limits their adoption. The remaining approximately 12% of hearing aids dispensed in 2019 were in-the-ear devices that are less visible but can occlude or obstruct the ear canal causing discomfort. Additionally, in-the-ear devices require customization and generally require batteries that need to be replaced, making them expensive and cumbersome to use.

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The COVID-19 pandemic thus far has largely resulted in favorable trends for our business. We believe that shelter-in-place restrictions and increased reluctance of consumers to be exposed to the virus, particularly among older individuals that comprise a majority of the population needing hearing aids, have increased the attractiveness to consumers of our hearing solution and our vertically integrated telecare model. We believe our model can help consumers decrease their risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 by avoiding multiple trips to hearing aid clinics and close proximity to audiologists and other individuals at such clinics, which are part of the traditional hearing aid sales model. The ongoing impact of COVID-19 depends on the duration and severity of the pandemic, which is difficult to assess or predict. While we have experienced growth in our sales volume during the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot be certain whether we will maintain the current level of demand for our hearing aids, and the ongoing impact of COVID-19 could be substantially different than what we have experienced to date.

We believe our hearing aids and consumer-centric approach, which we refer to collectively as our Eargo solution, address many of the drawbacks of the traditional hearing aid market. The primary benefits of our solution include the following:

 

Virtually invisible: Our hearing aids fit completely in the ear canal and are virtually invisible, allowing our customers to avoid the stigma associated with visible hearing aids.

 

Comfort and performance: Our proprietary and patented technology allows our hearing aids to be suspended in the ear canal, offering a comfortable “open fit” that does not fully block or occlude the ear canal while still providing high quality audio.

 

Rechargeable:  Our hearing aids are rechargeable, eliminating the need for battery replacement.

 

Ease of use: Our hearing aids feature an intuitive design that allows for multiple sound profiles, easy “on the go” personalization and convenient storage.

 

Empowering consumer-centric experience: We believe our personalized approach motivates consumers to take action and then guides them along their hearing journey.

 

Accessible: We eliminate the need for cumbersome visits to the clinic by offering an easy-to-use purchasing interface and convenient telecare-based access to a highly trained clinical support team consisting of licensed hearing professionals.

 

Affordable: Our vertically integrated, consumer-first model allows us to eliminate a layer of cost and offer our high-quality products at prices that are approximately half the average cost of a pair of hearing aids purchased through traditional channels in the United States.

We designed the Eargo solution to provide significant advantages relative to traditional solutions for hearing loss and believe that the high level of customer satisfaction that we have achieved demonstrates our strong value proposition.

We believe we are the first and only company to successfully address the technical challenges inherent in designing and commercializing a high quality, comfortable, rechargeable, in-the-canal hearing aid. We have established a highly capable research and development organization with what we believe is a rare combination of expertise in mechanical engineering, product design, audio processing, clinical and hearing science, consumer electronics and embedded software design. In addition, we have strategic intellectual property protection in certain key areas. Our technical capabilities and commitment to innovation have allowed us to deliver significant product enhancements on a rapid development timeline, which in turn drives our compelling new product roadmap.

We market and sell our hearing aids directly to consumers with a personalized, consumer-centric approach. Our commercial organization consists of a talented marketing team with deep experience in consumer-focused brand and performance marketing, a team of inside sales consultants and a dedicated customer support team of licensed hearing professionals. Our commercial organization is focused on accelerating customer adoption, improving sales team productivity and increasing brand awareness. Going forward, we also plan to selectively pursue omni-channel opportunities and international expansion initiatives that are accretive to our customer acquisition strategy and that provide consumers additional means to access our solution.

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Our competitive strengths

We believe the following competitive strengths are essential to our mission of empowering consumers to take control of their hearing and will support our goal of penetrating the large population of individuals with untreated hearing loss:

 

Highly differentiated product: We developed the Eargo solution with the goal of creating a hearing aid that consumers want to use. We believe our hearing aids are the first and only rechargeable, completely-in-canal, FDA-regulated, exempt Class I and Class II devices for the treatment of hearing loss. In an industry that has historically seen minimal user-focused innovation, we put the consumer first and designed a hearing aid that addresses the major drawbacks associated with traditional hearing aids. Our hearing aids are virtually invisible, comfortable, rechargeable and affordable and provide high quality audio. The latest generations of our hearing aids, the Eargo Neo and the Eargo Neo HiFi, also offer a companion mobile app which allows for easy customization.

 

Transformative consumer-centric business model: We designed a differentiated, consumer-first business model to empower the consumer and improve the accessibility and affordability of high-quality hearing support. We currently market and sell our hearing aids directly to consumers with a personalized approach that we believe motivates them to take action and then guides them along their hearing journey. By delivering customer care similar to the traditional sales channel but more efficiently, we believe our business model addresses legacy industry challenges surrounding customer experience, convenience and cost. We also believe our consumer-first model enables us to scale our business and efficiently reach the large population of individuals with untreated hearing loss.

 

Personalized customer experience and support: We prioritize the customer experience throughout every stage of the hearing journey. Prior to their purchase, we approach our prospective customers with empowering, supportive messaging and provide them with direct access to our highly trained sales consultants who collaborate with them on how to best to address their hearing challenges. From time to time and as requested by a prospective customer, we provide a pre-sales telecare visit with one of our licensed hearing professionals. Once a customer purchases our Eargo system, our licensed hearing professionals provide convenient telecare-based clinical support for as long as they own their device. We believe that this premium support is highly differentiated and contributes to our strong customer ratings.

 

Multi-faceted marketing expertise: Our marketing efforts are focused on generating brand awareness and demand for our Eargo solution. In a category that has historically been associated with limited brand awareness, we have developed a sophisticated brand-building strategy focused on consumer empowerment. We have also developed a robust technology and data-driven marketing platform that utilizes business intelligence, key performance metrics, machine learning and other marketing data to reinforce our growing brand recognition and to identify demographics, behaviors and marketing channels most relevant to our target audience. As our user base grows, we expect to further develop the capabilities of our marketing platform and continue to refine our brand building and customer targeting approach.

 

Robust technical, engineering and design expertise, supported by our strategic IP portfolio: We believe we are the first and only company to successfully address the technical challenges inherent in designing and commercializing a high quality, comfortable, rechargeable, in-the-canal hearing aid. Development of our products requires a rare combination of expertise in mechanical engineering, product design, audio processing, clinical and hearing science, consumer electronics and embedded software design. Our technical capabilities and commitment to innovation have allowed us to deliver product enhancements on a rapid development timeline to support a compelling new product roadmap that we believe will continue to differentiate our position over the next several years. Since 2017, we have launched four generations of our hearing aids, with each iteration having improved audio performance, physical fit and/or comfort. As of December 31, 2020, we had 22 issued U.S. patents, 16 patents outside the United States, 4 pending U.S. patent applications and 10 pending foreign patent applications that cover key aspects of our Eargo solution and future product concepts.

 

Proven management team with deep industry expertise: Our senior management team consists of public company industry professionals with deep commercial experience and expertise across various

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disciplines, including audiology, medical technology, business building, consumer marketing, manufacturing, design and engineering. Since our founding, we have built a culture of innovation driven by deep passion for empowering consumers to take control of their hearing.

Overview of hearing loss

Globally, hearing loss impacted more than 465 million people in 2019. In the United States, we estimate there were approximately 43 million adults with hearing loss in 2019, making it the third most common medical condition and more prevalent than both diabetes and cancer.

As demonstrated below, hearing loss increases with age and reflects the natural and gradual progression of hearing deterioration that occurs in most people as they age. In the United States, we estimate approximately 34% of people over the age of 50 and nearly two-thirds of people over the age of 70 experienced difficulty hearing in 2019. As demographic trends shift and people live longer, we expect that the proportion of the population with hearing loss will continue to rise.

43 MILLION ADULTS WITH HEARING LOSS IN THE UNITED STATES

 

Hearing Loss Prevalence by Severity

Hearing Loss Prevalence by Severity and Age

 

 

Sources:

Lin, F. R., Niparko, J. K., & Ferrucci, L. (2011). Hearing Loss Prevalence in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(20), 1851– 1852.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss by Severity in the United States, Adele M. Goman, PhD, and Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, 2016

U.S. Census International Database https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/idb/region.php?T=13&RT=0&A=both&Y=2020&C=US&R=

 

 

Hearing loss may be characterized as mild, moderate, severe or profound, depending on how loud sounds need to be for an individual to hear. In the United States, approximately 6% of the hearing impaired population is characterized as having severe or profound hearing loss, while the moderate and mild segments represent approximately 28% and 66% of this population, respectively.

Hearing loss can significantly impact quality of life. Hearing loss can make it more difficult to work or interact with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation, depression and increased stress. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing loss has been linked to accelerated cognitive decline. The World Health Organization estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of approximately $750 billion. As global populations become older, we believe the burden of hearing loss will continue to rise.

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Traditional alternatives for the treatment of hearing loss

Traditional product landscape

Hearing loss in the United States is typically addressed by the use of FDA-regulated hearing aids. To be functional for daily use, hearing aids must be engineered with a form factor that is portable, long-lasting, comfortable and discreet. These challenges have historically been difficult to reconcile in a single device, resulting in the traditional landscape of products that reflect trade-offs between functionality, comfort, visibility and ease of use. Behind-the-ear devices represent approximately 88% of hearing aids dispensed in the United States in 2019 but have a highly visible form factor that contributes to the stigma of hearing loss and limits their adoption. The remaining approximately 12% of hearing aids dispensed in 2019 are in-the-ear devices that are less visible but can occlude or obstruct the ear canal, causing discomfort. Generally, in-the-ear devices are also not rechargeable and require batteries that need to be replaced, making them cumbersome to use. Due in part to these limitations, hearing aids are significantly underutilized in the hearing-impaired population. In 2019, of the estimated approximately 43 million adults with hearing loss in the United States, only approximately 27% owned a hearing aid.

The table below illustrates the primary features of traditional hearing aids.

 

 

*

Represents estimated average retail costs per pair of hearing aids sold through traditional channels in the United States. Hearing aids with custom features that reduce device visibility or improve comfort can retail for significantly more than the industry average

In addition to FDA-regulated hearing aids, consumers can purchase personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs. PSAPs are primarily sound amplification devices that lack the audio quality, noise reduction and feedback cancellation technology of FDA-regulated hearing aids. While PSAPs are broadly available in consumer electronics stores and online at relatively affordable price points, the FDA does not currently recognize them as a treatment for hearing loss, instead describing PSAPs as “devices that increase environmental sounds for non-hearing impaired consumers.” The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, or FDARA, created a new category of over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids that are intended to be available without the involvement of a licensed practitioner, and it is possible that some PSAPs could become OTC hearing aids under the new framework if they satisfy applicable requirements. Despite the deadline in FDARA for the FDA to issue proposed regulations to implement the OTC hearing aid pathway by August 18, 2020, the FDA has not yet issued a notice of proposed rulemaking or indicated how it will implement this pathway.

Traditional sales and distribution channel

Hearing aids have traditionally been sold through a business-to-business model in which hearing aid manufacturers rely on a fragmented network of independent hearing clinics to sell their devices to consumers. Purchasing a hearing aid through a clinic generally requires a series of appointments with a licensed hearing professional for assessment, fitting, programming and ongoing adjustments. In 2018, there were approximately 18,800 licensed hearing professionals in the United States. We believe the separation of the manufacturer from the

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consumer is not necessary, adds an incremental layer of cost and has contributed to the historical lack of innovation in this market, resulting in products that fail to meet consumer needs.

Traditional consumer journey

Market research indicates that approximately six to seven years pass between the time that the average hearing aid user in the United States first acknowledges their hearing loss and when they first purchase a hearing aid. Once consumers decide to seek help, they are often referred by an ear-nose-throat physician or general practitioner to a licensed hearing care professional. The licensed hearing care professional performs a hearing test, recommends a hearing device and then performs fitting procedures which often require multiple visits.

Hearing aids are typically sold as a part of a bundled package that includes the device itself, the audiology exam and related services. Further, there is limited transparency at the consumer level, and the end-user price generally includes the overhead cost and profit margin for the hearing clinic in addition to the cost of the device and audiology services.

Following purchase, traditional hearing aids typically require programming and adjustments by the licensed hearing care professional, resulting in additional in-person follow-up visits. Throughout this lengthy process, which can take weeks or even months, the consumer is reliant on the licensed hearing care professional for education and support. Despite the high touch nature of the selling process and extensive level of customization, hearing aids are often returned due to issues related to comfort, fit, functionality and aesthetics.

Limitations of traditional alternatives for the treatment of hearing loss

We believe the limitations of traditional hearing aids and the manner in which they are sold today are the primary reasons that approximately 73% of the estimated approximately 43 million adults in the United States in 2019 with hearing loss did not own a hearing aid. These limitations include the following:

Product limitations

 

Visible, aesthetically unattractive devices: Because the behind the ear form factor generally enables the device to amplify sound without occluding the ear canal, approximately 88% of hearing aids dispensed in 2019 were visible behind-the-ear devices. While in-the-ear and in-the-canal devices are designed to be less obvious, the device is still noticeable. We believe that a significant portion of individuals with hearing loss find the idea of wearing visible hearing aids stigmatizing. According to the Northstar Survey, a market survey of 2,200 adults over the age of 45 in the United States commissioned by us and conducted by NORTHSTAR Research Partners (USA) LLC in March and September 2019, nearly 70% of U.S. adults over 45 viewed invisibility as extremely or very important.

 

Occlusion causing discomfort for the wearer: Devices located in the ear canal can address the challenge of visibility; however, they either fully or partially block the ear canal. This occlusion causes physical discomfort and poor sound quality for the wearer. The Northstar Survey indicated that over 90% of existing and prospective hearing aid users view comfort and sound quality as extremely or very important. We believe that this helps explain why only approximately 12% of hearing aids dispensed in 2019 were in-the-ear or completely-in-canal devices.

 

Battery changing hassle: Traditional hearing aids can be frustrating to use, with tiny batteries and battery doors, screws and buttons that are difficult to manipulate, especially for older individuals. According to the Northstar Survey, over 80% of individuals who have recently experienced hearing difficulty cited the ability to recharge a hearing aid as extremely or very important.

Channel limitations

 

Disempowering consumer experience: We believe the traditional industry business model does not lend itself to consumer awareness, and that consumers may feel like patients with limited autonomy in the process, as opposed to empowered consumers making a purchasing decision. Hearing clinics exercise a

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fair degree of influence over product availability, such that consumers may not be presented with a full range of product choices or be informed about the benefits and drawbacks of each product. In fact, most of hearing aid users do not know the brand name of their device.

 

Inconvenient, cumbersome process: The traditional business-to-business channel has faced limited competition and disruption, and there has been little investment in the consumer experience. The entire process from obtaining a hearing aid through programming and adjustments is lengthy and can take multiple weeks and up to several months of in-person hearing clinic visits. This process is cumbersome and ultimately results in limited consumer satisfaction.

 

High cost: The cost of traditional hearing aids reflects the multi-layer distribution channel through which they are sold. The consumer price includes the cost of the device itself and a profit margin for the manufacturer as well as the overhead cost and profit margin for the hearing clinic. The average retail cost of a pair of hearing aids sold through traditional channels in the United States is estimated to be $4,600, making them approximately twice the average price of our hearing aids. Further, hearing aids with custom features that reduce device visibility or improve comfort can retail for significantly more than the industry average. In addition, approximately 87% of the Northstar Survey respondents in September 2019 indicated that price was extremely or very important.

 

COVID-19 barriers: We believe the recent emergence of COVID-19 has made the process of obtaining a hearing aid through traditional channels more cumbersome given the additional precautions hearing clinics and consumers have taken as a result of COVID-19, as well as shelter-in-place and other government mandates. The number of hearing aid units sold through traditional channels in the United States decreased approximately 59% year-over-year during the second quarter of 2020, according to statistics generated by Hearing Industries Association. According to a survey conducted by The Hearing Review in May 2020, while approximately 75% of audiology clinics in the United States and Canada were accepting patient visits as of May 2020, most were experiencing significant revenue declines compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Despite this, the survey found that only 8% of clinics planned to use telecare methods to acquire new patients.

The Eargo solution

We are passionate about helping people hear better. We are on a mission to change the way the world thinks about hearing loss.

Since our inception, our founding principle has been to dramatically improve the consumer experience at every step of the hearing care journey. Our products, customer support and marketing messaging are a direct result of that passion. We believe our model can shift the paradigm in the treatment of hearing loss for the ultimate benefit of consumers.

Our products

Our Eargo hearing aids combine proprietary technology, engineering know-how and design expertise to offer high-quality performance in an in-the-canal form factor that makes them virtually invisible. Our in-the-canal devices feature high quality audio, are designed to provide up to 16 hours of battery life and have proprietary Flexi Fibers or Flexi Palms, which are designed to enable the unit to comfortably “float” in the ear canal allowing air and sound to pass freely around them. Eargo hearing aids are designed for ease of use and maintenance and to fit a majority of the population, and are rechargeable. In addition, Eargo hearing aids are highly customizable, allowing our users to cycle through four different sound profiles, which include different features such as amplification and noise levels while on-the-go to accommodate different ambient noise environments. We currently offer three versions of our hearing aids, the Eargo Max, the Eargo Neo and the Eargo Neo HiFi, at three different price points to provide customers with choices on cost and functionality. Our hearing aids also come with a portable charging case, and the Eargo Neo and Eargo Neo HiFi offer connectivity via a Bluetooth-enabled charging case and the Eargo mobile app.

 

Eargo Neo HiFi Hearing Aids with Charging Case

Eargo Neo HiFi Hearing Aid in Ear

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Eargo Neo HiFi Hearing Aid in Ear

 

Our business model and consumer journey

We employ a differentiated, consumer-first business model to empower the consumer and improve the accessibility and affordability of high-quality hearing aids. We currently market and sell our hearing aids directly to consumers with a personalized approach that we believe helps motivate them to take action and then guides them along their hearing journey.

We engage consumers through a mix of digital and traditional marketing that is designed to appeal to prospective customers on a personal level and build our brand. Our data-driven approach to reaching consumers has allowed us to identify and target key demographics and purchasing behaviors of our most relevant audience, and we constantly refine our approach to most efficiently reach this audience. Our empowering messaging and sophisticated marketing strategy have helped contribute to over 60 thousand hearing aids sold, net of returns, as of December 31, 2020.

In addition to providing information about our products, we encourage prospective customers to learn about their hearing condition and provide free educational resources to help them make informed decisions. While a hearing test is not necessary to purchase an Eargo hearing aid, we offer an online, do-it-yourself hearing screen for prospective customers who are interested in an assessment. We believe this is an empowering experiential journey for the consumer as they are able to learn at their own pace and comfort.

Once a potential customer has expressed interest in our Eargo solution, by completing a form or otherwise contacting us, one of our sales consultants will contact them directly. Our sales consultants are highly trained inside salespeople who collaborate with the consumer on how best to address their hearing loss challenges and determine whether the Eargo hearing solution is appropriate for them.

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Customers are able to complete their purchase over the phone with their sales consultant or directly on our website, without the need to navigate multiple visits to the hearing clinic for tests and fittings. Importantly, potential customers are not required to have a hearing test to order the Eargo hearing solution, which simplifies the purchasing experience and improves the accessibility of hearing aids relative to the traditional hearing clinic channel. In addition, Eargo provides insurance claims processing for consumers, eliminating in most cases the need for consumers to interface with their insurance providers. Further, we offer a 45-day trial period.

We offer three products, the Eargo Max, Eargo Neo and the Eargo Neo HiFi, which range in price from $1,850 to $2,950, and we provide consumers with the option to utilize insurance coverage, pay the full cost up-front or enroll in a convenient, third-party monthly financing program that makes our products even more accessible. The Eargo hearing solution is then shipped and arrives in less than three business days on average.

Once a customer makes their purchase they are assigned to one of our licensed hearing professionals, who provides complimentary, convenient clinical support by phone, chat or email. All of our hearing professionals are licensed by recognized third parties. Once a customer receives their Eargo hearing solution, their licensed hearing professional will schedule a welcome call to ensure the proper use of the Eargo solution. In 2020, more than 80% of our customers completed a welcome call with one of our licensed hearing professionals. Our licensed hearing professionals and customer care team are also available to provide unlimited support for as long as the customer owns the device. We also provide short, online training videos and additional resources that customers can access online. The combination of these services allows us to deliver telecare-based clinical support in an efficient and streamlined manner without the burden of in-clinic visits.

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Key advantages of our solution

We believe the Eargo hearing solution offers the following advantages relative to traditional hearing aids:

Product advantages

 

Virtually invisible: Unlike the majority of hearing aids which sit behind-the-ear, the Eargo hearing solution fits completely in-the-canal and is virtually invisible, allowing our customers to avoid the stigma that is associated with visible hearing aids.

 

Comfort and performance: Our proprietary Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms allow Eargo hearing aids to be suspended in the ear canal and provide a comfortable “open fit” that does not fully block or occlude the ear canal while still providing high quality audio.

 

Rechargeable: Our hearing aids are rechargeable, offering up to 16 hours of battery life and eliminating the need for battery replacement. Our Eargo hearing solution comes with a discreet, portable charger case that provides up to seven days’ worth of charge and easily fits into a purse or pocket so customers can charge on-the-go. It takes approximately two hours to recharge the charger case. The charger case recharges the hearing aids to approximately two hours of use time in 30 minutes and fully recharges the hearing aids in approximately six hours.

 

Ease of use: Our Eargo system features an intuitive design that is similar in quality to many high-end consumer electronics and allows users to cycle through four different sound profiles, which include different features such as amplification and noise reduction levels while on-the-go to accommodate different ambient noise environments. Our Eargo Neo and Eargo Neo HiFi also offer customers a companion mobile app that pairs with their device and helps them easily personalize their Eargo hearing aids to fit their needs.

Channel advantages

 

Empowering consumer-centric experience: We have developed an empowering consumer-centric experience that encourages consumers to take action and then guides them along their hearing journey. Additionally, we have built a data set and sophisticated marketing infrastructure to deliver our message

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in a highly targeted manner utilizing digital and traditional marketing channels. We empower consumers by offering free online education, convenient consultation, the ability to easily purchase the Eargo system and fast delivery.

 

Accessible: With our innovative go-to-market model, we eliminate the need for cumbersome visits to the hearing clinic which inconvenience and may disempower the consumer. We offer all of our customers convenient telecare-based access to a highly trained clinical support team consisting of licensed hearing professionals. With the Eargo Neo and Eargo Neo HiFi, our clinical support specialists are able to wirelessly personalize Eargo settings for our customers.

 

Affordable: Our vertically integrated, consumer-first model allows us to eliminate a layer of cost and offer our high-quality products at prices that are approximately half the average cost of a pair of hearing aids purchased through traditional channels in the United States.

 

Decreased COVID-19 exposure: Without the need to physically visit a clinic, we believe our model can help Eargo customers reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 when acquiring an Eargo hearing aid. We believe the pandemic has accelerated the pace of consumer awareness of our vertically integrated telecare model, and we are further investing in our business to build this leadership position.

We designed the Eargo solution to provide significant advantages relative to traditional solutions for hearing loss and believe that the high level of customer satisfaction that we have achieved demonstrates our strong value proposition.

Growth drivers

We believe we are transforming the hearing aid market and are working to establish the Eargo solution as the preferred approach to the treatment of hearing loss. We seek to achieve this goal by converting existing hearing aid users to the Eargo solution and attracting consumers who have historically chosen not to wear hearing aids. Our growth strategies include:

 

Accelerate consumer adoption: We operate in a large, underpenetrated market. We have sold, net of returns, over 60 thousand Eargo hearing aids as of December 31, 2020, which reflects less than 1% penetration of our estimated addressable market opportunity in the United States. We plan to grow our base of customers by efficiently investing in marketing targeted at the approximately 14 million people in the United States over the age of 50 with mild to moderate hearing loss who have annual household income above the national median in 2019. Our commercial strategy is focused on driving customers to our website by optimizing our mix of digital and traditional media, and increasing our customer conversion.

 

Optimize customer mix: Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2019, we began targeting a more diverse mix of consumers, including those with hearing aid health insurance benefits and repeat customers. We believe consumers with hearing aid insurance benefits typically convert at higher rates and return their devices at lower rates, due in part to having reduced or, in some cases, no out of pocket cost for an Eargo hearing aid. We believe repeat customers also have an attractive conversion and return profile due to their high satisfaction with Eargo. This more optimized mix of customers across cash pay, insurance and repeat categories has resulted in a lower overall customer acquisition cost. We believe this strategy has the potential to further improve the efficiency of our sales and marketing spend.

 

Improve sales team productivity: Our sales consultants leverage the powerful lead generation capabilities of our digital marketing platform, enabling them to be substantially more productive than traditional hearing care professionals working at hearing clinics. As demand accelerates, we believe we have an opportunity to further increase the productivity of our sales organization. To do so, we are leveraging data-driven insights to iterate our sales tactics and create incentive programs and promotional offers, each with the goal of increasing inbound lead conversions. We also see an opportunity to nurture long-term relationships with our customers to drive repeat purchases and increase their lifetime value.

 

Introduce new, innovative products: Since 2017, we have launched four generations of our hearing aids, each adding significant performance and technical enhancements. We are focused on continuing to launch new versions of the Eargo hearing solution that further improve audio quality, amplification, fit,

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comfort and ease-of-use. According to market data, a substantial portion of traditional hearing aid purchases are by repeat customers. As of December 31, 2020, over 16 thousand of our hearing aids systems sold, net of returns, were either Plus or Max systems that are over two years old. We began actively advertising to these customers for repeat purchases, which has contributed to our growth in gross systems shipped and revenues in 2020. We believe our product roadmap will drive adoption by new customers and encourage repeat purchases by existing customers.

 

Selectively pursue omni-channel opportunities: We believe there are numerous omni-channel opportunities that could provide access to additional channels and accelerate our customer acquisition growth. Some of these include partnering with retailers, pharmacies, payors and other consumer-oriented healthcare companies with similar customer demographics.

 

Expand internationally: We believe the Eargo solution offers a compelling value proposition for consumers with hearing loss worldwide. In the future, we anticipate selectively expanding our commercial efforts to the large population of individuals with mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss outside of the United States.

Our commercial strategy

We designed a differentiated, consumer-first business model to empower the consumer and improve the accessibility and affordability of high-quality hearing aids. We currently market and sell our hearing aids directly to consumers with a personalized approach that we believe motivates them to take action and then guides them along their hearing journey.

Brand awareness and demand generation

Our consumer-first marketing efforts are focused on generating brand awareness and demand for the Eargo solution. We are working to further establish Eargo as a recognizable brand name in an industry traditionally characterized by large manufacturers generally lacking brand recognition. We believe we can achieve this by running empowering advertisements that are designed to appeal to prospective customers on a personal level. We seek to raise interest levels in potential customers who have not been motivated by the uninspiring messaging in the traditional channel and attract interested consumers who have not yet purchased a hearing aid due to the limitations of the traditional channel. We then nurture these potential customer relationships with educational marketing campaigns that are intended to develop comfort and familiarity with our brand.

We also acquire customers that are interested in hearing aids through marketing channels such as paid search, social media and native advertising and draw them to our website with landing pages where they can learn more about us, submit their contact information for phone-based follow-up or purchase immediately.

Sales and customer service process and infrastructure

Our differentiated marketing and messaging is supported by a high touch, efficient team of professionals that guides the consumer through the journey of addressing their hearing loss with a personalized and consultative approach. We frequently review feedback and data our consumers provide to work to improve the customer experience.

Consultative inside sales force

We have an efficient, effective, centralized, sales force consisting of 55 sales consultants as of December 31, 2020. Our sales consultants act as advisors and work with the customer to understand their needs. We sell our hearing solution directly through our online store and through phone conversations with our sales consultants, which enables them to work with substantially more customers than traditional hearing care professionals in a clinic setting. In addition, from time to time and as requested by a prospective customer, we provide a pre-sales telecare visit with one of our licensed hearing professionals.

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Convenient professional support for as long as the customer owns the device

Once a customer makes their purchase, they are assigned to one of our licensed hearing professionals who provides convenient clinical support by phone, online chat or email for the life of the product. Our licensed hearing professionals include audiologists with degrees in audiology and speech-language science, professionals with board certifications in hearing aid science and other professionals licensed for the treatment of hearing loss. After a customer receives their Eargo hearing aids, one of our licensed hearing professionals will initiate a welcome call to help ensure the proper use of the Eargo hearing aids. Our licensed hearing professionals and customer care team are also available to provide unlimited support for as long as the customer owns the device. We also provide short, online training videos and additional online resources that customers can access.

We believe this consultative approach and ongoing support is key to developing strong customer relationships, increasing brand affinity and improving the lifetime value of customers. As of December 31, 2020, we employed 42 licensed hearing professionals.

Technical capabilities

In designing the Eargo hearing solution, we set out to offer a differentiated product with a compelling value proposition to the consumer centered on the ability to offer high quality audio performance in a virtually invisible and comfortable form factor, which poses significant engineering challenges.

To address these challenges, we have established proprietary capabilities in the critical aspects of hearing aid design. We believe our distinct combination of engineering and design know-how coupled with intellectual property protection in certain key areas, enables us to offer an attractive, virtually invisible hearing aid while maintaining high quality audio performance.

 

Multi-channel compression in miniaturized form factor: High-fidelity multichannel compression is critical to hearing aid performance. A high-fidelity multichannel compression system dynamically amplifies the distinct acoustics of everyday life in a differentiated manner based on the frequency of the incoming sound. This ensures that the hearing aid offers comfortable and appropriate hearing support for the full range of everyday activities and sounds. While many hearing aid manufacturers have achieved this in behind-the-ear devices, to achieve this objective on a miniaturized platform that provides up to 16 hours of battery life requires ultra-low power integrated circuits and knowledge of assembly language programming on integrated circuits, which is becoming a rare skillset.

 

Acoustic feedback cancellation: One of the primary challenges in audio signal processing for hearing aids that are located in the ear canal is acoustic feedback due to the close proximity of the microphone and the receiver. To address this, we have incorporated an adaptive feedback cancellation, or FBC, system. The most important figure to compare FBC systems is added stable gain, which reflects the increase in amplification gain that is afforded by the FBC system without added feedback or degraded sound quality. Our added stable gain of 24 dB compares to an added stable gain of approximately 20 decibels for an “open-fit” receiver-in-canal hearing aid.

 

Open canal design eliminating full occlusion: Our virtually invisible form factor requires the close collaboration of clinicians and engineers to achieve acoustic performance while limiting canal occlusion and maintaining ear health. Our proprietary and patented Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms are a soft, medical-grade silicone web that allows our hearing aids to be suspended in the ear canal allowing for an “open fit” that offers high quality sound and comfort while staying firmly in place. Our engineers and clinicians play a critical role in improving the fit, migration, comfort and occlusion with each design iteration.

We believe that the combination of technical capabilities and our innovative data driven approach to consumer-first marketing are a distinct competitive advantage for us in penetrating our target market.

Our products

We developed the Eargo solution to create a hearing aid that consumers actually want to use. We believe our hearing aids are the first and only rechargeable, completely-in-canal, FDA regulated, exempt Class I or Class II

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devices for the treatment of hearing loss. We currently offer three versions of our Eargo solution, the Eargo Max, the Eargo Neo and the Eargo Neo HiFi, at three different price points to provide customers with choices on cost and functionality.

Our Eargo products consist of the following: Eargo hearing aids, our proprietary Flexi Fibers or Flexi Palms depending on the hearing aid, our portable charger case and, with the Eargo Neo and Eargo Neo HiFi, tech-enabled through the Eargo mobile app.

 

Eargo hearing aids: Our hearing aids combine advanced technology, engineering and design to offer high-quality performance in an in-the-canal form factor that makes them virtually invisible. We have ultra-low-power integrated circuitry and advanced audio processing algorithms which enable high-quality audio, while preserving up to 16 hours of battery life. Our hearing aids are highly customizable, allowing our users to cycle through four different sound profiles, low to high amplification, while on the go to accommodate different ambient noise environments.

 

Proprietary Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms: Our proprietary Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms, which are included as part of our hearing aids and can also be purchased separately, allow our hearing aids to be suspended in the ear canal providing an “open fit” that offers high quality sound and comfort while staying firmly in place. Our Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms are made of a soft, medical-grade silicone and are designed to flex for comfortable, full day wear. Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms are removable, allowing for simple cleaning, and we offer several sizes with each shipment to accommodate individuals with different size ear canals.

 

Portable charger case: Each set of Eargo hearing aids comes with a discreet, portable charger case that provides up to seven days’ worth of charge and easily fits into a purse or pocket. It takes approximately two hours to recharge the charger case and only approximately 30 minutes for the hearing aids to recharge within the case while on-the-go to provide up to two hours of additional use. Our charger case is designed to be discreet, while also protecting the hearing aids and maximizing airflow so that they dry while charging.

 

Eargo mobile app: Our Eargo Neo and Eargo Neo HiFi offer a companion mobile app that allows customers to control their device and personalize their sound profiles. When paired with the charging case, customers can also wirelessly receive personalized sound settings based on their usage and preferences directly from our licensed hearing professionals.

Research and development

We are committed to ongoing research and development. As of December 31, 2020, our research and development organization included 67 individuals with expertise in mechanical engineering, product design, electrical engineering, systems engineering, audio processing, clinical and hearing science and embedded software design. Our technical capabilities and commitment to innovation have allowed us to deliver significant product enhancements on a rapid development timeline, which we believe has helped us to support a compelling new product roadmap.

Our current research and development efforts are focused on developing future generations of our Eargo solution with increased functionality and audio output, improved in-ear fit, reduced cost of goods, better connectivity and enhanced machine learning.

Comparative electroacoustic benchmarking tests

In October 2019, we conducted a series of comparative electroacoustic benchmarking tests, or the Bench Study, to compare our Eargo Neo hearing aid with hearing aids from three major manufacturers: the Starkey Livio AI 2400, the Phonak Audeo Marvel M90, and the Resound Linx Quattro 5, all behind-the-ear style hearing aids with receiver-in-the-canal.

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The goal of the Bench Study was to conduct electroacoustic benchmarking tests to determine whether the hearing aids tested were able to amplify sounds appropriately to improve speech audibility while maintaining adequate sound quality.

Our results indicated that both our Eargo Neo hearing aid and the other hearing aids we tested met or exceeded the identified benchmarks for sound quality and amplification to improve speech audibility. We believe the results of the Bench Study are useful to investors because they provide information regarding the comparability of our Eargo Neo hearing aid to the other hearing aids tested with respect to the identified benchmarks.

Summary of Bench Study design

We designed the Bench Study to use industry standard tests developed by the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, the American organization that manages the voluntary standards system for electroacoustic tests.

In addition, we evaluated the ability of each hearing aid in the Bench Study to make speech more understandable using another industry standard test called the Speech Intelligibility Index, or SII.

The measurements were performed by two of our employees who are licensed audiologists using two different hearing aid test systems. One model of each device was utilized for testing. The results were then compared for discrepancies. If there were no major discrepancies, the better result of the two measures was used. If major discrepancies between the results existed, we performed both measures again. We defined a major discrepancy as the device meeting the identified standards in one test system but failing to meet the identified standards on the other system.

Coupling using a 2cc coupler and placement of devices was used in accordance with ANSI S3.22-2009 specifications. Measurements were then taken with devices at either full-on-gain (FOG) or reference-test-setting (RTS) in accordance with ANSI standards.

In order to determine what qualified as a good result, we reviewed recent research and used what we believe to be the most cited standards in the hearing aid industry as our benchmarks:

Frequency range: The frequency range should include 250 to 6000 Hz to cover the complete range of speech. Covering this large range of frequencies is important to appropriately amplify speech sounds.

Speech Intelligibility Index: The device should provide appropriate amplification for a specific hearing loss, as determined by the Audioscan Verifit test system. We chose a typical moderate hearing loss for this test.

Total harmonic distortion: The distortion level should be below 3% for all frequencies tested in order to amplify sound and speech with acceptable accuracy.

Equivalent input noise: The level of noise should be below 28 dB sound press level, or SPL. A low noise level means that the hearing aid can provide an acceptably clean sound to the listener.

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Results

Frequency range

All devices tested met the acceptable frequency range, amplifying frequencies in a range of at least 250Hz to 6,000Hz as demonstrated in Graph 1 below.

 

Graph 1. Frequency range results

Speech Intelligibility Index

All devices tested had an acceptable SII, as demonstrated in Graph 2 below. Each bar in the graph represents the SII score for each input level, and the horizontal lines represent the minimum scores required adequate speech intelligibility. All tested devices met or exceeded the minimum requirement.

 

Graph 2. Speech Intelligibility Index results

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Total harmonic distortion

All devices tested had a low level of total harmonic distortion, with each reporting less than 3% as demonstrated in Graph 3 below.

 

Graph 3. Total Harmonic Distortion results

Equivalent input noise

Equivalent input noise levels were good, with each device reporting less than 28 dB SPL, as demonstrated in Graph 4 below.

 

Graph 4. Equivalent Input noise results

Product roadmap

We are continuously innovating and have released four new generations of our Eargo solution since 2017. Our current iteration of the Eargo hearing solution, Neo HiFi, provides improved Flexi Palms and improved capabilities across audio fidelity and bandwidth. We launched Neo HiFi in January 2020 and anticipate launching our next generation hearing aid in the first half of 2021.

We anticipate that future generations of our solution will offer further improved fit and acoustic output with the capability for in-situ hearing assessment and adjustment through connected hearing aids. We expect that future generations of our solution will also include increased water resistance and have refurbishment capability. We believe this will advance the ability of our licensed hearing professionals to personalize our customers’ hearing

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solutions. Our development priorities are also focused on adding a refurbishment capability, which would benefit our gross margin.

 

 

Manufacturing

Our hearing aids are currently assembled by Hana, a contract manufacturer which is based in Thailand. We have a manufacturing services agreement with Hana for the assembly and supply of our hearing aids, pursuant to which we make purchases on a purchase order basis. The manufacturing services agreement was effective beginning on May 5, 2017 with an initial term of 12 months that automatically renews for additional 12 month periods. The automatic renewals are subject to our right to terminate the agreement without cause by providing 120 days’ advance written notice, or Hana’s right to terminate the agreement without cause by providing at least 12 months’ advance written notice.

We have entered into a manufacturing services agreement with a second manufacturer, Pegatron Corporation, or Pegatron, which is based in Taiwan, for the manufacture of our next generation hearing aid, pursuant to which we make purchases on a purchase order basis. The manufacturing services agreement was effective beginning on August 21, 2018 with an initial term of three years that automatically renews for additional one-year periods. The automatic renewals are subject to either party’s right to terminate the agreement without cause by providing 30 days’ advance written notice. Either party may terminate the agreement if the other party materially breaches the agreement and fails to cure the breach within 30 days after notice of such breach from the terminating party.

We rely on several third-party suppliers for the components used in our hearing aids, including the batteries, integrated circuits, microphones and receivers.

We believe that third-party facilities will be adequate to meet our current and anticipated manufacturing needs. We do not currently plan to manufacture our hearing aids or any related components ourselves.

Manufacturing facilities that produce medical devices or their component parts intended for distribution world-wide are subject to regulation and periodic unannounced inspection by the FDA and other domestic and international regulatory agencies. In the United States, any products we sell are required to be manufactured in compliance with the FDA’s Quality System Regulation, which covers the methods used in, and the facilities used

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for, the design, testing, control, manufacturing, labeling, quality assurance, packaging, storage and shipping of our products.

The distribution of our hearing aids is handled directly through DCL Logistics, a third-party logistics provider. Our finished hearing aids are shipped from Hana in Thailand to DCL Logistics in Louisville, Kentucky and are distributed from there to customers.

Seasonality

Prior to the effects of COVID-19, we have experienced and expect to continue to experience seasonality in our business, with higher sales volumes in quarters when we launch new products and in the fourth calendar quarter as a result of holiday promotional activity.

Competition

We compete in the hearing aid market against manufacturers, clinics and retailers of hearing aids, other direct-to-consumer providers of hearing aids and to a lesser extent, providers of personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). We believe that the primary competitive factors in the market are:

 

product quality and performance, including but not limited to, the size, sound quality, comfort, whether the batteries are rechargeable, reliability and connectivity of the hearing aid;

 

customer purchasing experience;

 

visibility of hearing aid;

 

pricing;

 

product support and service;

 

effective marketing and education;

 

technological innovation, product enhancements and speed of innovation; and

 

sales and distribution capabilities.

After a period of industry consolidation, five manufacturers control a vast majority of the hearing aid industry today. These manufacturers include GN Store Nord, Sonova, Starkey, William Demant and WS Audiology, all of which have established products and substantially greater financial, sales and marketing, manufacturing and development resources than we possess. In addition to these manufacturers, we also compete against hearing clinics and retailers, such as Costco. Costco sells its Kirkland Signature label behind-the-ear hearing aids in store and also sells behind-the-ear, in-the-ear and in-the-canal hearing aids under the Philips, Phonak, ReSound and Rexton brands, each at various price points. We also compete against other direct-to-consumer hearing aid providers such as Audicus and Lively, which, similar to our business model, allow consumers to purchase hearing aids without visiting a clinic and provide remote support for their products.

Our competitors may be able to respond more quickly and effectively than we can to new or changing opportunities, technologies, standards or customer requirements. Considering the resources and advantages that our competitors maintain, even if our technology and consumer-first distribution strategy is more effective than the technology and distribution strategy of our competitors, current or potential customers might accept competitor products in lieu of purchasing our products. We anticipate that we will face increased competition in the future as existing companies and competitors develop new or improved products and distribution strategies and as new companies enter the market with new technologies and distribution strategies. We may not be able to compete effectively against these organizations. Our ability to compete successfully and to increase our market share is dependent upon our approach to addressing unmet needs in the hearing aid industry. Increased competition in the future could adversely affect our revenue, revenue growth rate, if any, margins and market share.

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Government regulation

Our products and operations are subject to extensive and rigorous regulation by the FDA and other federal, state and local authorities, as well as foreign regulatory authorities. The FDA regulates, among other things, the research, development, testing, design, manufacturing, approval, labeling, storage, recordkeeping, advertising, promotion and marketing, distribution, post approval monitoring and reporting and import and export of medical devices in the United States to assure the safety and effectiveness of medical products for their intended use. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates the advertising of our products in the United States. Further, we are subject to laws directed at preventing fraud and abuse, which subject our sales and marketing, training and other practices to government scrutiny.

Regulation by the FDA

The FDA classifies hearing aids, including in-the-canal hearing aids such as our products, as medical devices. In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or the FDCA, as well as FDA regulations and other federal and state statutes and regulations, govern, among other things, medical device design and development, preclinical and clinical testing, device safety, premarket clearance and approval, establishment registration and device listing, manufacturing, labeling, storage, record-keeping, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, export and import, recalls and field safety corrective actions, and post-market surveillance, including complaint handling and medical device reporting of adverse events. Failure to comply with applicable requirements may subject a company to a variety of administrative or judicial sanctions, such as warning or untitled letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, civil penalties and criminal prosecution. The FDA can also refuse to approve or clear pending product applications.

The FDA classifies medical devices into three classes (Class I, II or III) based on the degree of risk associated with a device and the level of regulatory control deemed necessary to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Class I devices are those for which safety and effectiveness can be assured by adherence to the FDA’s general controls for medical devices, which include compliance with the FDA’s current good manufacturing practices for devices, as reflected in the Quality System Regulation, or QSR, establishment registration and device listing, reporting of adverse events, and truthful, non-misleading labeling, advertising and promotional materials. Some Class I devices also require premarket clearance by the FDA through the premarket notification process set forth in Section 510(k) of the FDCA. Class II devices are subject to the FDA’s general controls and any other special controls deemed necessary by the FDA to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device, such as performance standards, product-specific guidance documents, special labeling requirements, patient registries and/or post-market surveillance. Most Class II devices must also comply with the FDA’s Section 510(k) premarket notification requirements. Class III devices are those that support or sustain human life, are of substantial importance in preventing impairment of human health, or which present a potential, unreasonable risk of illness or injury. Due to the level of risk associated with Class III devices, general and special controls alone are insufficient to assure their safety and effectiveness. Devices placed in Class III generally require the submission of a premarket approval, or PMA, application demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of the device, which must be approved by the FDA prior to marketing, or the receipt of a 510(k) de novo classification, which provides for the reclassification of the device into Class I or II. The PMA approval process is more stringent, time-consuming and expensive than the 510(k) clearance process; however, the 510(k) clearance process has also become increasingly stringent and expensive.

We currently market our products pursuant to the FDA regulatory framework for air-conduction hearing aids, which are classified as Class I or Class II FDA Registered Exempt Medical Devices. While applicable FDA regulations establish certain “conditions for sale” of all hearing aids, including that prospective hearing aid users must have a medical evaluation by a licensed physician within the six months prior to the hearing aid dispensation, the FDA has stated that it does not intend to enforce these medical evaluation requirements prior to the dispensing of Class I air-conduction and Class II wireless air-conduction hearing aids to individuals 18 years of age and older. Accordingly, while we are required to comply with other FDA requirements, our products are currently not reviewed by the FDA.

The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, or FDARA, created a new category of over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids that are intended to be available through in-person transactions, by mail or online without the involvement of a licensed practitioner. Under the statute, the FDA must issue regulations to implement the new

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framework. As part of its rulemaking process, the FDA is required to evaluate whether OTC hearing aids should be subject to Section 510(k) premarket review and clearance, and it is unclear whether the FDA will subject OTC hearing aids to this requirement or other more onerous requirements. Despite the deadline in FDARA for the FDA to issue proposed regulations by August 18, 2020, the FDA has not yet issued a notice of proposed rulemaking or indicated how it will implement the new OTC hearing aid pathway. In addition, in May 2018, the FDA granted a de novo classification request from Bose for a direct-to-consumer “self-fitting air-conduction hearing aid,” which is classified in Class II and subject to 510(k) premarket review.

We market the Eargo system devices as Class I or Class II exempt air-conduction hearing aids under existing regulations and are not dependent on the FDA’s issuance of OTC hearing aid regulations for the marketing of our products. We also do not consider our devices to be “self-fitting” hearing aids similar to the newly cleared Bose device. Accordingly, while we expect our products to continue to be regulated as Class I or Class II exempt devices, our products could in the future be deemed to fall under the definition of a “self-fitting air-conduction hearing aid” or an OTC hearing aid, in which case we could be required to seek 510(k) clearance for our products or otherwise comply with additional regulatory requirements associated with these new pathways.

510(k) clearance

If not exempted from the FDA’s 510(k) notification requirement, to obtain 510(k) clearance for a medical device, an applicant must submit a premarket notification to the FDA demonstrating that the device is “substantially equivalent” to a legally marketed device, commonly known as the “predicate device.” A legally marketed predicate device may include a device that was legally marketed in the United States prior to May 28, 1976 for which a PMA is not required (commonly known as a “pre-amendments device” based on the date the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 were enacted), a device which the FDA has reclassified from Class III to Class II or I, or a device which has been found substantially equivalent to such a device through the 510(k) process. A device is considered to be substantially equivalent if, with respect to the predicate device, it has the same intended use and has either (i) the same technological characteristics, or (ii) different technological characteristics, but the information provided in the 510(k) submission demonstrates that the device does not raise new questions of safety and effectiveness and is at least as safe and effective as the predicate device. A showing of substantial equivalence may sometimes, but not always, require clinical data. Before the FDA will accept a 510(k) submission for substantive review, the FDA will first assess whether the submission satisfies a minimum threshold of acceptability. If the FDA determines that the 510(k) submission is incomplete, the FDA will issue a “Refuse to Accept” letter which generally outlines the information the FDA believes is necessary to permit a substantive review and to reach a determination regarding substantial equivalence. An applicant must submit the requested information before the FDA will proceed with additional review of the submission. Once a 510(k) submission is accepted for review, the FDA has 90 days to review and issue a determination. As a practical matter, clearance often takes longer. The FDA may request additional information, including clinical data, to make a determination regarding substantial equivalence, which may significantly prolong the review process. The review period is suspended during the time the additional information request is pending. Unless a specific exemption applies, 510(k) premarket notification submissions are subject to user fees.

Medical devices can be marketed only for the indications for which they are cleared or approved. After a device has received 510(k) clearance for a specific intended use, any change or modification that significantly affects its safety or effectiveness, such as a significant change in the design, materials or method of manufacture, or that would constitute a new or major change in intended use, may require a new 510(k) clearance or PMA approval and payment of an additional FDA user fee. The determination as to whether or not a modification constitutes such a change is initially left to the manufacturer using available FDA guidance; however, the FDA may review this determination to evaluate the regulatory status of the modified product at any time and may require the manufacturer to cease marketing and recall the modified device until new 510(k) clearance or PMA approval is obtained. The manufacturer may also be subject to significant regulatory fines or penalties.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are sometimes required for 510(k) clearance. Such trials generally require submission of an investigational device exemption, or IDE, application to the FDA for a specified number of patients and study sites, unless the product is deemed to be a non-significant risk device which may be subject to more abbreviated IDE

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requirements. If an IDE is required, the FDA and the appropriate institutional review boards, or IRBs, at the clinical sites must approve the study before clinical trials may begin. Clinical trials are subject to extensive monitoring, record keeping and reporting requirements. Clinical trials must be conducted under the oversight of IRBs for the relevant clinical trial sites and must comply with FDA regulations, including but not limited to those relating to good clinical practices, or GCPs, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for participation in each clinical study. The clinical trial sponsor, the FDA or the IRB could suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time for various reasons, including a belief that the subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Even if a trial is completed, the results of clinical testing may not adequately demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the device or may otherwise not be sufficient to obtain FDA clearance to market the product.

Labeling and sale

All hearing aids commercially distributed in the United States must comply with specific FDA labeling requirements. These requirements address the labeling of the device itself as well as the User Instructional Brochure that must be provided to all potential hearing aid recipients. Hearing aids must be clearly and permanently marked with, among other things, the name of the device manufacturer, the model name or number, and the year of manufacture. In addition, the User Instructional Brochure must contain, among other things, specific instructions for the use of, maintenance and care of, and replacement or recharging of the batteries of the hearing instrument, information regarding known side effects that may warrant a physician consultation, a warning statement specified in FDA regulations, and technical data useful in selecting and fitting a hearing instrument and checking its performance.

In addition, FDA regulations require that the marketing of hearing aids comply with certain “conditions for sale,” including, among other things, the requirement that prospective hearing aid users must undergo a medical evaluation (or provide a signed waiver) before a hearing aid may be dispensed, along with certain recordkeeping requirements. In 2016, the FDA issued a guidance document stating that it did not intend to enforce the medical evaluation or recordkeeping requirements prior to the dispensing of Class I air-conduction and Class II wireless air-conduction hearing aids to individuals 18 years of age and older. In addition, under FDARA, hearing aids that qualify for the future OTC pathway must be exempt from certain labeling requirements and condition of sale requirements otherwise applicable to hearing aids.

Quality System Regulation

The hearing aids that we commercially distribute in the United States are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA and certain state agencies. This includes product listing and establishment registration requirements, which facilitate FDA inspections and other regulatory actions. We are required to adhere to applicable current good manufacturing practice, or cGMP, requirements, as set forth in the QSR, which require manufacturers, including third-party manufacturers, to follow stringent design, testing, control, documentation and other quality assurance procedures during all phases of the design and manufacturing process. We are also required to verify that our suppliers maintain facilities, procedures and operations that comply with applicable quality and regulatory requirements. The FDA enforces the QSR through periodic announced or unannounced inspections of medical device manufacturing facilities, which may include the facilities of contractors. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from the QSR and impose reporting and documentation requirements upon us and our third-party manufacturers. Noncompliance with these regulations can result in, among other things, fines, injunctions, civil penalties, recalls or seizures of products, total or partial suspension of production, FDA refusal to grant 510(k) clearance or PMA approval to new devices, withdrawal of existing clearances or approvals, and criminal prosecution.

Post-market surveillance

We must also comply with post-market surveillance regulations, including medical device reporting, or MDR, requirements which require that we review and report to the FDA any incident in which our products may have caused or contributed to a death or serious injury, and any incident in which our product has malfunctioned if that malfunction would likely cause or contribute to a death or serious injury if it were to recur. We must also comply with medical device correction and removal reporting regulations, which require manufacturers to report to the FDA corrections and removals if undertaken to reduce a risk to health posed by the device or to remedy a violation of the

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FDCA that may present a risk to health. Although we may undertake recall actions voluntarily, we must submit detailed information on any recall action to the FDA, and the FDA can order a medical device recall in certain circumstances.

In addition to post-market quality and safety actions, labeling and promotional activities are subject to scrutiny by the FDA and, in certain circumstances, by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. Medical devices approved or cleared by the FDA may not be promoted for unapproved or uncleared uses, otherwise known as “off-label” promotion. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses, and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant liability, including substantial monetary penalties and criminal prosecution.

Failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, including delays in or failures to report incidents to the FDA as required under the MDR regulations, can result in enforcement action by the FDA which can include any of the following sanctions:

 

warning letters, untitled letters, fines, injunctions, consent decrees and civil penalties;

 

customer notifications or repair, replacement, refund, recall, administrative detention or seizure of our products;

 

operating restrictions or partial suspension or total shutdown of production;

 

FDA refusals or delays on requests for 510(k) clearance or PMA approval of new or modified products;’

 

withdrawal of 510(k) clearances or PMA approvals that have already been granted;

 

refusal to grant export approval for products; or

 

civil penalties or criminal prosecution.

Other healthcare laws and regulations

The healthcare industry is also subject to federal and state fraud and abuse laws, including anti-kickback, self-referral, false claims and physician payment transparency laws, as well as patient data privacy and security and consumer protection and unfair competition laws and regulations. Our operations are also subject to certain state and local hearing care laws, including those applicable to the licensure and registration of audiologists and other individuals that dispense hearing aids, sales and marketing practices, interactions with consumers, consumer incentive and other promotional programs, and state corporate practice and fee-splitting prohibitions.

Fraud and abuse laws

In addition to the FDA, other federal and state healthcare laws and regulations could restrict our business practices and operations, including our direct-to-consumer activities. To the extent our products are or become covered by any federal or state government healthcare program, regulatory and enforcement authorities may nonetheless interpret that we are subject to numerous federal healthcare anti-fraud laws, which include the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the Physician Self-Referral Law and the False Claims Act that are intended to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry and analogous state laws that may apply to healthcare items and services paid by all payors, including self-pay patients and private insurers. These laws are broad and subject to evolving interpretations. They prohibit many arrangements and practices that are lawful in industries, other than healthcare, including pricing, sales and marketing activities, sales commissions, customer incentive and other promotional programs, and the provision of gifts and business courtesies. To the extent that any of our products are sold in a foreign country, we may be subject to similar foreign laws, which may include, for instance, applicable post-marketing requirements, including safety surveillance, anti-fraud and abuse laws and implementation of corporate compliance programs and reporting of payments or transfers of value to healthcare professionals. We must operate our business within the requirements of these laws. Violations of any of these health regulatory laws may result in potentially significant penalties, including criminal and civil and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, exclusion from participation in government healthcare programs, contractual damages, reputational harm, administrative burdens, diminished profits and future earnings, and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations.

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In addition, the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires manufacturers to report to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailed information about financial arrangements with physicians and teaching hospitals and, with reporting requirements going into effect in 2022 for payments made in 2021, financial arrangements with physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other mid-level practitioners. These reporting provisions preempt state laws that require reporting of the same information, but not those that require reports of different or additional information. Although none of our products are currently covered by any government healthcare program, we may still be subject to certain state reporting requirements that apply regardless of payor. Failure to comply subjects manufacturers to significant civil monetary penalties.

State licensing, corporate practice and fee-splitting prohibitions

Regulation of the hearing aid industry exists in every state. These laws and regulations are primarily concerned with the licensure and registration of audiologists and other individuals and companies that dispense hearing aids, including procedures involving the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids. In addition, most states require warranty and return policies for consumers allowing for the return of product, and restrict hearing aid advertising and marketing practices. These state laws are subject to change, and states may impose more stringent requirements for dispensers of hearing aids. The FDCA preempts state laws relating to the safety and efficacy of medical devices and state laws that are different from or in addition to federal requirements. In Missouri Board of Examiners for Hearing Instrument Specialists v. Hearing Help Express, Inc. and METX, LLC v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, respectively, have held that certain state laws relating to the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids are preempted because they relate to the safety and efficacy of medical devices. Although we have structured our operations to comply with our understanding of applicable state regulatory requirements, interpretative legal precedent and regulatory guidance varies by jurisdiction and is often sparse and not fully developed, including which laws and regulations are subject to the federal preemption relating to safety and efficacy of medical devices, complicating our compliance efforts. Other courts could conclude that similar or identical state laws are not preempted. A determination that we are in violation of applicable laws and regulations in any jurisdiction in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on us, particularly if we are unable to restructure our operations and arrangements to comply with the requirements of that jurisdiction, if we are required to restructure our operations and arrangements at a significant cost, or if we are subject to penalties or other adverse action.

We employ licensed hearing professionals to deliver services to our customers. These activities are subject to various state laws that prohibit the practice of certain professions, including audiology, by lay entities or persons and are intended to prevent unlicensed persons from interfering with or influencing the audiologist’s or other hearing care specialist’s professional judgment. In the event that regulatory authorities or other third parties were to challenge these arrangements, we could be subject to adverse judicial or administrative interpretations, to civil or criminal penalties, our contracts could be found legally invalid and unenforceable or we could be required to restructure our arrangements with our audiologists and other licensed professionals. In addition, various state laws also generally prohibit the sharing or splitting professional fees with lay entities or persons. Audiologists and certain other hearing care specialists are required to maintain valid state licenses to practice and must comply with numerous state and local licensing laws and regulations, and each state defines the scope of practice for audiologists and other hearing care specialists through legislation and their respective state regulatory agencies and boards. Activities that qualify as professional misconduct under state law may subject our personnel to sanctions or may even result in loss of their licensure and could, possibly, subject us to sanctions as well.

Coverage and reimbursement; healthcare reform

Our products are primarily purchased on a cash-pay basis and are not generally covered by government healthcare programs and other third-party payors. In addition, there have been, and we expect there will continue to be, a number of legislative and regulatory changes to the healthcare system seeking, among other things, to reduce healthcare costs that could affect our results of operations. For example, the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act, or the Affordable Care Act, has changed healthcare financing and delivery by both governmental and private insurers substantially and has affected medical device manufacturers significantly. In addition, the Affordable Care Act provided incentives to programs that increase the federal government’s comparative effectiveness research and implemented payment system reforms including a national pilot program on payment bundling to encourage hospitals, physicians and other

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providers to improve the coordination, quality and efficiency of certain healthcare services through bundled payment models. Since its enactment, there have been judicial and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, and we expect there will be additional challenges and amendments to the Affordable Care Act in the future. It is uncertain the extent to which any such changes or other healthcare reform measures by the current Presidential Administration may impact our business or financial condition. We expect additional state and federal healthcare reform measures to be adopted in the future, any of which could result in reduced demand for our products or additional pricing pressure.

Privacy and security

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, and their implementing regulations, imposes privacy, security and breach reporting obligations with respect to individually identifiable health information upon “covered entities” (health care providers, health plans and health care clearinghouses), and their respective business associates, individuals or entities that create, received, maintain or transmit protected health information in connection with providing a service for or on behalf of a covered entity. HITECH also increased the civil and criminal penalties that may be imposed against covered entities and business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce HIPAA and seek attorney’s fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions. Additionally, HITECH mandates the reporting of certain breaches of health information to the HHS, affected individuals and, if the breach is large enough, the media.

Even when HIPAA does not apply, according to the FTC, failing to take appropriate steps to keep consumers’ personal information secure constitutes unfair acts or practices in or affecting commerce in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FTC expects a company’s data security measures to be reasonable and appropriate in light of the sensitivity and volume of consumer information it holds, the size and complexity of its business, and the cost of available tools to improve security and reduce vulnerabilities. Individually identifiable health information is considered sensitive data that merits stronger safeguards.

In addition, certain state and non-U.S. laws, such as the GDPR govern the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, some of which are more stringent than HIPAA and many of which differ from each other in significant ways and may not have the same effect, thus complicating compliance efforts. Failure to comply with these laws, where applicable, can result in the imposition of significant civil and/or criminal penalties and private litigation. For example, California recently enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which took effect on January 1, 2020. The CCPA, among other things, creates new data privacy obligations for covered companies and provides new privacy rights to California residents, including the right to opt out of certain disclosures of their information. The CCPA also creates a private right of action with statutory damages for certain data breaches, thereby potentially increasing risks associated with a data breach. Although the law includes limited exceptions, including for “protected health information” maintained by a covered entity or business associate, it may regulate or impact our processing of personal information depending on the context. Further, the California Privacy Rights Act (the “CPRA”) recently passed in California. The CPRA will impose additional data protection obligations on covered businesses, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It will also create a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations and could result in increased privacy and information security enforcement. The majority of the provisions will go into effect on January 1, 2023, and additional compliance investment and potential business process changes may be required. In Europe, the GDPR went into effect in May 2018 and imposes strict requirements for processing the personal data of individuals within the European Union (the “EU”) and the EEA. Companies that must comply with the GDPR face increased compliance obligations and risk, including more robust regulatory enforcement of data protection requirements and potential fines for noncompliance of up to €20 million or 4% of the annual global revenues of the noncompliant company, whichever is greater. Among other requirements, the GDPR regulates transfers of personal data subject to the GDPR to third countries that have not been found to provide adequate protection to such personal data, including the United States, and the efficacy and longevity of current transfer mechanisms between the EU and the United States remains uncertain. For example, in 2016, the EU and United States agreed to a transfer framework for data transferred from the EU to the United States, called the Privacy Shield, but the Privacy Shield was invalidated in July 2020 by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Further, from January 1, 2021, companies have to comply

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with the GDPR and also the United Kingdom GDPR (UK GDPR), which, together with the amended UK Data Protection Act 2018, retains the GDPR in UK national law. The UK GDPR mirrors the fines under the GDPR, i.e., fines up to the greater of €20 million (£17.5 million) or 4% of global turnover. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains unclear, and it is unclear how United Kingdom data protection laws and regulations will develop in the medium to longer term, and how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated in the long term. Currently there is a four to six-month grace period agreed in the EU and United Kingdom Trade and Cooperation Agreement, ending June 30, 2021 at the latest, whilst the parties discuss an adequacy decision. However, it is not clear whether (and when) an adequacy decision may be granted by the European Commission enabling data transfers from EU member states to the United Kingdom long term without additional measures. These changes may lead to additional costs and increase our overall risk exposure.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the FCPA), prohibits U.S. businesses and their representatives from offering to pay, paying, promising to pay or authorizing the payment of money or anything of value to a foreign official in order to influence any act or decision of the foreign official in his or her official capacity or to secure any other improper advantage in order to obtain or retain business. The FCPA also obligates companies whose securities are listed in the United States to comply with accounting provisions requiring us to maintain books and records, which in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the corporation, including international subsidiaries, if any, and to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements. The scope of the FCPA includes interactions with certain healthcare professionals in many countries.

International laws

Globally, other countries have enacted anti-bribery laws and/or regulations similar to the FCPA. Violations of any of these anti-bribery laws, or allegations of such violations, could have a negative impact on our business, results of operations and reputation.

There are also international privacy laws that impose restrictions on the access, use, and disclosure of health information. All of these laws may impact our business. Our failure to comply with these privacy laws or significant changes in the laws restricting our ability to obtain required patient information could significantly impact our business and our future business plans.

Intellectual property

We rely on a combination of patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret laws and confidentiality and invention assignment agreements to protect our intellectual property rights. As of December 31, 2020, we had 22 issued U.S. patents, 16 patents outside the United States, 4 pending U.S. patent applications and 10 pending foreign patent applications. Our patents include utility patents covering technology ranging from remote control of our hearing aids to design patents covering the housing and securing mechanisms for our hearing aids. We have foreign patents in the EU, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. We own all of our patents and do not rely on any licenses to utilize the technology covered by these patents. The earliest of our patents is expected to expire in 2025. Our issued U.S. patent with claims generally directed to an open ear canal hearing aid comprised of certain electronics and securing portions and our issued U.S. patent with claims generally directed to an adjustable securing mechanism for a space access device are each expected to expire in 2030.

Our pending patent applications may not result in issued patents, and we cannot assure you that any current or subsequently issued patents will protect our intellectual property rights. Third parties may challenge certain patents issued to us as invalid, may independently develop similar or competing technologies or may design around any of our patents. We cannot be certain that any of the steps we have taken will prevent the misappropriation of our intellectual property, particularly in foreign countries where the laws may not protect our proprietary rights in these countries as fully as in the United States.

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There is no active patent litigation involving us and we have not received any notices of patent infringement involving any of our products. The validity, enforceability or scope, as the case may be, of one of our patents relating to our Flexi Palm design is being challenged in Europe. An oral hearing for this challenge is expected to be scheduled in 2021. The preliminary opinion from the European Patent Office’s Opposition Division considered the claims to be novel, inventive and sufficient of disclosure, while only making objections regarding added matter. Our response includes a main request to maintain the claims of the patent as-is and 11 auxiliary requests, each of which we believe will still provide coverage of the Flexi Palms. While any result that narrows or invalidates this patent could harm our ability to prevent third parties from producing competing products similar in design, we believe the result of these proceedings will not result in the patent being invalidated and that any result that relies upon one of the auxiliary requests would still provide us coverage regarding Flexi Palms in Europe.

As of December 31, 2020, we had 35 trademark registrations and 8 pending trademark applications worldwide.

Environmental matters

Our operations, properties and products are subject to a variety of U.S. and foreign environmental laws and regulations governing, among other things, air emissions, wastewater discharges, management and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials and waste and remediation of releases of hazardous materials. We believe, based on current information that we are in material compliance with environmental laws and regulations applicable to us. However, our failure to comply with present and future requirements under these laws and regulations, or environmental contamination or releases of hazardous materials on our leased premises, as well as through disposal of our products, could cause us to incur substantial costs, including clean-up costs, personal injury and property damage claims, fines and penalties, costs to redesign our products or upgrade our facilities and legal costs, or require us to curtail our operations, any of which could seriously harm our business.

Human capital resources

As of December 31, 2020, we had 238 full-time employees. None of our employees is represented by a labor union, and we consider our employee relations to be good. Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, incentivizing and integrating our existing and additional employees. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain and motivate selected employees, consultants and directors through the granting of stock-based compensation awards and cash-based performance bonus awards.

Item 1A. Risk Factors.

Risk factor summary

Below is a summary of the principal factors that make an investment in our common stock speculative or risky. This summary does not address all of the risks that we face. Additional discussion of the risks summarized in this risk factor summary, and other risks that we face, can be found below under the heading “Risk Factors” and should be carefully considered, together with other information in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC), before making investment decisions regarding our common stock.

 

We have a limited operating history and have grown significantly in a short period of time. If we fail to manage our growth effectively, our business could be materially and adversely affected.

 

We have a history of net losses, and we may not achieve or maintain profitability in the future.

 

We are deploying a new business model in an effort to disrupt a relatively mature industry. In order to successfully challenge incumbent business models and become profitable, we will need to continue to refine our product and strategy.

 

We operate in a highly competitive industry, and competitive pressures could have a material adverse effect on our business.

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There are a variety of hearing aid products and technologies, and consumer confusion about product features and technology could lead consumers to purchase competitive products instead of our products, or to conflate any adverse events or safety issues associated with third-party hearing aid products with our products, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

If we are unable to reduce our return rates or if our return rates increase, our net revenue may decrease or grow more slowly than we anticipate, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

 

We depend on sales of our hearing aids for our revenue. Demand for our hearing aids may not increase as rapidly as we anticipate due to a variety of factors, including a weakness in general economic conditions or competitive pressures.

 

If we cannot innovate at the pace of our hearing aid manufacturing competitors, we may not be able to develop or exploit new technologies in time to remain competitive.

 

Changes in the regulatory landscape for hearing aid devices could render our consumer-first business model contrary to applicable regulatory requirements, and we may be required to seek additional clearance or approval for our products.

 

Our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth may be impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

We currently rely on a single manufacturer for the assembly of our hearing aids. If we encounter manufacturing problems or delays, we may be unable to promptly transition to an alternative manufacturer and our ability to generate revenue will be limited.

 

We rely on the timely supply of components and parts and could suffer if suppliers fail to meet their delivery obligations, raise prices or cease to supply us with components or parts.

 

If the quality of our hearing solution does not meet consumer expectations, or if our products wear out more quickly than expected, then our brand and reputation or our business could be adversely affected.

 

The size and expected growth of our addressable market has not been established with precision, and may be smaller than we estimate.

 

Our success depends in part on our proprietary technology, and if we are unable to obtain, maintain or successfully enforce our intellectual property rights, the commercial value of our products and services will be adversely affected and our competitive position may be harmed.

Risk Factors

Our operating and financial results are subject to various risks and uncertainties. You should carefully consider the risks described below, as well as all of the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our financial statements and related notes, before investing in our common stock. While we believe that the risks and uncertainties described below are the material risks currently facing us, additional risks that we do not yet know of or that we currently think are immaterial may also arise and materially affect our business.

Risks relating to our industry and business

We have a limited operating history and have grown significantly in a short period of time. If we fail to manage our growth effectively, our business could be materially and adversely affected.

We were organized in 2010 and began selling hearing aids in 2015. Accordingly, we have a limited operating history, which makes an evaluation of our future prospects difficult. Our operating results have fluctuated in the past, and we expect our future quarterly and annual operating results to fluctuate as we focus on increasing the demand for our products. We may need to make business decisions that could adversely affect our operating results, such as modifications to our pricing strategy, business structure or operations.

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In addition, we have experienced recent rapid growth and anticipate further growth, although the COVID-19 pandemic may substantially impact our future growth. For example, our revenue increased from $32.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 to $69.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2020.

This growth has placed significant demands on our management, financial, operational, technological and other resources, and we expect that our growth will continue to place significant demands on our management and other resources and will require us to continue developing and improving our operational, financial and other internal controls. In particular, continued growth increases the challenges involved in a number of areas, including recruiting and retaining sufficient skilled personnel, providing adequate training and supervision to maintain our high-quality standards and preserving our culture and values. We may not be able to address these challenges in a cost-effective manner, or at all. If we do not effectively manage our growth, we may not be able to execute on our business plan, respond to competitive pressures, take advantage of market opportunities, satisfy customer requirements or maintain high-quality product offerings, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We have a history of net losses, and we may not achieve or maintain profitability in the future.

We have incurred net losses since inception. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, we incurred net losses of $39.9 million and $44.5 million, respectively. As a result of our ongoing losses, as of December 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $199.1 million. Since inception, we have spent significant funds on organizational and start-up activities, to recruit key managers and employees, to develop our hearing aids, to develop our manufacturing know-how and customer support resources and for research and development. The net losses we incur may fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and may increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our long-term success is dependent upon our ability to successfully develop, commercialize and market our products, earn revenue, obtain additional capital when needed and, ultimately, to achieve profitable operations. We will need to generate significant additional revenue to achieve profitability. It is possible that we will not achieve profitability or that, even if we do achieve profitability, we may not maintain or increase profitability in the future. Our failure to achieve or maintain profitability could negatively impact the value of our common stock.

We are deploying a new business model in an effort to disrupt a relatively mature industry. In order to successfully challenge incumbent business models and become profitable, we will need to continue to refine our product and strategy.

Our direct-to-consumer business model is new to the hearing aid industry. Our products are currently primarily available direct-to-consumer and are therefore generally not sold by channels which consumers would traditionally look to for the treatment of their hearing loss. Because audiologists and hearing clinics do not currently offer our products, they are unlikely to recommend our products as a solution to their patients. If we are unable to reach this population through our online or direct marketing, the estimated market size for our products may be lower than we anticipate.

Delivery of hearing aids via a direct-to-consumer model represents a change from the traditional channel, which requires in-person visits to one or more hearing care professionals, and consumers may be reluctant to accept this model or may not find it preferable to the traditional channel. In addition, consumers may not respond to our direct marketing campaigns, or we may be unsuccessful in reaching our target audience, particularly if we expand our sales efforts in foreign jurisdictions where our advertising and distribution model may be more heavily regulated. If consumers prove unwilling to adopt our model as rapidly or in the numbers that we anticipate, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially harmed.

We operate in a highly competitive industry, and competitive pressures could have a material adverse effect on our business.

The worldwide market for hearing aids is competitive in terms of pricing, product quality, product innovation and time-to-market. We face strong competitors, which have greater resources and stronger financial profiles that may enable them to better exploit changes in our industry on a cost-competitive basis and to be more effective and

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faster in capturing available market opportunities, which in turn may negatively impact our market share. There are five major traditional manufacturer competitors in the industry—GN Store Nord, Sonova, Starkey, William Demant and WS Audiology—who together control a significant majority of the hearing aid market.

In addition to these manufacturer competitors, Costco sells multiple brands of hearing aids, including those of the traditional manufacturers and Costco’s own white-label Kirkland Signature brand of hearing aid, at prices ranging from approximately $1,499 to $2,899 per pair. We estimate that during 2019, Costco dispensed approximately 14% of the hearing aids distributed in the United States, which percentage is expected to increase going forward. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or the VA, is also a significant provider of hearing aids and provides hearing aids at no charge to its patients. We estimate that, in 2019, the VA dispensed approximately 19% of the hearing aids distributed in the United States. Our products are not distributed by Costco, or on contract or currently eligible to be distributed by the VA.

We also face competition from companies that introduce new technologies, including consumer electronics companies that sell direct to consumers. For example, in May 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, granted marketing clearance to Bose Corporation for a “self-fitting air-conduction hearing aid.” The Bose self-fitting hearing aid was cleared under the FDA’s de novo premarket review pathway with the intended use to amplify sound for individuals 18 years of age or older with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment, with no pre-programming or hearing test necessary. We view our consumer-first model as a competitive advantage, and competitors, including Bose or other consumer electronics companies, that sell hearing aids directly to consumers may erode that advantage. Please see the risk factor below titled, “Changes in the regulatory landscape for hearing aid devices could render our direct-to-consumer business model contrary to applicable regulatory requirements, and we may be required to seek additional clearance or approval for our products.”

We also face competition from other direct-to-consumer hearing aid providers. Similar to our business model, these hearing aid companies allow consumers to purchase hearing aids remotely, with no need to visit a clinic and they provide remote clinical support. Given the similarities in our business model to these providers, if potential consumers opt to buy their hearing aids from these direct-to-consumer competitors, our business could be adversely affected.

We may be unable to compete with these or other competitors, and one or more of such competitors may render our technology obsolete or economically unattractive. To the extent we expand internationally, we will face additional competition in geographies outside the United States. If we are unable to compete effectively with existing products or respond effectively to any new products developed by competitors, our business could be materially harmed. Increased competition may result in price reductions, reduced gross margins and loss of market share. There can be no assurance that we will be able to compete successfully against our current or future competitors or that competitive pressures will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

There are a variety of hearing aid products and technologies, and consumer confusion about product features and technology could lead consumers to purchase competitive products instead of our products, or to conflate any adverse events or safety issues associated with third-party hearing aid products with our products, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We believe that many individuals do not have full information regarding the types of hearing aids and hearing aid features and technologies available in the market, in part due to the lack of consumer education in the traditional hearing industry sales model. Consumers may not have sufficient information about hearing aids generally or how hearing aid products and technologies compare to each other. This confusion may result in consumers purchasing hearing aids from our competitors instead of our products, even if our hearing aids would provide them with their desired product features. In addition, any adverse events or safety issues relating to competitive hearing aid products and related negative publicity, even if such events are not attributable to our products, could result in reduced purchases of hearing aids by consumers generally. Any of these occurrences could lead to reduced sales of our products and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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If we are unable to reduce our return rates or if our return rates increase, our net revenue may decrease or grow more slowly than we anticipate, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Eargo’s customer return accrual rates were approximately 26% for the year ended December 31, 2020. Our return policy allows our customers to return hearing aids for any reason within the first 45 days of delivery for a full refund, subject to a handling fee in certain states. We report revenue net of expected returns, which is an estimate informed in part by historical return rates. As such, our return rate impacts our reported net revenue and profitability. If actual sales returns differ significantly from our estimates, an adjustment to revenue in the current or subsequent period is recorded. Furthermore, if we are unable to reduce our return rates or if they increase, our net revenue may decrease or grow more slowly than we anticipate, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

We depend on sales of our hearing aids for our revenue. Demand for our hearing aids may not increase as rapidly as we anticipate due to a variety of factors, including a weakness in general economic conditions or competitive pressures.

We expect that revenue from sales of our hearing aids will continue to account for our revenue for the foreseeable future. Continued and widespread market acceptance of hearing aids by consumers is critical to our future success. Consumer spending habits are affected by, among other things, prevailing economic conditions, levels of employment, salaries and wage rates, consumer confidence and consumer perception of economic conditions, which have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and may continue to be materially adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearing aids are primarily paid for directly by the consumer and, as a result, demand can vary significantly depending on economic growth. A general slowdown in the U.S. economy and international economies into which we may expand or an uncertain economic outlook could adversely affect consumer spending habits, which may result in, among other things, a reduction in consumer spending on elective or higher value products, or a reduction in demand for hearing aids generally, each of which would have an adverse effect on our sales and operating results. Weakness in the global economy results in a challenging environment for selling hearing loss technologies. In such circumstances, consumers may opt to purchase less expensive hearing loss technologies. If there is a reduction in consumer demand for hearing aids generally, if consumers choose to use a competitive product rather than our hearing aids or if the average selling price of our hearing aids declines as a result of economic conditions, competitive pressures or any other reason, these factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. If we are not successful in adapting our production and cost structure to the market environment, we may experience further adverse effects that may be material to our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If we cannot innovate at the pace of our hearing aid manufacturing competitors, we may not be able to develop or exploit new technologies in time to remain competitive.

The hearing aid industry has in the past experienced rapid shifts to new key technologies, including for example the switch from analog to digital hearing aids in the 1990s, that disrupted existing market patterns and led to a large-scale market realignment among customers and hearing aid manufacturers. For us to remain competitive, it is essential to develop and bring to market new technologies or to find new applications for existing technologies at an increasing speed. If we are unable to meet customer demands for new technology, or if the technologies we introduce are viewed less favorably than our competitors’ products, our results of operations and future prospects may be negatively affected. To meet our customers’ needs in these areas, we must continuously design new products, update existing products and invest in and develop new technologies. Our operating results depend to a significant extent on our ability to anticipate and adapt to technological changes in the hearing aid market, maintain innovation, maintain a strong product pipeline and reduce the costs of producing high-quality new and existing hearing aids. Any inability to do so could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Changes in the regulatory landscape for hearing aid devices could render our direct-to-consumer business model contrary to applicable regulatory requirements, and we may be required to seek additional clearance or approval for our products.

Hearing aids are considered medical devices subject to regulation by the FDA. We currently market our products pursuant to the FDA regulatory framework for air-conduction hearing aids, which are classified as Class I or Class II devices exempt from premarket review procedures. In addition, while applicable FDA regulations establish certain “conditions for sale” of all hearing aids, including that prospective hearing aid users must have a medical evaluation by a licensed physician within the six months prior to hearing aid dispensation, the FDA has stated that it does not intend to enforce these medical evaluation requirements prior to the dispensing of Class I air-conduction and Class II wireless air-conduction hearing aids to individuals 18 years of age and older. Accordingly, while we are required to comply with other FDA requirements, including specific hearing aid labeling requirements and provision of a User Instructional Brochure, our products have not been reviewed by the FDA and are not dispensed by licensed physicians. If the FDA were to determine that our products do not properly satisfy the conditions for marketing Class I or Class II air-conduction hearing aid devices, we could be forced to cease distribution of our products until we obtain regulatory clearance or approval, and we could be subject to additional enforcement action by the FDA. In addition, many states have laws regarding the provision of hearing aid devices, and if we are found to be in violation of the laws of any state in which our devices are sold, we could be subject to further sanctions at the state level.

The regulatory landscape for hearing aid devices has been subject to recent changes that may alter or increase our requirements for regulatory compliance. The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, or FDARA, created a new category of over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids that are intended to be available through in-person transactions, by mail or online without the involvement of a licensed practitioner. Under the statute, the FDA is required to issue regulations to implement the new framework. As part of its rulemaking process, the FDA is required to evaluate whether OTC hearing aids should be subject to premarket review and clearance under Section 510(k) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, and it is unclear whether the FDA will subject OTC hearing aids to this requirement or other more onerous requirements. The language in FDARA is not self-implementing, which means that the OTC hearing aid category does not exist until the effective date of a published final regulation. Despite the deadline in FDARA for the FDA to issue proposed regulations by August 18, 2020, the FDA has not yet issued a notice of proposed rulemaking or indicated how it will implement the new OTC hearing aid pathway. We market the Eargo system devices as Class I or Class II exempt air-conduction hearing aids under existing regulations and are not dependent on the FDA’s issuance of OTC hearing aid regulations for the marketing of our products. However, our devices may become subject to additional requirements in connection with such regulations in the future.

In addition, in May 2018, the FDA granted a de novo classification request from Bose for a direct-to-consumer “self-fitting air-conduction hearing aid,” which is classified as Class II and subject to 510(k) premarket review. We do not consider our devices to be “self-fitting” hearing aids similar to the recently cleared Bose device, but the FDA could disagree. While we expect our products to continue to be regulated as Class I or Class II exempt devices, our products could in the future be deemed to fall under the definition of a “self-fitting air-conduction hearing aid” or an OTC hearing aid, in which case we could be required to seek 510(k) clearance for our products or otherwise comply with additional regulatory requirements associated with these new pathways. In such case, the FDA may require us to remove our devices from the market while we seek FDA clearance. In addition, even if our current products remain Class I or Class II exempt devices, it is possible that any future products we may develop could fail to meet the requisite criteria for similar regulation and could be subject to more stringent requirements and premarket review, increasing our costs for regulatory compliance.

Our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth may be impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are subject to risks related to public health crises such as the global pandemic associated with COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic may negatively impact our operations and revenues and overall financial condition by harming the ability or willingness of customers to pay for our products due to macro -economic conditions resulting from the pandemic or the operations of manufacturers, suppliers and other third parties with which we do business. These challenges will likely continue for the duration of the pandemic, which is uncertain, and the macro-economic effects of the pandemic will likely continue far beyond the duration of the pandemic.

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Numerous state and local jurisdictions have imposed or reimposed, and others in the future may impose, “shelter-in-place” orders, quarantines, orders requiring non-essential businesses to remain closed, executive orders and similar government orders and restrictions for their residents to control the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic and such restrictions have resulted in a majority of our employees working remotely, work stoppages, slowdowns and delays, travel restrictions and cancellation of events, among other effects, thereby negatively impacting our operations. Other potential disruptions may include delays in processing registrations or approvals by applicable state or federal regulatory bodies; delays in product development efforts; and additional government requirements or other incremental mitigation efforts that may further impact our capacity to manufacture, sell and support the use of our Eargo systems. In addition, even after the “shelter-in-place” orders, quarantines, executive orders and similar government orders and restrictions for their residents to control the spread of COVID-19 are lifted, we may continue to experience disruptions to our business.

While the potential economic impact brought by and the duration of COVID-19 may be difficult to assess or predict, the widespread pandemic has resulted in, and may continue to result in, significant disruption of global financial markets, reducing our ability to access capital, which could in the future negatively affect our liquidity, including our ability to repay our existing indebtedness. In addition, a recession or market correction resulting from the spread of COVID-19 could materially affect our business and the value of our common stock. The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a significant increase in unemployment in the United States which may continue even after the pandemic subsides. The occurrence of any such events may lead to reduced disposable income and access to health insurance which could adversely affect the number of our products sold after the pandemic has subsided. Further, although we have experienced growth in our sales volume during the COVID-19 pandemic, this and any other favorable impacts we have experienced in connection with the pandemic may subside, and the ultimate effect of COVID-19 on our sales volume and other results of operations could differ substantially from our expectations and our experience to date.

We currently rely on a single manufacturer for the assembly of our hearing aids. If we encounter manufacturing problems or delays, we may be unable to promptly transition to an alternative manufacturer and our ability to generate revenue will be limited.

We have no manufacturing capabilities of our own. We currently rely on a single manufacturer located in Thailand, Hana Microelectronics, for the manufacture of all of our products currently available for sale. We have entered in a manufacturing services agreement with a second manufacturer located in Taiwan, Pegatron Corporation, for the manufacture of our next generation hearing aid. For us to be successful, our contract manufacturers must be able to provide us with products in substantial quantities, in compliance with regulatory requirements, in accordance with agreed upon specifications, at acceptable costs and on a timely basis. While our existing manufacturer has generally met our demand requirements on a timely basis in the past, its ability and willingness to continue to do so going forward, and the ability and willingness of our new manufacturer to meet our demand requirements, may be limited for several reasons, including our relative importance as a customer of the manufacturer or its ability to provide assembly services to manufacture our products, which may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. An interruption in our commercial operations could occur if we encounter delays or difficulties in securing these manufactured products if we cannot obtain an acceptable substitute.

Any transition to a new contract manufacturer, or any transition of products between existing manufacturers, could be time-consuming and expensive, may result in interruptions in our operations and product delivery, could affect the performance specifications of our products or could require that we modify the design of our products. If we are required to change either of our contract manufacturers, we will be required to verify that the new manufacturer maintains facilities, procedures and operations that comply with our quality and applicable regulatory requirements, which could further impede our ability to manufacture our products in a timely manner. We cannot assure you that we will be able to identify and engage alternative contract manufacturers on similar terms or without delay. Furthermore, our contract manufacturers could require us to move to a different production facility. The occurrence of any of these events could harm our ability to meet the demand for our products in a timely and cost-effective manner, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The manufacture of our products is complex and requires the integration of a number of components from several sources of supply. Our contract manufacturers must manufacture and assemble these complex products in

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commercial quantities in compliance with regulatory requirements and at an acceptable cost. Our hearing aids require significant expertise to manufacture, and our contract manufacturers may encounter difficulties in scaling up production of the hearing aids, including problems with quality control and assurance, component supply shortages, increased costs, shortages of qualified personnel, the long lead time required to develop additional facilities for purposes of testing our products and/or difficulties associated with compliance with local, state, federal and foreign regulatory requirements. There can be no assurance that manufacturing or quality control problems will not arise in connection with the scale-up of the manufacture of our products. If we are unable to obtain a sufficient supply of product, maintain control over product quality and cost or otherwise adapt to anticipated growth, or if we underestimate growth, we may not have the capability to satisfy market demand, and our business and reputation in the marketplace will suffer. Conversely, if demand for our products decreases, we may have excess inventory, which could result in inventory write-offs that would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. We may also encounter defects in materials and/or workmanship, which could lead to a failure to adhere to regulatory requirements. Any defects could delay operations at our contract manufacturers’ facilities, lead to regulatory fines or halt or discontinue manufacturing indefinitely. Any of these outcomes could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We rely on the timely supply of components and parts and could suffer if suppliers fail to meet their delivery obligations, raise prices or cease to supply us with components or parts.

We rely on three critical suppliers for many of the components that are used in the manufacture of our products, including for batteries, integrated circuits, microphones and receivers. This reliance on third parties adds additional risks to the manufacturing process that are beyond our control. For example, the occurrence of epidemics or pandemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, may cause one or more of our suppliers to close or reduce the scope of their operations either temporarily or permanently. In addition, many of these suppliers also provide components and products to our competitors. The industry’s reliance on a limited number of key components and product suppliers subjects us to the risk that in the event of an increase in demand, our suppliers may fail to provide supplies to us in a timely manner while they continue to supply our competitors, many of which have greater purchasing power than us, or seek to supply components to us at a higher cost. The failure of our suppliers to deliver components or products in a timely fashion could have disruptive effects on our ability to produce our products in a timely manner, or we may be required to find new suppliers at an increased cost. Furthermore, we generally do not enter into long-term commitment contracts with our suppliers, but rather enter into framework agreements as a basis for individual orders. The terms of such framework agreements are typically up to two years and in most cases do not contain any firm purchase commitments. We can make no assurance that we will be able to renew such supply agreements. If we are unable to renew supply agreements, our access to key components could be reduced, which could harm our business. Additionally, our reputation and the quality of our products are in part dependent on the quality of the components that we source from third-party suppliers. If we are unable to control the quality of the components supplied to us or to address known quality problems in a timely manner, our reputation in the market may be damaged and sales of our products may suffer. As a result, we may experience a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Certain components needed to manufacture our hearing aids are only available from a limited number of suppliers.

Several of our suppliers provide products for our hearing aids and accessories for which they own the design and/or intellectual property rights. This includes integrated circuits, transducers, batteries and various electrical components. Although there may be several potential suppliers for our components, as our components are highly customized, there is a risk that these components may not be readily substituted by similar products of other suppliers or that any substitution may take a lengthy period of time to implement. Even if we do identify new suppliers, we may experience increased costs and product shortages as we transition to alternative suppliers. If any of these limited suppliers cease to supply us with their products, or any of the foregoing events occurs, we could experience a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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If we are unable to successfully develop and effectively manage the introduction of new products, our business may be adversely affected.

We must successfully manage introductions of new or advanced hearing aid products. Introductions of new or advanced hearing aid products could also adversely impact the sales of our existing products to consumers. For instance, the introduction or announcement of new or advanced hearing aid products may shorten the life cycle of our existing devices or reduce demand, thereby reducing any benefits of successful hearing aid introductions and potentially lead to challenges in managing write-downs or write-offs of inventory of existing products. In addition, new hearing aid products may have higher manufacturing costs than legacy products, which could negatively impact our gross margins and operating results. Accordingly, if we fail to effectively manage introductions of new or advanced products, our business may be adversely affected.

We experience challenges managing the inventory of existing hearing aids, which can lead to excess inventory and discounting of our existing devices. Inventory levels in excess of consumer demand may result in inventory write-downs or write-offs and the sale of inventory at discounted prices, which has affected our gross margin and could impair the strength of our brand. Reserves and write-downs for rebates, promotions and excess inventory are recorded based on our forecast of future demand. Actual future demand could be less than our forecast, which may result in additional reserves and write-downs in the future, or actual demand could be stronger than our forecast, which may result in a reduction to previously recorded reserves and write-downs in the future and increase the volatility of our operating results.

If the quality of our hearing solution does not meet consumer expectations, or if our products wear out more quickly than expected, then our brand and reputation or our business could be adversely affected.

Our products may not perform as well in day-to-day use as we or our customers expect. Although we designed our Eargo hearing aids to provide high quality audio, we have collected limited data comparing our products to competitive devices. In October 2019, we conducted a series of comparative electroacoustic benchmarking tests, or the Bench Study, to compare our Eargo Neo hearing aid with hearing aids from three major manufacturers. While each of the devices tested in the Bench Study, including our Eargo Neo hearing aid, met or exceeded the identified benchmarks for appropriate levels of sound quality and amplification to improve speech audibility, the design, methodology and results of the Bench Study have not been subject to external review and may not be reliable or replicable indicators of the general performance of our Eargo Neo hearing aid or the other manufacturers’ hearing aids that were the subject of the Bench Study. Further, the benchmarks for appropriate levels of sound quality and amplification that we identified in the Bench Study may not be appropriate proxies for hearing aid performance or reflect the real-world performance of any tested device. Future studies, including our internal studies or those of our competitors or other third parties, may not yield the results that we expect to obtain and may not demonstrate that our products are superior to, or may demonstrate that our products are inferior to, existing or future products with regard to functional or economic measures. These study results may be published in medical journals or other publications, or by our competitors and result in adverse publicity for our products. The performance of our Eargo hearing aids may not live up to customer expectations, and our brand, reputation, customer satisfaction, return rates and sales may be adversely affected as a result.

Furthermore, because of our products’ limited time in the market, we cannot be certain about the usable life of our products. Due to the design constraints applicable to our rechargeable, in-the-canal form factor, our hearing aids may offer a shorter usable life compared to our competitors’ hearing aids. Thus, even though our products may be more affordable than competitive devices, they may need to be replaced more often. Although we believe the advantages of our design justify this tradeoff, customers may expect a longer useful life, and failure to live up to this expectation could result in reduced sales, decreased customer loyalty, higher-than-expected warranty claims and adverse publicity.

Certain components of our hearing aids may also offer reduced performance or wear out over time. For example, the rechargeable technology used in our hearing aids and charging cases has a limited lifespan, and recharging performance will degrade over time. We designed our Eargo Neo and Eargo Neo HiFi hearing aids to provide up to 20 hours of continuous use between charges when new and up to 16 hours after 1,000 charging cycles, but charging capacity may decrease more quickly than expected. Moreover, certain components of our hearing aids, including Flexi Fibers and Flexi Palms that can be purchased online, will require more frequent replacement than the

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device itself. If the quality, longevity and durability of our products does not meet the expectations of customers, then our brand and reputation and our business, financial condition and results of operations, could be adversely affected.

Customer or third-party complaints or negative reviews or publicity about our company or our hearing aids could harm our reputation and brand.

We are heavily dependent on customers who use our hearing aids to provide good reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations to contribute to our growth. Customers who are dissatisfied with their experiences with our products or services may post negative reviews. We may also be the subject of blog, forum or other media postings that include inaccurate statements and create negative publicity. In addition, traditional hearing aid supply chain participants may express and publish negative views regarding our direct-to-consumer model and products. Any negative reviews or publicity, whether real or perceived, disseminated by word-of-mouth, by the general media, by electronic or social networking means or by other methods, could harm our reputation and brand and could severely diminish consumer confidence in our products.

Repair or replacement costs due to guarantees we provide on our products could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We provide product guarantees to our customers, both as a result of contractual and legal provisions and for marketing purposes. We allow for the return of products from direct customers within 45 days after the original sale and record estimated sales returns as a reduction of sales in the same period revenue is recognized. We also generally allow customers to return defective or damaged products for a replacement or refund. The term of the warranty provided is currently two years for Neo HiFi and one year for all other devices. Existing and future product guarantees place us at the risk of incurring future repair and/or replacement costs. As of December 31, 2020, we had provisions of $2.4 million relating to warranties. Substantial amounts of product guarantee claims could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In addition, we reserve for the estimated cost of product warranties when revenue is recognized, and we evaluate our warranty reserves periodically by reviewing our warranty repair experience. While we engage in product quality programs and processes, including monitoring and evaluating the quality of our components sourced from our suppliers and instituting methods to remotely detect and correct defects, our warranty obligation is affected by actual product defect rates, parts and equipment costs and service labor costs incurred in correcting a product defect. Our warranty reserves may be inadequate due to undetected product defects, unanticipated component failures or changes in estimates for material, labor and other costs we may incur to replace projected product defects. As a result, if actual product defect rates, parts and equipment costs or service labor costs exceed our estimates, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our failure to successfully anticipate product returns may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our net losses are affected by changes in reserves to account for product returns and product credits. The reserve for product returns accounts for customer returns of our products after purchase. We record a reserve for product returns based on historical return trends together with current product sales performance in each reporting period. If actual returns are greater than those projected and reserved for by management, additional sales returns may be recorded in the future. We do not currently have the ability to resell products that are returned. To the extent we are unable to successfully refurbish devices in the future, we will not be able to resell such devices. Further, the introduction of new products, changes in product mix, changes in consumer confidence or other competitive and general economic conditions may cause actual returns to differ from product return reserves. Any significant increase in product returns that exceeds our reserves could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Accelerated consolidation and formation of purchasing groups increases the pricing pressure on hearing aids.

Many purchasing groups, such as hearing aid clinics, retailers and hospital systems, are consolidating to create new entities with greater market power. Such groups, such as Costco and the VA, have used and may continue to use their increased purchasing power to negotiate price reductions or other concessions across our industry. This pricing leverage has resulted, and will likely continue to result, in downward pressure on the average selling prices of hearing aid products generally, including our own products. The forthcoming OTC regulations could further contribute to the pace of consolidation as well as the introduction of new entrants in the hearing aid market. Please see the risk factor titled, “Changes in the regulatory landscape for hearing aid devices could render our direct-to-consumer business model contrary to applicable regulatory requirements, and we may be required to seek additional clearance or approval for our products.” These factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The size and expected growth of our addressable market has not been established with precision and may be smaller than we estimate.

Our estimates of the addressable market for our current products and future products are based on a number of internal and third-party estimates and assumptions, including the prevalence of hearing loss across income levels and demographic profiles. While we believe our assumptions and the data underlying our estimates are reasonable, these assumptions and estimates may not be correct. For example, although we expect that the prevalence of hearing loss will increase as the U.S. population ages, demographic trends could shift and the prevalence of hearing loss could decrease. Furthermore, even if the prevalence of hearing loss increases as we expect, technological or medical advances could provide alternatives to address hearing loss and reduce demand for hearing aids. As a result, our estimates of the size and expected growth of the addressable market for our current or future products may prove to be incorrect. If the actual number of consumers who would benefit from our products, the price at which we can sell future products or the addressable market for our products is smaller than we estimate, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Changes in third-party coverage and reimbursement may impact our ability to grow and sell our products.

Our products are primarily purchased on a cash-pay basis and currently only have limited coverage by third-party payors. Third-party coverage and reimbursement may increase for certain hearing aids but not our products, or could decrease for our products, which could reduce our market share. The process for determining whether a third-party payor will provide coverage for a product may be separate from the process for establishing the reimbursement rate that such a payor will pay for the product. A payor’s decision to provide coverage for a product does not imply that an adequate reimbursement rate will be approved. Further, one payor’s determination to provide coverage for a product does not assure that other payors will also provide such coverage. Third-party coverage and reimbursement may never become available to us at sufficient levels.

To the extent we sell our products internationally, market acceptance may depend, in part, upon the availability of coverage and reimbursement within prevailing healthcare payment systems. Reimbursement and healthcare payment systems in international markets vary significantly by country and include both government-sponsored healthcare and private insurance. We may not obtain international coverage and reimbursement approvals in a timely manner, if at all. Our failure to receive such approvals would negatively impact market acceptance of our products in the international markets in which those approvals are sought.

We spend significant amounts on advertising and other marketing campaigns to acquire new customers, which may not be successful or cost effective.

We market our hearing aids through a mix of digital and traditional marketing channels. These include paid search, digital display advertising, email marketing, affiliate marketing, direct response television, national reach television and select print and radio advertising. We also leverage our database of prospects and customers to further drive customer acquisition and referrals. We spend significant amounts on advertising and other marketing campaigns to acquire new customers, and we expect our marketing expenses to increase in the future as we continue to spend significant amounts to acquire new customers and increase awareness of our products. While we seek to structure our marketing campaigns in the manner that we believe is most likely to encourage consumers to use our

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products, we may fail to identify marketing opportunities that satisfy our anticipated return on marketing spend as we scale our investments in marketing, accurately predict customer acquisition or fully understand or estimate the conditions and behaviors that drive consumer behavior. If any of our marketing campaigns prove less successful than anticipated in attracting new customers, we may not be able to recover our marketing spend, and our rate of customer acquisition may fail to meet market expectations, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. There can be no assurance that our marketing efforts will result in increased sales of our products.

In addition, we believe that building a strong brand and developing and achieving broad awareness of our brand is critical to achieving market success. If any of our brand-building activities prove less successful than anticipated in attracting new customers, we may not be able to recover our brand-building spend, and our rate of customer acquisition may fail to meet market expectations, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. There can be no assurance that our brand-building efforts will result in increased sales of our products.

We experience seasonality in our business, which may cause fluctuations in our financial results.

Historically, we have experienced and expect to continue to experience seasonality in our business, with higher sales volumes in quarters when we launch new products and in the fourth calendar quarter as a result of holiday promotional activity.

Because of these fluctuations, among other factors, it is possible that in future periods our operating results will fall below the expectations of securities analysts or investors, in which case the market price of our stock would likely decrease. These fluctuations, among other factors, also mean that our operating results in any particular period may not be relied upon as an indication of future performance.

Our products are complex to design and manufacture and could contain defects. The production and sale of defective products could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If product liability lawsuits are brought against us, we may incur substantial liabilities and may be required to limit commercialization of our products.

We make hearing aids that include highly complex electronic components, which are sourced from external third parties, and there is an inherent risk that defects may occur in the production of any of our products. Although we rely on the supplier’s internal procedures designed to minimize risks that may arise from quality issues, there can be no assurance that we or our suppliers will be able to eliminate or mitigate occurrences of these issues and associated liabilities. Under consumer product legislation in many jurisdictions, we may be forced to recall or repurchase defective products, and more restrictive laws and regulations relating to these matters may be adopted in the future. We also face exposure to product liability claims in the event that any of our devices are alleged to have resulted in personal injury or damage to property, or otherwise to have caused harm. For example, we may be sued if any of our hearing aids allegedly causes injury or is found to be otherwise unsuitable during product testing, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, negligence, strict liability and a breach of warranty. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit commercialization of our products. Even successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

 

decreased demand for our current or future products;

 

injury to our reputation;

 

costs to defend the related litigation;

 

a diversion of management’s time and our resources;

 

substantial monetary awards to customers;

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regulatory investigations, product recalls, withdrawals or labeling, marketing or promotional restrictions;

 

loss of revenue; and

 

the inability to sell our current or any future products.

Our inability to obtain and maintain sufficient product liability insurance at an acceptable cost and scope of coverage to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the sale of our current or any future products we develop. Although we currently carry product liability insurance, any claim that may be brought against us could result in a court judgment or settlement in an amount that is not covered, in whole or in part, by our insurance or that is in excess of the limits of our insurance coverage. Our insurance policies also have various exclusions and deductibles, and we may be subject to a product liability claim for which we have no coverage. We will have to pay any amounts awarded by a court or negotiated in a settlement that exceed our coverage limitations or that are not covered by our insurance, and we may not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient funds to pay such amounts. Moreover, in the future, we may not be able to maintain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost or in sufficient amounts to protect us against losses.

In addition, any product defects, recalls or claims that result in significant adverse publicity could have a negative effect on our reputation, result in loss of market share or failure to achieve market acceptance. For example, our first generation hearing aid, launched in 2015, had a high incidence of product returns and warranty claims. As a result, we voluntarily withdrew the product from the market. The production and sale of defective products in the future could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to consumer protection laws that regulate our marketing practices and prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Our actual or perceived failure to comply with such obligations could harm our business, and changes in such regulations or laws could require us to modify our products or marketing or advertising efforts.

In connection with the marketing or advertisement of our products, we could be the target of claims relating to false, misleading, deceptive or otherwise noncompliant advertising or marketing practices, including under the auspices of the Federal Trade Commission and state consumer protection statutes. If we rely on third parties to provide any marketing and advertising of our products, we could be liable for, or face reputational harm as a result of, their marketing practices if, for example, they fail to comply with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

If we are found to have breached any consumer protection, advertising, unfair competition or other laws or regulations, we may be subject to enforcement actions that require us to change our marketing and business practices in a manner which may negatively impact us. This could also result in litigation, fines, penalties and adverse publicity that could cause reputational harm and loss of customer trust, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Alternative technologies or therapies that improve or cure hearing loss could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If medical research were to lead to the discovery of alternative therapies or technologies that improve or cure the various forms of hearing loss as an alternative to the hearing aid, such as by surgical techniques, the use of pharmaceuticals or breakthrough bio-technological innovations or therapies, our profitability could suffer through a reduction in sales. The discovery of a cure for the various forms of hearing loss and the development of other alternatives to hearing aids could result in decreased demand for our products and, accordingly, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Adapting our production capacities to evolving patterns of demand is expensive, time-consuming and subject to significant uncertainties. We may not be able to adequately predict consumer trends and may be unable to adjust our production in a timely manner.

We market our products directly to consumers in the United States, where we face the risk of significant changes in the demand for our products. If demand decreases, we will need to implement capacity and cost reduction measures involving restructuring costs. If demand increases, we will be required to make capital expenditures related to increased production and expenditures to hire and train production and sales and product support personnel. Adapting to changes in demand inherently lags behind the actual changes because it takes time to identify the change the market is undergoing and to implement any measures taken as a result. Finally, capacity adjustments are inherently risky because there is imperfect information, and market trends may rapidly intensify, ebb or even reverse. We have in the past not always been, and may in the future not be, able to accurately or timely predict trends in demand and consumer behavior or to take appropriate measures to mitigate risks and exploit opportunities resulting from such trends. Any inability in the future to identify or to adequately and effectively react to changes in demand could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

International trade disputes could result in tariffs and other protectionist measures that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Tariffs could increase the cost of our products and the raw materials that go into making them. These increased costs could adversely impact the gross margin that we earn on our products. Tariffs could also make our products more expensive for customers, which could make our products less competitive and reduce consumer demand. Countries may also adopt other protectionist measures that could limit our ability to offer our products. Political uncertainty surrounding international trade disputes and protectionist measures could also have a negative effect on consumer confidence and spending, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are dependent on international manufacturers and suppliers, which exposes us to foreign operational and political risks that may harm our business.

We currently rely on a single manufacturer located in Thailand, Hana Microelectronics, for the manufacture of all of our products currently available for sale and have entered into a manufacturing services agreement with a second manufacturer located in Taiwan, Pegatron Corporation, for the manufacture of our next generation hearing aid. In addition, we rely on some third-party suppliers in Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan, China and the United States, who supply, among other things, certain of the technology and raw materials used in the manufacturing of our products. Our reliance on international operations exposes us to risks and uncertainties, including:

 

controlling quality of supplies;

 

trade protection measures, tariffs and other duties, especially in light of trade disputes between the United States and several foreign countries, including China and countries in Europe;

 

political, social and economic instability;

 

the outbreak of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19;

 

laws and business practices that favor local companies;

 

interruptions and limitations in telecommunication services;

 

product or material delays or disruption;

 

import and export license requirements and restrictions;

 

difficulties in the protection of intellectual property;

 

exchange controls, currency restrictions and fluctuations in currency values; and

 

potential adverse tax consequences.

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If any of these risks were to materialize, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If manufacturers and suppliers are unable to procure raw materials, semi-finished products and finished products on terms or within timeframes acceptable to us, our business may suffer.

We are dependent on the availability of raw materials necessary to manufacture the products we sell. We rely on third-party manufacturers and suppliers to identify and purchase quality raw materials, semi-finished goods and finished goods while seeking to preserve our quality standards. If our suppliers or third-party manufacturers experience shortages, limited access or increased costs of certain raw materials and other semi-finished or finished goods, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may result in production delays or delays in deliveries of our products to our customers. Production by one or more manufacturers or suppliers may be suspended or delayed, temporarily or permanently, due to economic or technical problems such as the insolvency of the manufacturer, the failure of the manufacturing facilities or disruption of the production process, all of which are beyond our control. Any shortage, delay or interruption in the availability of our products may negatively affect our ability to meet consumer demand. As a result, our business may be unable to offer a satisfactory experience to customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We or the third parties upon whom we depend may be adversely affected by disasters, and our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster. Any interruption in the operations of our or our suppliers’ manufacturing or other facilities may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our corporate headquarters are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has experienced both severe earthquakes and wildfires. We do not carry earthquake insurance. The current sole manufacturer of our hearing aid finished products is located in Thailand, which has experienced landslides, flooding, tropical storms and tsunamis. We have entered into a manufacturing services agreement with a second manufacturer located in Taiwan, which has also experienced landslides, flooding, tropical storms and tsunamis. Our customer support operations are based in Nashville, Tennessee, and our third-party provider’s distribution facilities are based in Louisville, Kentucky, both of which have experienced flooding and tornadoes. Severe weather, natural disasters and other calamities, such as pandemics (including COVID-19), earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes, fires and explosions, accidents, mechanical failures, unscheduled downtimes, civil unrest, strikes, transportation interruptions, unpermitted discharges or releases of toxic or hazardous substances, other environmental risks, sabotage, geopolitical unrest, political instability, terrorism or acts of war, could severely disrupt our operations, or our third-party manufacturers’ and suppliers’ operations, and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If a natural disaster, power outage or other event occurred that prevented us from using all or a significant portion of our headquarters or other facilities, or those of our third-party manufacturers or suppliers, that damaged critical infrastructure, such as our enterprise financial systems or manufacturing resource planning and enterprise quality systems, or that otherwise disrupted operations, it may be difficult or, in certain cases, impossible, for us to continue our business for a substantial period of time. A mechanical failure or disruption affecting any major operating line may result in a disruption to our ability to supply customers, and standby capacity may not be available. The disaster recovery and business continuity plans we have in place currently are limited and are unlikely to prove adequate in the event of a serious disaster or similar event. The potential impact of any disruption would depend on the nature and extent of the damage caused by a disaster. There can be no assurance that alternative production capacity will be available in the future in the event of a major disruption or, if it is available, that it could be obtained on favorable terms. We may incur substantial expenses as a result of the limited nature of our disaster recovery and business continuity plans, which, particularly when taken together with our lack of earthquake insurance, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Furthermore, integral parties in our supply chain are similarly vulnerable to natural disasters or other sudden, unforeseen and severe adverse events. If such an event were to affect our supply chain, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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We may be deemed to manufacture or contract to manufacture products that contain “conflict minerals.”

While we do not believe we manufacture or contract to manufacture products that contain conflict minerals, we may be deemed to manufacture or contract to manufacture products that contain certain minerals that have been designated as “conflict minerals” under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As a result, in future periods, we may be required to diligence the origin of such minerals and disclose and report whether or not such minerals originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or adjoining countries. The implementation of these new requirements could adversely affect the sourcing, availability and pricing of minerals used in the manufacture of our products. In addition, we may incur additional costs to comply with the disclosure requirements, including costs related to determining the source of any of the relevant minerals and metals used in our products.

Any future international expansion will subject us to additional costs and risks that may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Historically, all of our sales have been to customers in the United States. To the extent we enter into international markets in the future, there are significant costs and risks inherent in conducting business in international markets. If we expand, or attempt to expand, into foreign markets, we will be subject to new business risks, in addition to regulatory risks. In addition, expansion into foreign markets imposes additional burdens on our executive and administrative personnel, finance and legal teams, research and marketing teams and general managerial resources.

We have limited experience with regulatory environments and market practices internationally, and we may not be able to penetrate or successfully operate in new markets. We may also encounter difficulty expanding into international markets because of limited brand recognition in certain parts of the world, leading to delayed acceptance of our products by consumers in these international markets. If we are unable to expand internationally and manage the complexity of international operations successfully, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. If our efforts to introduce our products into foreign markets are not successful, we may have expended significant resources without realizing the expected benefit. Ultimately, the investment required for expansion into foreign markets could exceed the results of operations generated from this expansion.

Our Loan Agreement contains restrictions that limit our flexibility in operating our business.

In June 2018, we entered into a loan and security agreement, as amended in January 2019, May 2020 and in September 2020, with Silicon Valley Bank (the 2018 Loan). We borrowed $15.0 million upon the closing of the September 2020 amendment, a portion of which was used to repay in full the outstanding principal amount of the previously funded term loan. As of December 31, 2020, $15.0 million in aggregate principal amount was outstanding under the term loan facility. The 2018 Loan has a maturity date of September 1, 2024. The 2018 Loan contains various covenants that limit our ability to engage in specified types of transactions without Silicon Valley Bank’s prior consent. These covenants limit our ability to, among other things:

 

encumber or license our intellectual property subject to certain exceptions;

 

sell, transfer, lease or dispose of our assets subject to certain exclusions;

 

create, incur or assume additional indebtedness;

 

encumber or permit liens on any of our assets other than certain permitted liens;

 

make restricted payments, including paying dividends on, repurchasing or making distributions with respect to any of our capital stock;

 

make specified investments (including loans and advances);

 

consolidate, merge with, or acquire any other entity, or sell or otherwise dispose of all or substantially all of our assets; and

 

enter into certain transactions with our affiliates.

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In addition, the 2018 Loan requires us to maintain a certain percentage of our total cash holdings in accounts with Silicon Valley Bank. The covenants in the 2018 Loan limit our ability to take certain actions and, in the event that we breach one or more covenants, Silicon Valley Bank may choose to declare an event of default and require that we immediately repay all amounts outstanding of the aggregate principal amount of term loans funded under the 2018 Loan, plus exit fees, prepayment premiums, penalties and interest, and foreclose on the collateral granted to it to secure such indebtedness. Such repayment could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to a number of risks related to the credit card and debit card payments we accept.

We accept payments through credit and debit card transactions. For credit and debit card payments, we pay interchange and other fees, which may increase over time. An increase in those fees may require us to increase the prices we charge and would increase our operating expenses, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If we or our processing vendors fail to maintain adequate systems for the authorization and processing of credit and debit card transactions, it could cause one or more of the major credit card companies to disallow our continued use of their payment products. In addition, if these systems fail to work properly and, as a result, we do not charge our customers’ credit or debit cards on a timely basis, or at all, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The payment methods that we offer also subject us to potential fraud and theft by criminals, who are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in exploiting weaknesses that may exist in the payment systems. If we fail to comply with applicable rules or requirements for the payment methods we accept, or if payment-related data is compromised due to a breach, we may be liable for significant costs incurred by payment card issuing banks and other third parties or subject to fines and higher transaction fees, or our ability to accept or facilitate certain types of payments may be impaired. In addition, our customers could lose confidence in certain payment types, which may result in a shift to other payment types or potential changes to our payment systems that may result in higher costs. If we fail to adequately control fraudulent credit card transactions, we may face civil liability, diminished public perception of our security measures and significantly higher card-related costs, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are also subject to payment card association operating rules, certification requirements and rules governing electronic funds transfers, which could change or be reinterpreted to make it more difficult for us to comply. We are required to comply with payment card industry security standards. Failing to comply with those standards may violate payment card association operating rules, federal and state laws and regulations and the terms of our contracts with payment processors. Any failure to comply fully also may subject us to fines, penalties, damages and civil liability, and may result in the loss of our ability to accept credit and debit card payments. Further, there is no guarantee that such compliance will prevent illegal or improper use of our payment systems or the theft, loss or misuse of data pertaining to credit and debit cards, card holders and transactions.

If we are unable to maintain our chargeback rate or refund rates at acceptable levels, our processing vendor may increase our transaction fees or terminate its relationship with us. Any increases in our credit and debit card fees could harm our results of operations, particularly if we elect not to raise our rates for our products to offset the increase. The termination of our ability to process payments on any major credit or debit card would significantly impair our ability to operate our business.

If we fail to attract and retain senior management and key technology personnel, our business may be materially and adversely affected.

Our success depends in part on our continued ability to attract, retain and motivate highly qualified management and clinical and scientific personnel. We are highly dependent upon our senior management, particularly our President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as our senior technology personnel and other members of our senior management team. The unplanned loss of the services of any of our members of senior management could adversely affect our business until a suitable replacement can be found.

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Competition for qualified personnel in the medical device field in general and the audiology field specifically is intense due to the limited number of individuals who possess the training, skills and experience required by our industry. In addition, our future growth and success also depend on our ability to attract, recruit, develop and retain skilled managerial, sales, administration, operating and technical personnel. We will continue to review, and where necessary, strengthen our senior management as the needs of the business develop, including through internal promotion and external hires. However, there may be a limited number of persons with the requisite competencies to serve in these positions and we cannot assure you that we would be able to locate or employ such qualified personnel on terms acceptable to us, or at all. Therefore, the unplanned loss of one or more of our key personnel, or our failure to attract and retain additional key personnel, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, to the extent we hire personnel from competitors, we may be subject to allegations that they have been improperly solicited or that they have divulged proprietary or other confidential information, or that their former employers own their research output.

We rely on our own direct sales force, and if we are unable to maintain or expand our sales force, it could harm our business. Additionally, our reliance on our direct sales force may result in higher fixed costs than our competitors and may slow our ability to reduce costs in the face of a sudden decline in demand for our products.

We rely on our own direct sales force to market and sell our products. We do not have any long-term employment contracts with the members of our direct sales force. Our operating results are directly dependent upon the sales and marketing efforts of our sales and customer support team. If our employees fail to adequately promote, market and sell our products, our sales could significantly decrease. As we launch new products, expand our product offerings and increase our marketing efforts with respect to existing products, we will need to expand the reach of our marketing and sales networks. Our future success will depend largely on our ability to continue to hire, train, retain and motivate skilled employees with significant technical knowledge in various areas. New hires require training and take time to achieve full productivity.

Additionally, most of our competitors rely predominantly on third-party distributors. A direct sales force may subject us to higher fixed costs than those of competitors that market their products through independent third parties, due to the costs that we will bear associated with employee benefits, training and managing sales personnel. As a result, we could be at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, these fixed costs may slow our ability to reduce costs in the face of a sudden decline in demand for our products, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In the future, we expect we will need to increase the size of our organization, and we may experience difficulties in managing growth. A deterioration in our relationships with our employees could have an adverse impact on our business.

In the future, we expect to expand our managerial, operational, finance and other resources in order to manage our operations and continue our research and development activities. Our management and personnel, systems and facilities currently in place may not be adequate to support this future growth. Our need to effectively execute our growth strategy requires that we:

 

manage our commercial operations effectively;

 

identify, recruit, retain, incentivize and integrate additional employees;

 

manage our internal development and operational efforts effectively while carrying out our contractual obligations to third parties; and

 

continue to improve our operational, financial and management controls, reports systems and procedures.

Maintaining good relationships with our employees is crucial to our operations. As a result, any deterioration of the relationships with our employees could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Additionally, material disruption to our business as a result of strikes, work stoppages or other labor disputes could disrupt our operations, result in a loss of reputation, increased wages and benefits or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We rely on our relationship with a professional employer organization for our human relations function and as a co-employer of our personnel, and if that party failed to perform its responsibilities under that relationship, our relations with our employees could be damaged and we could incur liabilities that could have a material adverse effect on our business.

All of our personnel, including our executive officers, are co-employees of Eargo and a professional employer organization, Insperity. Under the terms of our arrangement, Insperity is the formal employer of all of our personnel and is responsible for administering all payroll, including tax withholding, and providing health insurance and other benefits for these individuals, and our employees are governed by the work policies created by Insperity. We reimburse Insperity for these costs, and pay Insperity an administrative fee for its services. If Insperity fails to comply with applicable laws or its obligations under this arrangement, or creates work policies that are viewed unfavorably by employees, our relationship with our employees could be damaged. We could, under certain circumstances, be held liable for a failure by Insperity to appropriately pay, or withhold and remit required taxes from payments to, our employees. In such a case, our potential liability could be significant and could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be limited.

We do not expect to become profitable in the near future, may never achieve profitability, and have incurred substantial net operating losses, or NOLs, during our history. Unused NOLs will carry forward to offset a portion of future taxable income, if any, until such unused NOLs expire, if ever. Federal NOLs generated after December 31, 2017 are not subject to expiration, but the yearly utilization of such federal NOLs is limited to 80 percent of taxable income for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2020. In addition, in general, under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, a corporation that undergoes an “ownership change” is subject to limitations on its ability to utilize its prechange NOLs or tax credits to offset future taxable income or taxes. For these purposes, an ownership change generally occurs where the aggregate stock ownership of one or more stockholders or groups of stockholders who owns at least 5% of a corporation’s stock increases its ownership by more than 50 percentage points over its lowest ownership percentage within a specified testing period. If finalized, Treasury Regulations currently proposed under Section 382 of the Code may further limit our ability to utilize our pre-change NOLs or credits if we undergo a future ownership change. We believe we have experienced more than one ownership change in the past, and we may experience additional ownership changes in the future as a result of shifts in our stock ownership (some of which shifts are outside our control). As a result, even if we attain profitability, we may be unable to use a material portion of our NOLs and other tax attributes.

Risks relating to intellectual property and legal and regulatory matters

Our success depends in part on our proprietary technology, and if we are unable to obtain, maintain or successfully enforce our intellectual property rights, the commercial value of our products and services will be adversely affected and our competitive position may be harmed.

Our success and ability to compete depend in part on our ability to maintain and enforce existing intellectual property and to obtain, maintain and enforce further intellectual property protection for our products and services, both in the United States and in other countries. We attempt to protect our intellectual property rights through a combination of patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret laws, as well as licensing agreements and third-party confidentiality and assignment agreements. Our inability to do so could harm our competitive position. As of December 31, 2020, we had 22 issued U.S. patents, 16 patents outside the United States, 4 pending U.S. patent applications and 10 pending foreign patent applications.

We rely on our portfolio of issued and pending patent applications in the United States and other countries to protect our intellectual property and our competitive position. However, the patent positions of medical device companies, including our patent position, may involve complex legal and factual questions, and, therefore, the scope, validity and enforceability of any patent claims that we may obtain cannot be predicted with certainty.

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Accordingly, we cannot provide any assurances that any of our issued patents have, or that any of our currently pending or future patent applications that mature into issued patents will include, claims with a scope sufficient to protect our products and services. Our pending and future patent applications may not result in the issuance of patents or, if issued, may not issue in a form that will be advantageous to us. While we generally apply for patents in those countries where we intend to make, have made, use or sell patented products, we may not accurately predict all of the countries where patent protection will ultimately be desirable. If we fail to timely file for a patent, we may be precluded from doing so at a later date. Additionally, any patents issued to us may be challenged, narrowed, invalidated, held unenforceable or circumvented, or may not be sufficiently broad to prevent third parties from producing competing products similar in design to our products.

Changes in either patent laws or in interpretations of patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our patent protection, which in turn could diminish the commercial value of our products and services. In addition, any protection afforded by foreign patents may be more limited than that provided under U.S. patent and intellectual property laws. There can be no assurance that any of our patents, any patents licensed to us or any patents which we may be issued in the future will provide us with a competitive advantage or afford us protection against infringement by others, or that the patents will not be successfully challenged or circumvented by third parties, including our competitors. Further, there can be no assurance that we will have adequate resources to enforce our patents. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, we may not be able to build name recognition in our markets of interest and our competitive position may be harmed.

We rely on our trademarks, trade names and brand names to distinguish our products from the products of our competitors, and have registered or applied to register many of these trademarks. There can be no assurance that our trademark applications will be approved. Third parties may also oppose our trademark applications or otherwise challenge our use of the trademarks. In the event that our trademarks are successfully challenged, we could be forced to rebrand our products, which could result in loss of brand recognition, and could require us to devote resources to advertising and marketing new brands. Further, there can be no assurance that competitors will not infringe our trademarks or that we will have adequate resources to enforce our trademarks. We also license third parties to use our trademarks. In an effort to preserve our trademark rights, we enter into license agreements with these third parties, which govern the use of our trademarks and require our licensees to abide by quality control standards with respect to the goods and services that they provide under our trademarks. Although we make efforts to monitor the use of our trademarks by our licensees, there can be no assurance that these efforts will be sufficient to ensure that our licensees abide by the terms of their licenses. In the event that our licensees fail to do so, our trademark rights could be diluted. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

We may become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our intellectual property, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.

Third parties, including our competitors, could be infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating our intellectual property rights. While we are not aware of any unauthorized use of our intellectual property, we do not regularly conduct monitoring for unauthorized use at this time. In the future, we may from time to time, seek to analyze our competitors’ products and services, or seek to enforce our rights against potential infringement, misappropriation or violation of our intellectual property. However, the steps we have taken to protect our proprietary rights may not be adequate to enforce our rights as against such infringement, misappropriation or violation of our intellectual property. We may not be able to detect unauthorized use of, or take appropriate steps to enforce, our intellectual property rights. Any inability to meaningfully enforce our intellectual property rights could harm our ability to compete and reduce demand for our products and services.

We may in the future become involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our intellectual property rights. An adverse result in any litigation proceeding could harm our business. In any lawsuit we bring to enforce our intellectual property rights, a court may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on grounds that our intellectual property rights do not cover the technology in question. If we initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering a product, the defendant could counterclaim that such patent is invalid or

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unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. Mechanisms for such challenges include re-examination, post-grant review, inter partes review, interference proceedings, derivation proceedings, and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (e.g., opposition proceedings). Such proceedings could result in the revocation of, cancellation of, or amendment to our patents in such a way that they no longer cover our products, or any future products that we may develop.

The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a third party were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our products. Such a loss of patent protection would have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

Because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearing, motions, or other interim developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of shares of our common stock. Even if we ultimately prevail, a court may decide not to grant an injunction against further infringing activity and instead award only monetary damages, which may not be an adequate remedy. Furthermore, the monetary cost of such litigation and the diversion of the attention of our management could outweigh any benefit we receive as a result of the proceedings. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business.

If we infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate the intellectual property rights of third parties or are subject to an intellectual property infringement or misappropriation claim, our ability to grow our business may be severely limited and our business could be adversely affected.

We may in the future be the subject of patent or other litigation. Our products and services may infringe, or third parties may claim that they infringe, intellectual property rights covered by patents or patent applications under which we do not hold licenses or other rights. Third parties may own or control these patents and patent applications in the United States and abroad. These third parties could bring claims against us that would cause us to incur substantial expenses and, if successfully asserted against us, could cause us to pay substantial damages. Further, if a patent infringement or other intellectual property-related lawsuit were brought against us, we could be forced to stop or delay production or sales of the product that is the subject of the suit. From time to time, we have received and may in the future receive letters from third parties drawing our attention to their patent rights. While we take steps to ensure that we do not infringe upon, misappropriate or otherwise violate the rights of others, there may be other more pertinent rights of which we are presently unaware. The defense and prosecution of intellectual property lawsuits could result in substantial expense to us and significant diversion of effort by our technical and management personnel. An adverse determination of any litigation or interference proceeding to which we may become a party could subject us to significant liabilities. As a result of patent infringement claims, or in order to avoid potential claims, we may choose or be required to seek a license from the third party and be required to pay significant license fees, royalties or both. Licenses may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, in which event our business would be materially and adversely affected. Even if we were able to obtain a license, the rights may be nonexclusive, which could result in our competitors gaining access to the same intellectual property. Ultimately, if we are unable to obtain such licenses, we could be forced to cease some aspect of our business operations, which could harm our business significantly.

Recent changes in U.S. patent laws may limit our ability to obtain, defend and/or enforce our patents.

Recent patent reform legislation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the Leahy-Smith Act, includes a number of significant changes to U.S. patent law. These include provisions that

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affect the way patent applications are prosecuted and also affect patent litigation. The USPTO recently developed new regulations and procedures to govern administration of the Leahy-Smith Act, and many of the substantive changes to patent law associated with the Leahy-Smith Act, and in particular, the first to file provisions, which became effective on March 16, 2013. The first to file provisions limit the rights of an inventor to patent an invention if not the first to file an application for patenting that invention, even if such invention was the first invention. Accordingly, it is not clear what, if any, impact the Leahy-Smith Act will have on the operation of our business.

However, the Leahy-Smith Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the enforcement and defense of our issued patents. For example, the Leahy-Smith Act provides that an administrative tribunal known as the Patent Trial and Appeals Board, or PTAB, provides a venue for challenging the validity of patents at a cost that is much lower than district court litigation and on timelines that are much faster. Although it is not clear what, if any, long-term impact the PTAB proceedings will have on the operation of our business, the initial results of patent challenge proceedings before the PTAB since its inception in 2013 have resulted in the invalidation of many U.S. patent claims. The availability of the PTAB as a lower-cost, faster and potentially more potent tribunal for challenging patents could increase the likelihood that our own patents will be challenged, thereby increasing the uncertainties and costs of maintaining and enforcing them.

We may be subject to claims that we or our employees have misappropriated the intellectual property of a third party, including trade secrets or know-how, or are in breach of non-competition or non-solicitation agreements with our competitors and third parties may claim an ownership interest in intellectual property we regard as our own.

Many of our employees and consultants were previously employed at or engaged by other medical device companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Some of these employees, consultants and contractors may have executed proprietary rights, non-disclosure and non-competition agreements in connection with such previous employment. Although we try to ensure that our employees and consultants do not use the intellectual property, proprietary information, know-how or trade secrets of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or these individuals have, inadvertently or otherwise, misappropriated the intellectual property or disclosed the alleged trade secrets or other proprietary information, of these former employers, competitors or other third parties. Additionally, we may be subject to claims from third parties challenging our ownership interest in or inventorship of intellectual property we regard as our own, based on claims that our agreements with employees or consultants obligating them to assign intellectual property to us are ineffective or in conflict with prior or competing contractual obligations to assign inventions to another employer, to a former employer, or to another person or entity. Litigation may be necessary to defend against claims, and it may be necessary or we may desire to enter into a license to settle any such claim; however, there can be no assurance that we would be able to obtain a license on commercially reasonable terms, if at all. If our defense to those claims fails, in addition to paying monetary damages or a settlement payment, a court could prohibit us from using technologies, features or other intellectual property that are essential to our products, if such technologies or features are found to incorporate or be derived from the trade secrets or other proprietary information of the former employers. An inability to incorporate technologies, features or other intellectual property that are important or essential to our products could have a material adverse effect on our business and competitive position, and may prevent us from selling our products. In addition, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Even if we are successful in defending against these claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and could be a distraction to management. Any litigation or the threat thereof may adversely affect our ability to hire employees or contract with independent sales representatives. A loss of key personnel or their work product could hamper or prevent our ability to commercialize our products, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, operating results, cash flows and prospects.

We operate in a regulated industry and changes in regulation or the implementation of existing regulation could affect our operations.

Our products and our business activities are subject to rigorous regulation in the jurisdictions in which we operate. In particular, these laws govern: (i) coverage and reimbursement by the national health services or by private health insurance services for the purchase of hearing aids; (ii) the supply of hearing aids to the public and, more specifically, the training and qualifications required to practice the profession of hearing aid fitting specialist; and (iii) the development, testing, manufacturing, labeling, premarket clearance or approval and marketing,

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advertising, promotion, export and import of our hearing aids. Accordingly, our business may be affected by changes in any such laws and regulations and, in particular, by changes to the conditions for coverage, the way in which reimbursement is calculated, the ability to obtain national health insurance coverage or the role of the ear, nose and throat specialists.

While the various agencies that enforce the EU’s Medical Device Directive, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the FDA are the regulatory bodies affecting us most prominently, there are numerous other regulatory schemes at the international, national and sub-national levels to which we are subject. These regulations can be burdensome and subject to change on short notice, exposing us to the risk of increased costs and business disruption, and regulatory premarket clearance or approval requirements may affect or delay our ability to market our new products. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to obtain marketing clearance or approval for our new products, or enhancements or modifications to existing products. If we do, such clearance or approval may take a significant amount of time and require the expenditure of substantial resources. Further, such clearance or approval may involve stringent testing procedures, modifications, repairs or replacements of our products and could result in limitations on the proposed uses of our products. Regulatory authorities and legislators have been recently increasing their scrutiny of the healthcare industry, and there are ongoing regulatory efforts to reduce healthcare costs that may intensify in the future. Our business is also sensitive to any changes in tort and product liability laws.

Regulations pertaining to our products have become increasingly stringent and more common, particularly in developing countries whose regulations approach standards previously attained only by some Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and we may become subject to more rigorous regulation by governmental authorities in the future. Conversely, however, the regulation of hearing aids as medical devices provides a barrier to entry for new competitors. For example, if certain of our products were made subject to less stringent regulation by the FDA in the United States, then products similar to ours may be marketed and sold more freely, and our products may become commoditized. If the markets in which we operate become less regulated, those barriers to entry may be eliminated or reduced, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Both before and after a product is commercially released, we have ongoing responsibilities under various laws and regulations. If a regulatory authority were to conclude that we are not in compliance with applicable laws or regulations, or that any of our hearing aids are ineffective or pose an unreasonable risk for the end-user, the authority may ban such hearing aids, detain or seize adulterated or misbranded hearing aids, order a recall, repair, replacement or refund of such instruments, and require us to notify health professionals and others that the devices present unreasonable risks of substantial harm to the public health. A regulatory authority may also impose operating restrictions, enjoin and restrain certain violations of applicable law pertaining to medical devices, and assess civil or criminal penalties against our officers, employees or us. The regulatory authority may also recommend prosecution by law enforcement agencies. Any governmental law or regulation, existing or imposed in the future, or enforcement action taken may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our hearing aids are subject to extensive government regulation at the federal and state level, and our failure to comply with applicable requirements could harm our business.

Our hearing aids are medical devices that are subject to extensive regulation in the United States, including by the FDA and state agencies. The FDA regulates, among other things, the design, development, research, manufacture, testing, labeling, marketing, promotion, advertising, sale, import and export of hearing aid devices, such as those we market. Applicable medical device regulations are complex and have tended to become more stringent over time. Regulatory changes could result in restrictions on our ability to carry out or expand our operations.

The FDA classifies medical devices into one of three classes (Class I, II, or III) based on the degree of risk associated with a device and the level of regulatory control deemed necessary to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Class I devices are those for which safety and effectiveness can be assured by adherence to the FDA’s general controls for medical devices, which include compliance with the FDA’s current good manufacturing practices for devices, as reflected in the Quality System Regulation, or QSR, establishment registration and device listing, reporting of adverse events, and truthful, non-misleading labeling, advertising, and promotional materials. Some

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Class I devices also require premarket clearance by the FDA through the premarket notification process set forth in Section 510(k) of the FDCA.

The FDA has classified air-conduction hearing aids as Class I and Class II devices exempt from premarket review procedures, and although we comply with applicable Class I and Class II medical device requirements, none of our devices have been reviewed by the FDA. Moreover, because the FDA has stated that it does not intend to enforce the medical evaluation requirements for dispensation of Class I or Class II air-conduction hearing aids to individuals 18 years of age and older, our devices are available directly to consumers without the medical evaluation of a licensed practitioner. If our current or future products become subject to the pending OTC hearing aid pathway, are deemed to be Class II “self-fitting air-conduction hearing aids,” or are otherwise required to undergo premarket review, we may be required to first receive clearance under Section 510(k) of the FDCA or approval of a premarket approval, or PMA, application from the FDA. If this were to occur for our currently marketed devices, the FDA could require us to remove our products from the market until we receive applicable regulatory clearance or approval, which would significantly impact our business.

In the 510(k) clearance process, before a device may be marketed, the FDA must determine that the proposed device is “substantially equivalent” to a legally-marketed “predicate” device, which includes a device that has been previously cleared through the 510(k) process, a device that was legally marketed prior to May 28, 1976 (a pre-amendments device), a device that was originally on the U.S. market pursuant to an approved PMA application and later down-classified, or a 510(k)-exempt device. To be “substantially equivalent,” the proposed device must have the same intended use as the predicate device, and either have the same technological characteristics as the predicate device or have different technological characteristics and not raise different questions of safety or effectiveness than the predicate device. Clinical data are sometimes required to support substantial equivalence. In the PMA process, the FDA must determine that a proposed device is safe and effective for its intended use based, in part, on extensive data, including, but not limited to, technical, pre-clinical, clinical trial, manufacturing and labeling data. The PMA process is typically required for devices that are deemed to pose the greatest risk, such as life-sustaining, life-supporting or implantable devices.

Modifications to products that are approved through a PMA application generally require FDA approval. Similarly, certain modifications made to products cleared through a 510(k) may require a new 510(k) clearance. Both the PMA approval and the 510(k) clearance process can be expensive, lengthy and uncertain. The FDA’s 510(k) clearance process usually takes from three to 12 months, but can last longer. The process of obtaining a PMA is much more costly and uncertain and generally takes from one to three years, or even longer, from the time the application is filed with the FDA. In addition, a PMA generally requires the performance of one or more clinical trials. Despite the time, effort and cost, we cannot assure you that any particular device will be approved or cleared by the FDA.

Any delay or failure to obtain necessary regulatory clearances or approvals if required in the future could harm our business.

The FDA can delay, limit or deny clearance or approval of a device for many reasons, including:

 

inability to demonstrate to the FDA’s satisfaction that the product or modification is substantially equivalent to the proposed predicate device or safe and effective for its intended use;

 

the data from pre-clinical studies and clinical trials may be insufficient to support clearance or approval, where required; and

 

the manufacturing process or facilities do not meet applicable requirements.

In addition, the FDA may change its clearance and approval policies, adopt additional regulations or revise existing regulations, or take other actions, which may prevent or delay our ability to introduce new products or modify our current products on a timely basis. For example, in November 2018, FDA officials announced forthcoming steps that the agency intends to take to modernize the 510(k) premarket notification pathway, and in September 2019, the FDA finalized guidance to describe an optional “safety and performance based” premarket review pathway for manufacturers of certain “well-understood device types,” which would allow manufacturers to demonstrate substantial equivalence by meeting objective safety and performance criteria established by the FDA,

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obviating the need for manufacturers to compare the safety and performance of their medical devices to specific predicate devices in the clearance process. If we are required to seek premarket review of our devices in the future, these proposals and reforms could impose additional regulatory requirements on us and increase the costs of compliance.

Disruptions at the FDA and other government agencies caused by funding shortages or global health concerns could hinder their ability to hire, retain or deploy key leadership and other personnel, or otherwise delay or prevent necessary regulatory clearances or approvals, which could negatively impact our business.

The ability of the FDA to review and clear or approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, statutory, regulatory and policy changes, the FDA’s ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and other events that may otherwise affect the FDA’s ability to perform routine functions. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of other government agencies that fund research and development activities is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable. Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new medical devices or modifications to be cleared or approved by government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, including for 35 days beginning on December 22, 2018, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, have had to furlough critical FDA employees and stop critical activities.

Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 10, 2020, the FDA announced its intention to postpone most inspections of foreign manufacturing facilities, and on March 18, 2020, the FDA temporarily postponed routine surveillance inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities. Subsequently, on July 10, 2020, the FDA announced its intention to resume certain on-site inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities subject to a risk-based prioritization system. The FDA intends to use this risk-based assessment system to identify the categories of regulatory activity that can occur within a given geographic area, ranging from mission critical inspections to resumption of all regulatory activities. Regulatory authorities outside the United States may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns continue to prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA or other regulatory authorities to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Legislative or regulatory healthcare reforms may make it more difficult and costly to produce, market and distribute our products or to do so profitably.

Recent political, economic and regulatory influences are subjecting the healthcare industry to fundamental changes. Both the federal and state governments in the United States and foreign governments continue to propose and pass new legislation and regulations designed to contain or reduce the cost of healthcare, improve quality of care and expand access to healthcare, among other purposes. For example, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has changed healthcare financing and delivery by both governmental and private insurers substantially and has affected medical device manufacturers significantly. Other legislative changes have also been proposed and adopted since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, which included, among other things, reductions to Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020, designed to provide financial support and resources to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, suspended these reductions from May 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, and extended the sequester by one year, through 2030. In addition, on January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to certain providers, including hospitals. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, enacted on April 16, 2015, or MACRA, repealed the formula by which Medicare made annual payment adjustments to physicians and replaced the former formula with fixed annual updates and a new system of incentive payments which began in 2019 that are based on various performance measures and physicians’ participation in alternative payment models such as accountable care organizations. Future legislation and regulations may result in decreased coverage and reimbursement for medical devices, which may further exacerbate industry-wide pressure to reduce the prices charged and market demand for medical devices. This could harm our ability to market and generate sales from our products.

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We may face risks related to any future international sales, including the need to obtain necessary foreign regulatory clearance or approvals.

Sales of our products outside the United States will subject us to foreign regulatory requirements that vary widely from country to country. The time required to obtain clearances or approvals required by other countries may be longer than that required for FDA clearance or approval, and requirements for such approvals may differ from FDA requirements. We may be unable to obtain regulatory approvals and may also incur significant costs in attempting to obtain foreign regulatory approvals. If we experience delays in receipt of approvals to market our products in new jurisdictions, or if we fail to receive these approvals, we may be unable to market our products in international markets in a timely manner, if at all, which could materially impact our international expansion and adversely affect our business as a whole. Some international regulations may also limit the availability of our hearing aids to customers in certain jurisdictions without our first obtaining a license or engaging a third party to provide such financing, or limit the financing options we can offer our customers. If any of these risks were to materialize, they could limit our expected international growth and profitability, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Regulations in certain foreign countries may challenge our direct-to-consumer sales model.

Our business may also be affected by actions of domestic and foreign governments to restrict the activities of direct-to-consumer companies for various reasons, including a limitation on the ability of direct-to-consumer companies to operate without the involvement of a traditional retail channel. To the extent that we begin to offer our products in international markets, foreign governments may also introduce other forms of protectionist legislation, such as limitations or requirements on where the products can or must be produced or requirements that non-domestic companies doing or seeking to do business place a certain percentage of ownership of legal entities in the hands of local nationals to protect the commercial interests of its citizens. Customs laws, tariffs, import duties, export and import quotas and restrictions on repatriation of foreign earnings and/or other methods of accessing cash generated internationally, may negatively affect our local or corporate operations. Additionally, the U.S. government may impose restrictions on our ability to engage in business in other countries in connection with the foreign policy of the United States. Any such restrictions on our direct-to-consumer sales model in international jurisdictions could limit our ability to grow internationally, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our hearing aids may cause or contribute to adverse medical events that we are required to report to the FDA, and if we fail to do so, we would be subject to sanctions that could harm our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations. The discovery of serious safety issues with our products, or a recall of our products either voluntarily or at the direction of the FDA or another governmental authority, could have a negative impact on us.

We are subject to the FDA’s medical device reporting regulations and similar foreign regulations, which require us to report to the FDA when we receive or become aware of information that reasonably suggests that one or more of our hearing aids may have caused or contributed to a death or serious injury or malfunctioned in a way that, if the malfunction were to recur, it could cause or contribute to a death or serious injury. The timing of our obligation to report is triggered by the date we become aware of the adverse event as well as the nature of the event. We may fail to report adverse events of which we become aware within the prescribed timeframe. We may also fail to recognize that we have become aware of a reportable adverse event, especially if it is not reported to us as an adverse event or if it is an adverse event that is unexpected or removed in time from the initial use of the hearing aid device. If we fail to comply with our reporting obligations, the FDA could take action, including warning letters, untitled letters, administrative actions, criminal prosecution, imposition of civil monetary penalties, seizure of our products or, if premarket review is required in the future, delay in clearance of future products.

The FDA and foreign regulatory bodies have the authority to require the recall of commercialized medical device products in the event of material deficiencies or defects in design or manufacture of a product or in the event that a product poses an unacceptable risk to health. The FDA’s authority to require a recall must be based on a finding that there is reasonable probability that the device could cause serious injury or death. We may also choose to voluntarily recall a product if any material deficiency is found. A government-mandated or voluntary recall by us could occur as a result of an unacceptable risk to health, component failures, malfunctions, manufacturing defects,

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labeling or design deficiencies, packaging defects or other deficiencies or failures to comply with applicable regulations. We cannot assure you that product defects or other errors will not occur in the future. Recalls involving our hearing aids could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Medical device manufacturers are required to maintain certain records of recalls and corrections, even if they are not reportable to the FDA. We may initiate voluntary withdrawals or corrections for our hearing aid devices in the future that we determine do not require notification of the FDA. If the FDA disagrees with our determinations, it could require us to report those actions as recalls and we may be subject to enforcement action. A future recall announcement could harm our reputation with customers, potentially lead to product liability claims against us and negatively affect our sales.

We must manufacture our products in accordance with federal and state regulations, and we could be forced to recall our products or terminate production if we fail to comply with these regulations.

The methods used in, and the facilities used for, the manufacture of our hearing aid devices must comply with the FDA’s Quality System Regulation, or QSR, which is a complex regulatory scheme that covers the procedures and documentation of the design, testing, production, process controls, quality assurance, labeling, packaging, handling, storage, distribution, servicing and shipping of medical devices. Furthermore, we are required to verify that our suppliers maintain facilities, procedures and operations that comply with our quality and applicable regulatory requirements. The FDA enforces the QSR through periodic announced or unannounced inspections of medical device manufacturing facilities, which may include the facilities of subcontractors, and such inspections can result in warning letters, untitled letters and other regulatory communications and adverse publicity. Our hearing aid devices are also subject to similar state regulations and various laws and regulations of foreign countries governing manufacturing.

We cannot guarantee that we or any subcontractors will take the necessary steps to comply with applicable regulations, which could cause delays in the manufacture and delivery of our products. In addition, failure to comply with applicable FDA requirements or later discovery of previously unknown problems with our products or manufacturing processes could result in, among other things:

 

fines, injunctions or civil penalties;

 

suspension or withdrawal of future clearances or approvals;

 

refusal to clear or approve pending applications;

 

seizures or recalls of our products;

 

total or partial suspension of production or distribution;

 

administrative or judicially imposed sanctions;

 

refusal to permit the import or export of our products; and

 

criminal prosecution.

Any of these actions could significantly and negatively impact supply of our products. If any of these events occurs, our reputation could be harmed, we could be exposed to product liability claims and we could lose customers and suffer reduced revenue and increased costs.

If we fail to comply with U.S. or foreign federal and state healthcare regulatory laws, we could be subject to penalties, including, but not limited to, administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, exclusion from participation in governmental healthcare programs and the curtailment of our operations, any of which could adversely impact our reputation and business operations.

To the extent our products are or become covered by any federal or state government healthcare program, our operations and business practices may expose us to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations. These laws may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which

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we conduct our operations, including our sales and marketing practices, consumer incentive and other promotional programs and other business practices. Such laws include, without limitation:

 

the U.S. federal civil and criminal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons or entities from knowingly and willfully soliciting, offering, receiving or providing any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward, or in return for, either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, lease, order or recommendation of, any good, facility, item or service, for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under U.S. federal and state healthcare programs such as Medicare, state Medicaid programs and TRICARE. A person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation;

 

the U.S. federal false claims laws, including the False Claims Act, which can be enforced through whistleblower actions, and civil monetary penalties laws, which, among other things, impose criminal and civil penalties against individuals or entities for knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the U.S. federal government, claims for payment or approval that are false or fraudulent, knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim, or from knowingly making a false statement to avoid, decrease or conceal an obligation to pay money to the U.S. federal government. In addition, the government may assert that a claim including items and services resulting from a violation of the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the False Claims Act;

 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which imposes criminal and civil liability for, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, or knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false statement, in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services. Similar to the U.S. federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity does not need to have actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it in order to have committed a violation;

 

state law equivalents of each of the above federal laws, including state anti-kickback, self-referral and false claims laws that apply more broadly to healthcare items or services paid by all payors, including self-pay patients and private insurers, that govern our interactions with consumers or restrict payments that may be made to healthcare providers and other potential referral sources;

 

the Federal Trade Commission Act and federal and state consumer protection, advertisement and unfair competition laws, which broadly regulate marketplace activities and activities that potentially harm consumers;

 

the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act and its implementing regulations, which require certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies that are reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program to report annually to the government information related to certain payments and other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members. Additionally, on October 25, 2018, President Trump signed into law the “Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promoted Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act” which in part (under a provision titled “Fighting the Opioid Epidemic with Sunshine”) extends the reporting and transparency requirements for physicians in the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other mid-level practitioners (with reporting requirements going into effect in 2022 for payments made in 2021);

 

the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, which prohibits, among other things, U.S. companies and their employees and agents from authorizing, promising, offering or providing, directly or indirectly, corrupt or improper payments or anything else of value to foreign government officials, employees of public international organizations and foreign government owned or affiliated entities, candidates for foreign political office and foreign political parties or officials thereof;

 

foreign or U.S. analogous state laws and regulations, which may apply to our business practices, including but not limited to, state laws that require manufacturers to comply with the voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the U.S. federal

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government; state laws and regulations that require manufacturers to file reports relating to pricing and marketing information or that require tracking gifts and other remuneration and items of value provided to healthcare professionals and entities; and

 

similar healthcare laws and regulations in the EU and other jurisdictions in which we may conduct activities in the future, including reporting requirements detailing interactions with and payments to healthcare providers.

Foreign laws and regulations in this regard may vary greatly from country to country. For example, the advertising and promotion of our products in the European Economic Area (the EEA) would be subject to EEA Directives concerning misleading and comparative advertising and unfair commercial practices, as well as other EEA Member State legislation governing the advertising and promotion of medical devices. These laws may limit or restrict the advertising and promotion of our products to the general public and may impose limitations on our promotional activities with healthcare professionals. We are also subject to healthcare fraud and abuse regulation and enforcement by the countries in which we conduct our business. These healthcare laws and regulations vary significantly from country to country.

Ensuring that our internal operations and future business arrangements with third parties comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. It is possible that governmental authorities will conclude that our business practices do not comply with current or future statutes, regulations, agency guidance or case law involving applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of the laws described above or any other governmental laws and regulations that may apply to us, we may be subject to significant penalties, including civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from government-funded healthcare programs, such as state Medicaid programs, TRICARE or similar programs in other countries or jurisdictions, disgorgement, imprisonment, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. Further, defending against any such actions can be costly and time-consuming and may require significant personnel resources. Even if we are successful in defending against any such actions that may be brought against us, our business may be impaired.

We are subject to numerous state hearing aid and licensure laws and regulations, and non-compliance with these laws and regulations may expose us to significant costs or liabilities.

We are subject to numerous state and local hearing aid laws and regulations relating to, among other matters, licensure and registration of audiologists and other individuals we employ or contract with to provide services and dispense hearing aids. Some of these laws require us to maintain warranty and return policies for consumers allowing for the return of product and restrict advertising and marketing practices. These state and local laws and regulations are complex, change frequently and have tended to become more stringent over time. The FDCA preempts state laws relating to the safety and efficacy of medical devices and state laws that are different from or in addition to federal requirements. In Missouri Board of Examiners for Hearing Instrument Specialists v. Hearing Help Express, Inc. and METX, LLC v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, respectively, have held that certain state laws relating to the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids are preempted because they relate to the safety and efficacy of medical devices. Although we have structured our operations to comply with our understanding of applicable state regulatory requirements, interpretative legal precedent and regulatory guidance varies by jurisdiction and is often sparse and not fully developed, including which laws and regulations are preempted because they relate to the safety and efficacy of medical devices, complicating our compliance efforts. Accordingly, we cannot be certain that our interpretation of laws and regulations applicable to our operations is correct, and we could be subject to adverse judicial or administrative interpretations. Our ability to operate profitably will depend, in part, on our ability to obtain and maintain any necessary licenses and other approvals and operate in compliance with applicable state laws and regulations. A determination that we are in violation of applicable laws and regulations in any jurisdiction in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on us, particularly if we are unable to restructure our operations and arrangements to comply with the requirements of that jurisdiction, if we are required to restructure our operations and arrangements at a significant cost, or if we are subject to penalties or other adverse action. We cannot predict the impact on our business of new or amended laws or regulations or any changes in the way existing and future laws and regulations are interpreted or enforced, nor can we ensure we will be able to obtain or maintain any required licenses or permits.

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If our arrangements with audiologists and other hearing care specialists are found to violate state laws prohibiting the corporate practice of medicine or fee splitting, our business, financial condition and our ability to operate in those states could be adversely impacted.

Many states have laws that prohibit us from engaging in the practice of audiology, exercising control, interfering with or influencing an audiologist or other hearing care specialist’s professional judgment and entering into certain financial arrangements, such as splitting professional fees with audiologists. These laws and their interpretations vary from state to state and are enforced by state courts and regulatory authorities, each with broad discretion. Although we believe our arrangements comply with applicable state prohibitions on the corporate practice of medicine and fee splitting, regulatory authorities or other third parties may challenge our existing organization and contractual arrangements. If such a claim were successful, we could be subject to adverse judicial or administrative interpretations, to civil or criminal penalties, our contracts could be found legally invalid and unenforceable or we could be required to restructure our contractual arrangements with our audiologists and other licensed professionals. A determination that these arrangements violate state laws and regulations or our inability to successfully restructure our relationships and business operations to comply with these laws would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If we are unable to continue to drive consumers to our website, it could cause our revenue to decrease.

Many consumers find our website by searching for hearing aid information through internet search engines or from word-of-mouth and personal recommendations. A critical factor in attracting visitors to our website is how prominently we are displayed in response to search queries. Accordingly, we use search engine marketing as a means to provide a significant portion of our customer acquisition. Search engine marketing includes both paid website visitor acquisition on a cost-per-click basis and visitor acquisition on an unpaid basis, often referred to as organic or algorithmic search.

One method we employ to acquire visitors via organic search is commonly known as search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO involves developing our website in a way that enables the website to rank high for search queries for which our website’s content may be relevant. We also rely heavily on favorable recommendations from our existing customers to help drive traffic to our website. If our website is listed less prominently or fails to appear in search result listings for any reason, it is likely that we will attract fewer visitors to our website, which could adversely affect our revenue.

Risks relating to our common stock

We are an “emerging growth company,” and the reduced public company reporting requirements applicable to emerging growth companies may make our common stock less attractive to investors.

We qualify as an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the JOBS Act. For so long as we remain an emerging growth company, we are permitted and plan to rely on exemptions from certain disclosure requirements that are applicable to public companies that are not emerging growth companies. These provisions include, but are not limited to: being permitted to have only two years of audited financial statements and only two years of related selected financial data and management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations disclosure; an exemption from compliance with the auditor attestation requirement in the assessment of our internal control over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; not being required to comply with any requirement that may be adopted by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, regarding mandatory audit firm rotation or a supplement to the auditor’s report providing additional information about the audit and the financial statements; reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation arrangements in our periodic reports, registration statements and proxy statements; and exemptions from the requirements of holding a nonbinding advisory vote on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. In addition, the JOBS Act permits emerging growth companies to take advantage of an extended transition period to comply with new or revised accounting standards applicable to public companies. We intend to take advantage of the exemptions discussed above. As a result, the information we provide will be different than the information that is available with respect to other public companies. We cannot predict whether investors will find our common stock less attractive if we rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock, and the market price of our common stock may be more volatile.

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We will remain an emerging growth company until the earliest of (i) the end of the fiscal year following the fifth anniversary of the completion of our initial public offering, (ii) the first fiscal year after our annual gross revenue exceed $1.07 billion, (iii) the date on which we have, during the immediately preceding three-year period, issued more than $1.00 billion in non-convertible debt securities, or (iv) the end of any fiscal year in which the market value of our common stock held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the end of the second quarter of that fiscal year.

We incur significantly increased costs and are subject to additional regulations and requirements as a result of becoming a public company, which could lower our profits or make it more difficult to run our business.

As a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we have not incurred as a private company, including costs associated with public company reporting requirements. We also have incurred and will continue to incur costs associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and related rules implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, and the exchange our securities are listed on. The expenses generally incurred by public companies for reporting and corporate governance purposes have been increasing. We expect these rules and regulations to increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some activities more time-consuming and costly, although we are currently unable to estimate these costs with any degree of certainty. These laws and regulations also could make it more difficult or costly for us to obtain certain types of insurance, including director and officer liability insurance, and we may be forced to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. These laws and regulations could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors, on our board committees or as our executive officers. Furthermore, if we are unable to satisfy our obligations as a public company, we could be subject to delisting of our common stock, fines, sanctions, other regulatory action and potentially civil litigation.

If we are unable to implement and maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in the future, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports and the market price of our common stock may decline.

As a public company, we are required to maintain internal control over financial reporting and to report any material weaknesses in such internal controls. In addition, beginning with our second annual report on Form 10-K, we will be required to furnish a report by management on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The process of designing, implementing and testing the internal control over financial reporting required to comply with this obligation is time-consuming, costly and complicated. If we identify material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, if we are unable to comply with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in a timely manner, or if we are unable to assert that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports and the market price of our common stock could decline, and we could also become subject to investigations by the stock exchange on which our common stock is listed, the SEC or other regulatory authorities, which could require additional financial and management resources.

We have identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting. If our remediation of the material weakness is not effective, or if we experience additional material weaknesses in the future or otherwise fail to maintain an effective system of internal controls in the future, we may not be able to accurately or timely report our financial condition or results of operations, which may adversely affect investor confidence in us and, as a result, the value of our common stock.

In connection with the preparation of our financial statements in connection with our IPO, we identified a material weakness in our internal control over financial reporting. A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of our financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The material weakness related to a lack of qualified supervisory accounting resources, including those necessary to account for and disclose certain complex transactions and for which we lacked the technical expertise to identify, analyze and appropriately record those transactions. We have implemented and are in the process of implementing additional measures designed to improve our internal control over financial reporting to remediate this material

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weakness, including the hiring of qualified supervisory resources, the engagement of technical accounting consulting resources and plans to hire additional finance department employees.

We cannot assure you that the measures we have taken to date, and are continuing to implement, will be sufficient to remediate the material weakness we have identified or avoid potential future material weaknesses. If the steps we take do not correct the material weakness in a timely manner, we will be unable to conclude that we maintain effective internal control over financial reporting. Accordingly, there could continue to be a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of our financial statements would not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.

If we fail to remediate our existing material weakness or identify new material weaknesses in our internal controls over financial reporting, if we are unable to comply with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, if we are unable to conclude that our internal controls over financial reporting are effective, or if our independent registered public accounting firm is unable to express an opinion as to the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting when we are no longer an emerging growth company, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports and the market price of our common stock could be negatively affected. As a result of such failures, we could also become subject to investigations by the stock exchange on which our securities are listed, the SEC, or other regulatory authorities, and become subject to litigation from investors and stockholders, which could harm our reputation and financial condition or divert financial and management resources from our regular business activities.

We have no current plans to pay cash dividends on our common stock; as a result, you may not receive any return on investment unless you sell your common stock for a price greater than that which you paid for it.

We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock, and we do not currently intend to pay any cash dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future. We currently intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and expansion of our business. Any future determination related to dividend policy will be made at the discretion of our board of directors, subject to applicable laws, and will depend upon, among other factors, our results of operations, financial condition, contractual restrictions and capital requirements. Also, unless waived, the terms of our 2018 Loan with Silicon Valley Bank generally prohibit us from declaring or paying any cash dividends and other distributions. Additionally, our ability to pay cash dividends on our capital stock may be limited by the terms of any future debt or preferred securities we issue or any future credit facilities we enter into. As a result, you may not receive any return on an investment in our common stock unless you sell your common stock for a price greater than that which you paid for it.

If our operating and financial performance in any given period does not meet any guidance that we provide to the public, the market price of our common stock may decline.

We may, but are not obligated to, provide public guidance on our expected operating and financial results for future periods. Any such guidance will be comprised of forward-looking statements subject to the risks and uncertainties described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and in our other public filings and public statements. Our actual results may not always be in line with or exceed any guidance we have provided, especially in times of economic uncertainty. If, in the future, our operating or financial results for a particular period do not meet any guidance we provide or the expectations of investment analysts, or if we reduce our guidance for future periods, the market price of our common stock may decline. Even if we do issue public guidance, there can be no assurance that we will continue to do so in the future.

We may be unable to raise additional capital, which could harm our ability to compete.

As of December 31, 2020, we had cash and cash equivalents of $212.2 million. Our expected future capital requirements may depend on many factors including the expansion of our product portfolio and the timing and extent of spend on the development of our technology to increase our product offerings. As a result, we may need additional funding to fund our operations, but additional funds may not be available to us on acceptable terms on a timely basis, if at all. We may seek funds through borrowings or through additional rounds of financing, including private or public equity or debt offerings.

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Our future capital requirements will depend on many factors, including:

 

the timing, receipt and amount of sales from our current and future products;

 

the cost of manufacturing, either ourselves or through third-party manufacturers, our products;

 

the cost and timing of expanding our sales, marketing and distribution capabilities;

 

the terms and timing of any other partnership, licensing and other arrangements that we may establish;

 

any product liability or other lawsuits related to our current or future products;

 

the expenses needed to attract, hire and retain skilled personnel;

 

the costs associated with being a public company;

 

the duration and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our business and financial markets generally;

 

the costs involved in preparing, filing, prosecuting, maintaining, defending and enforcing our intellectual property portfolio; and

 

the extent to which we acquire or invest in businesses.

If we raise additional funds through further issuances of equity or convertible debt securities, our existing stockholders could suffer significant dilution, and any new equity securities we issue could have rights, preferences, and privileges superior to those of holders of our common stock. If we are unable to obtain adequate financing or financing on terms satisfactory to us, when we require it, our ability to continue to pursue our business objectives and to respond to business opportunities, challenges, or unforeseen circumstances could be significantly limited, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our stockholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or products.

Since our inception, our operations have been financed primarily by net proceeds from the sale of our convertible preferred stock, indebtedness and, to a lesser extent, revenue from the sales of our products. We expect that we may be required to obtain additional funding in the future and may do so through partnerships, public or private equity offerings or debt financings, credit or loan facilities or a combination of one or more of these funding sources. Even if we are not required to obtain additional funding, we may do so due to favorable market conditions or to be able to pursue strategic or business expansion opportunities. If we raise additional funds by issuing equity securities, our stockholders may suffer dilution and the terms of any financing may adversely affect the rights of our stockholders. In addition, as a condition to providing additional funds to us, future investors may demand, and may be granted, rights superior to those of existing stockholders. Debt financing, if available, is likely to involve restrictive covenants limiting our flexibility in conducting future business activities, and, in the event of insolvency, debt holders would be repaid before holders of our equity securities receive any distribution of our corporate assets. We also could be required to seek funds through arrangements with partners or others that may require us to relinquish rights or jointly own some aspects of our technologies or products that we would otherwise pursue on our own.

Our principal stockholders and management own a significant percentage of our stock and will be able to exert significant control over matters subject to stockholder approval.

As of December 31, 2020, our current executive officers, directors, holders of 5.0% or more of our capital stock and their respective affiliates held approximately 66% of our outstanding voting stock. Therefore, these stockholders will have the ability to influence us through this ownership position. These stockholders may be able to determine all matters requiring stockholder approval. For example, these stockholders may be able to control elections of directors, amendments of our organizational documents, or approval of any merger, sale of assets, or other major corporate transaction. This may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our common stock that you may feel are in your best interest as one of our stockholders.

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Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market could cause our stock price to fall.

If our existing stockholders sell, or indicate an intention to sell, substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline. We have a total of 38,246,601 shares of common stock outstanding as of December 31, 2020. Of these shares, approximately 9.0 million shares are freely tradable, without restriction, in the public market.

The lock-up agreements pertaining to our IPO will expire April 13, 2021. After the lock-up agreements expire, up to approximately 28.7 million additional shares of common stock will be eligible for sale in the public market, approximately 21.7 million of which shares are held by directors, executive officers and other affiliates and will be subject to Rule 144 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the Securities Act). J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and BofA Securities, Inc. may, however, in their sole discretion, permit our officers, directors and other stockholders who are subject to these lock-up agreements to sell shares prior to the expiration of the lock-up agreements.

In addition, based on shares outstanding as of the completion of our IPO, approximately 6.9 million shares of common stock that are either subject to outstanding options, reserved for future issuance under our existing equity incentive plan, or subject to outstanding warrants will become eligible for sale in the public market to the extent permitted by the provisions of various vesting schedules, the lock-up agreements and Rule 144 and Rule 701 under the Securities Act. If these additional shares of common stock are sold, or if it is perceived that they will be sold, in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline.

The holders of approximately 28.2 million shares of our common stock, or approximately 74% of our total outstanding common stock as of December 31, 2020, are entitled to rights with respect to the registration of their shares under the Securities Act, subject to vesting schedules and to the lock-up agreements described above. Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in the shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act, except for shares purchased by affiliates. Any sales of securities by these stockholders could have a material adverse effect on the trading price of our common stock.

Provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could discourage a takeover that stockholders may consider favorable and may lead to entrenchment of management.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws contain provisions that could delay or prevent changes in control or changes in our management without the consent of our board of directors. These provisions include:

 

a classified board of directors with three-year staggered terms, which may delay the ability of stockholders to change the membership of a majority of our board of directors;

 

no cumulative voting in the election of directors, which limits the ability of minority stockholders to elect director candidates;

 

the exclusive right of our board of directors to elect a director to fill a vacancy created by the expansion of the board of directors or the resignation, death or removal of a director, which prevents stockholders from being able to fill vacancies on our board of directors;

 

the ability of our board of directors to authorize the issuance of shares of preferred stock and to determine the price and other terms of those shares, including preferences and voting rights, without stockholder approval, which could be used to significantly dilute the ownership of a hostile acquiror;

 

the ability of our board of directors to alter our amended and restated bylaws without obtaining stockholder approval;

 

the required approval of at least 66 2/3% of the shares entitled to vote at an election of directors to adopt, amend or repeal our amended and restated bylaws or to repeal certain provisions of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation;

 

a prohibition on stockholder action by written consent, which forces stockholder action to be taken at an annual or special meeting of our stockholders;

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the requirement that a special meeting of stockholders may be called only by our board of directors, which may delay the ability of our stockholders to force consideration of a proposal or to take action, including the removal of directors; and

 

advance notice procedures that stockholders must comply with in order to nominate candidates to our board of directors or to propose matters to be acted upon at a stockholders’ meeting, which may discourage or deter a potential acquiror from conducting a solicitation of proxies to elect the acquiror’s own slate of directors or otherwise attempting to obtain control of us.

We are also subject to the anti-takeover provisions contained in Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. Under Section 203, a corporation may not, in general, engage in a business combination with any holder of 15% or more of its capital stock unless the holder has held the stock for three years or, among other exceptions, the board of directors has approved the transaction.

Claims for indemnification by our directors, officers and other employees or agents may reduce our available funds to satisfy successful third-party claims against us and may reduce the amount of money available to us.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws provide that we will indemnify our directors and officers, in each case to the fullest extent permitted by Delaware law.

In addition, as permitted by Section 145 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, our amended and restated bylaws and our indemnification agreements that we have entered into with our directors, officers and certain other employees provide that:

 

We will indemnify our directors and officers for serving us in those capacities or for serving other business enterprises at our request, to the fullest extent permitted by Delaware law. Delaware law provides that a corporation may indemnify such person if such person acted in good faith and in a manner such person reasonably believed to be in or not opposed to the best interests of the registrant and, with respect to any criminal proceeding, had no reasonable cause to believe such person’s conduct was unlawful.

 

We may, in our discretion, indemnify employees and agents in those circumstances where indemnification is permitted by applicable law.

 

We are required to advance expenses, as incurred, to our directors and officers in connection with defending a proceeding, except that such directors or officers shall undertake to repay such advances if it is ultimately determined that such person is not entitled to indemnification.

 

We will not be obligated pursuant to our amended and restated bylaws to indemnify a person with respect to proceedings initiated by that person against us or our other indemnitees, except with respect to proceedings authorized by our board of directors or brought to enforce a right to indemnification.

 

The rights conferred in our amended and restated bylaws are not exclusive, and we are authorized to enter into indemnification agreements with our directors, officers, employees and agents and to obtain insurance to indemnify such persons.

 

We may not retroactively amend our amended and restated bylaw provisions to reduce our indemnification obligations to directors, officers, employees and agents.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the exclusive forum for certain disputes between us and our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (or, in the event that the Court of Chancery does not have jurisdiction, the federal district court for the District of Delaware or other state courts of the State of Delaware) is the exclusive forum for any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, any action asserting a claim of breach of

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fiduciary duty, any action asserting a claim against us arising pursuant to the Delaware General Corporation Law, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or our amended and restated bylaws, or any action asserting a claim against us that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine; provided that, the exclusive forum provision will not apply to suits brought to enforce any liability or duty created by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act), or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction; and provided further that, if and only if the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware dismisses any such action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, such action may be brought in another state or federal court sitting in the State of Delaware. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws also provide that the federal district courts of the United States of America will be the exclusive forum for the resolution of any complaint asserting a cause of action against us or any of our directors, officers, employees or agents and arising under the Securities Act. Nothing in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or amended and restated bylaws precludes stockholders that assert claims under the Exchange Act from bringing such claims in state or federal court, subject to applicable law.

We believe these provisions may benefit us by providing increased consistency in the application of Delaware law and federal securities laws by chancellors and judges, as applicable, particularly experienced in resolving corporate disputes, efficient administration of cases on a more expedited schedule relative to other forums and protection against the burdens of multi-forum litigation. However, this choice of forum provision may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or any of our directors, officers, other employees or stockholders, which may discourage lawsuits with respect to such claims, although our stockholders will not be deemed to have waived our compliance with federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder. Furthermore, the enforceability of similar choice of forum provisions in other companies’ certificates of incorporation has been challenged in legal proceedings, and it is possible that a court could find these types of provisions to be inapplicable or unenforceable. While the Delaware courts have determined that such choice of forum provisions are facially valid, a stockholder may nevertheless seek to bring a claim in a venue other than those designated in the exclusive forum provisions, and there can be no assurance that such provisions will be enforced by a court in those other jurisdictions. If a court were to find the choice of forum provision that will be contained in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could adversely affect our business and financial condition.

General risk factors

If we engage in future acquisitions or strategic partnerships, it may increase our capital requirements, dilute our stockholders, cause us to incur debt or assume contingent liabilities and subject us to other risks.

We may evaluate various acquisitions and strategic partnerships, including licensing or acquiring complementary products, intellectual property rights, technologies or businesses. Any potential acquisition or strategic partnership may entail numerous risks, including:

 

increased operating expenses and cash requirements;

 

the assumption of additional indebtedness or contingent liabilities;

 

assimilation of operations, intellectual property and products of an acquired company, including difficulties associated with integrating new personnel;

 

the diversion of our management’s attention from our existing product programs and initiatives in pursuing such a strategic merger or acquisition;

 

loss of key personnel, and uncertainties in our ability to maintain key business relationships;

 

uncertainties associated with the other party to such a transaction, including the prospects of that party and their existing products or product candidates and regulatory approvals; and

 

our inability to generate revenue from acquired technology and/or products sufficient to meet our objectives in undertaking the acquisition or even to offset the associated acquisition and maintenance costs.

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In addition, if we undertake acquisitions or strategic partnerships, we may issue dilutive securities, assume or incur debt obligations, incur large one-time expenses and acquire intangible assets that could result in significant future amortization expense. Moreover, we may not be able to locate suitable acquisition or partnership opportunities, and even if we do locate such opportunities we may not be able to successfully bid for or obtain them due to competitive factors or lack of sufficient resources. This inability could impair our ability to grow or obtain access to technology or products that may be important to the development of our business.

Our effective tax rate may vary significantly from period to period.

Various internal and external factors may have favorable or unfavorable effects on our future effective tax rate. These factors include, but are not limited to, changes in tax laws both within and outside the United States, regulations and/or rates, structural changes in our business, new or changes to accounting pronouncements, non-deductible goodwill impairments, changing interpretations of existing tax laws or regulations, changes in the relative proportions of revenue and income before taxes in the various jurisdictions in which we operate that have differing statutory tax rates, the future levels of tax benefits of equity-based compensation, changes in overall levels of pretax earnings or changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets and liabilities. Additionally, we could be challenged by state and local tax authorities as to the propriety of our sales tax compliance, and our results could be materially impacted by these compliance determinations.

In addition, our effective tax rate may vary significantly depending on our stock price. The tax effects of the accounting for share-based compensation may significantly impact our effective tax rate from period to period. In periods in which our stock price is higher than the grant price of the share-based compensation vesting in that period, we will recognize excess tax benefits that will decrease our effective tax rate. In future periods in which our stock price is lower than the grant price of the share-based compensation vesting in that period, our effective tax rate may increase. The amount and value of share-based compensation issued relative to our earnings in a particular period will also affect the magnitude of the impact of share-based compensation on our effective tax rate. These tax effects are dependent on our stock price, which we do not control, and a decline in our stock price could significantly increase our effective tax rate and adversely affect our financial results.

If we fail to execute invention assignment agreements with our employees and contractors involved in the development of intellectual property or are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, the value of our products and our business and competitive position could be harmed.

In addition to patent protection, we also rely on protection of copyright, trade secrets, know-how and confidential and proprietary information. We generally enter into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with our employees, consultants and third parties upon their commencement of a relationship with us. However, we may not enter into such agreements with all employees, consultants and third parties who have been involved in the development of our intellectual property. In addition, these agreements may not provide meaningful protection against the unauthorized use or disclosure of our trade secrets or other confidential information, and adequate remedies may not exist if unauthorized use or disclosure were to occur. The exposure of our trade secrets and other proprietary information would impair our competitive advantages and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In particular, a failure to protect our proprietary rights may allow competitors to copy our technology, which could adversely affect our pricing and market share. Further, other parties may independently develop substantially equivalent know-how and technology.

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In addition to contractual measures, we try to protect the confidential nature of our proprietary information using commonly accepted physical and technological security measures. Such measures may not, for example, in the case of misappropriation of a trade secret by an employee or third party with authorized access, provide adequate protection for our proprietary information. Our security measures may not prevent an employee or consultant from misappropriating our trade secrets and providing them to a competitor, and recourse we take against such misconduct may not provide an adequate remedy to protect our interests fully. Unauthorized parties may also attempt to copy or reverse engineer certain aspects of our products that we consider proprietary. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. Even though we use commonly accepted security measures, trade secret violations are often a matter of state law, and the criteria for protection of trade secrets can vary among different jurisdictions. In addition, trade secrets may be independently developed by others in a manner that could prevent legal recourse by us. We also have agreements with our employees, consultants and third parties that obligate them to assign their inventions to us, however these agreements may not be self-executing, not all employees or consultants may enter into such agreements, or employees or consultants may breach or violate the terms of these agreements, and we may not have adequate remedies for any such breach or violation. If any of our intellectual property or confidential or proprietary information, such as our trade secrets, were to be disclosed or misappropriated, or if any such information was independently developed by a competitor, it could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

We may be unable to enforce our intellectual property rights throughout the world.

The laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in certain foreign jurisdictions. This could make it difficult for us to stop infringement of our foreign patents, if obtained, or the misappropriation of our other intellectual property rights. For example, some foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. In addition, some countries limit the enforceability of patents against third parties, including government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, patents may provide limited or no benefit. Patent protection must ultimately be sought on a country-by-country basis, which is an expensive and time-consuming process with uncertain outcomes. Accordingly, we may choose not to seek patent protection in certain countries, and we will not have the benefit of patent protection in such countries.

Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business. Accordingly, our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights in such countries may be inadequate. In addition, changes in the law and legal decisions by courts in the United States and foreign countries may affect our ability to obtain adequate protection for our technology and the enforcement of our intellectual property.

We are subject to risks from legal and arbitration proceedings and that may prevent us from pursuing our business activities or require us to incur additional costs in defending against claims or paying damages.

We may become subject to legal disputes and regulatory proceedings in connection with our business activities involving, among other things, product liability, product defects, intellectual property infringement and/or alleged violations of applicable laws in various jurisdictions. Although we maintain liability insurance in amounts we believe to be consistent with industry practice, we may not be fully insured against all potential damages that may arise out of any claims to which we may be party in the ordinary course of our business. A negative outcome of these proceedings may prevent us from pursuing certain activities and/or require us to incur additional costs in order to do so and pay damages.

The outcome of pending or potential future legal and arbitration proceedings is difficult to predict with certainty. In the event of a negative outcome of any material legal or arbitration proceeding, whether based on a judgment or a settlement agreement, we could be obligated to make substantial payments, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, the costs related to litigation and arbitration proceedings may be significant, and any legal or arbitration proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Actual or perceived failures to comply with applicable data privacy and security laws, regulations, policies, standards, contractual obligations and other requirements related to data privacy and security and changes to such laws, regulations, standards, policies and contractual obligations could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The global data protection landscape is rapidly evolving, and there has been an increasing focus on privacy and data protection issues with the potential to affect our business. We are or may become subject to numerous state, federal and foreign laws, requirements and regulations governing the collection, transmission, use, disclosure, storage, retention and security of personal and personally-identifying information, such as information that we may collect in connection with conducting our business in the United States and abroad. Implementation standards and enforcement practices are likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, and we cannot yet determine the impact future laws, regulations, standards or perception of their requirements may have on our business. This evolution may create uncertainty in our business, affect our ability to operate in certain jurisdictions or to collect, store, transfer use and share personal information, necessitate the acceptance of more onerous obligations in our contracts, result in liability or impose additional costs on us. The cost of compliance with these laws, regulations and standards is high and is likely to increase in the future. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with federal, state or foreign laws or regulation, our internal policies and procedures or our contracts governing our processing of personal information could result in negative publicity, government investigations and enforcement actions, fines, imprisonment of company officials and public censure, claims by third parties, damage to our reputation and loss of goodwill, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data, including protected health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), intellectual property and proprietary business information owned or controlled by ourselves or our customers, third-party payors and other parties. We also collect and store sensitive data of our employees and contractors. We manage and maintain our applications and data utilizing cloud-based data centers for PII. We utilize external security and infrastructure vendors to manage parts of our data centers.

As our operations and business grow, we are and may become subject to or affected by new or additional data protection laws and regulations and face increased scrutiny or attention from regulatory authorities. In the United States, HIPAA establishes, among other things, privacy and security standards that limit the use and disclosure of individually identifiable health information, or protected health information, and imposes certain obligations, including mandatory contractual terms, with respect to safeguarding the privacy, security and transmission of protected health information by covered entities, such as health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers, as well as their business associates that perform certain services involving the use or disclosure of protected health information. HIPAA requires covered entities and their business associates to develop and maintain certain policies and procedures with respect to individually identifiable health information that is used or disclosed. Further, in the event of a breach of unsecured protected health information, HIPAA requires covered entities to notify each individual whose protected health information is breached as well as federal regulators and in some cases, the media. Certain states have also adopted comparable privacy and security laws and regulations, some of which may be more stringent than HIPAA. Such laws and regulations will be subject to interpretation by various courts and other governmental authorities, thus creating potentially complex compliance issues for us and our future customers and strategic partners. Determining whether protected health information has been handled in compliance with applicable privacy standards and our contractual obligations can be complex and may be subject to changing interpretation. If we are unable to properly protect the privacy and security of protected health information, we could be found to have breached our contracts. Further, if we fail to comply with applicable privacy laws, including applicable privacy and security standards, we could face civil and criminal penalties. The HHS has the discretion to impose penalties without attempting to resolve violations through informal means. HHS enforcement activity can result in financial liability and reputational harm, and responses to such enforcement activity can consume significant internal resources, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business financial condition, results of operations or prospects.

In addition, the CCPA, which took effect on January 1, 2020, creates individual privacy rights for California consumers and increases the privacy and security obligations of entities handling certain personal information. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches that is expected

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to increase data breach litigation. The CCPA may increase our compliance costs and potential liability, and many similar laws have been proposed at the federal level and in other states. Further, the CPRA recently passed in California, which will impose additional data protection obligations on covered businesses, including additional consumer rights processes, limitations on data uses, new audit requirements for higher risk data, and opt outs for certain uses of sensitive data. It will also create a new California data protection agency authorized to issue substantive regulations and could result in increased privacy and information security enforcement. The majority of the provisions will go into effect on January 1, 2023, and additional compliance investment and potential business process changes may be required. In the event that we are subject to or affected by HIPAA, the CCPA, the CPRA or other domestic privacy and data protection laws, any liability from failure to comply with the requirements of these laws could adversely affect our financial condition.

In addition, state attorneys general are authorized to bring civil actions seeking either injunctions or damages in response to violations that threaten the privacy of state residents. We cannot be sure how these regulations will be interpreted, enforced or applied to our operations. In addition to the risks associated with enforcement activities and potential contractual liabilities, our ongoing efforts to comply with evolving laws and regulations at the federal and state level may be costly and require ongoing modifications to our policies, procedures and systems.

We may in the future become subject to the GDPR, which went into effect in May 2018 and which imposes obligations on companies that operate in our industry with respect to the processing of personal data and the cross-border transfer of such data. The GDPR imposes onerous accountability obligations requiring data controllers and processors to maintain a record of their data processing and policies. If our or our partners’ or service providers’ privacy or data security measures fail to comply with the GDPR requirements, we may be subject to litigation, regulatory investigations, enforcement notices requiring us to change the way we use personal data and/or fines of up to 20 million Euros or up to 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, as well as compensation claims by affected individuals, negative publicity, reputational harm and a potential loss of business and goodwill. Further, from January 1, 2021, companies have to comply with the GDPR and the UK GDPR, which, together with the amended UK Data Protection Act 2018, retains the GDPR in UK national law, the latter regime having the ability to separately fine up to the greater of £17.5 million or 4% of global turnover. While we continue to address the implications of the recent changes to European data privacy regulations, data privacy remains an evolving landscape at both the domestic and international level, with new regulations coming into effect and continued legal challenges, and our efforts to comply with the evolving data protection rules may be unsuccessful. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our practices. Accordingly, we must devote significant resources to understanding and complying with this changing landscape.

Although we work to comply with applicable laws, regulations and standards, our contractual obligations and other legal obligations, these requirements are evolving and may be modified, interpreted and applied in an inconsistent manner from one jurisdiction to another, and may conflict with one another or other legal obligations with which we must comply. Any failure or perceived failure by us or our employees, representatives, contractors, consultants or other third parties to comply with such requirements or adequately address privacy and security concerns, even if unfounded, could result in additional cost and liability to us, damage our reputation, negative publicity, loss of goodwill and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations or prospects.

Failure to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, economic and trade sanctions regulations and similar laws could subject us to penalties and other adverse consequences.

We are subject to the FCPA, and other laws in the United States and elsewhere that prohibit improper payments or offers of payments to foreign governments and their officials and political parties for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. Certain suppliers of our product components are located in countries known to experience corruption. Business activities in these countries create the risk of unauthorized payments or offers of payments by one of our employees, contractors or agents that could be in violation of various laws, including the FCPA and anti-bribery laws in these countries, even though these parties are not always subject to our control. While we have implemented policies and procedures designed to discourage these practices by our employees, consultants and agents and to identify and address potentially impermissible transactions under such laws and

69


regulations, we cannot assure you that all of our employees, consultants and agents will not take actions in violation of our policies, for which we may be ultimately responsible.

We are also subject to certain economic and trade sanctions programs that are administered by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control which prohibit or restrict transactions to or from or dealings with specified countries, their governments and in certain circumstances, their nationals, and with individuals and entities that are specially designated nationals of those countries, narcotics traffickers and terrorists or terrorist organizations.

Failure to comply with any of these laws and regulations or changes in this regulatory environment, including changing interpretations and the implementation of new or varying regulatory requirements by the government, may result in significant financial penalties or reputational harm, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our information technology systems, internal computer systems, or those used by our third-party service providers, vendors, strategic partners or other contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches and other disruptions, which could result in a material disruption of our products and services development programs, compromise sensitive information related to our business or prevent us from accessing critical information, potentially exposing us to liability or otherwise adversely affecting our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We collect and maintain information in digital form that is necessary to conduct our business, and we are increasingly dependent on information technology systems and infrastructure to operate our business, including our mobile and web-based applications, our e-commerce platform and our enterprise software. In the ordinary course of our business, we collect, store and transmit large amounts of confidential information, including intellectual property, proprietary business information and personal information of customers and our employees and contractors. It is critical that we do so in a secure manner to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of such confidential information. We have also outsourced elements of our information technology infrastructure, and as a result a number of third-party vendors may or could have access to our confidential information. We do not conduct audits or formal evaluations of our third-party vendors’ information technology systems and cannot be sure that our third-party vendors have sufficient measures in place to ensure the security and integrity of their information technology systems and our confidential and proprietary information. If our third-party vendors fail to protect their information technology systems and our confidential and proprietary information, we may be vulnerable to disruptions in service and unauthorized access to our confidential or proprietary information and we could incur liability and reputational damage. Our internal information technology systems and those of our third-party service providers, vendors, strategic partners and other contractors or consultants are vulnerable to damage or interruption from computer viruses, natural disasters, terrorism, war, telecommunication and electrical failures, hacking, cyberattacks, phishing attacks and other social engineering schemes, malicious code, employee theft or misuse, denial or degradation of service attacks, sophisticated nation-state and nation-state-supported actors or unauthorized access or use by persons inside our organization, or persons with access to systems inside our organization. The risk of a security breach or disruption, particularly through cyberattacks or cyber intrusion, including by computer hackers, foreign governments and cyber terrorists, has generally increased as the number, intensity and sophistication of attempted attacks and intrusions from around the world have increased. The costs to us to investigate and mitigate network security problems, bugs, viruses, worms, malicious software programs and security vulnerabilities could be significant, and while we have implemented security measures to protect our data security and information technology systems from system failure, accident and security breach, our efforts to address these problems may not be successful, and these problems could result in unexpected interruptions, delays, disruption of our development programs and our business operations, cessation of service, negative publicity and other harm to our business and our competitive position, whether due to a loss of our trade secrets or other proprietary information or other disruptions. If we were to experience a significant cybersecurity breach of our information systems or data, the costs associated with the investigation, remediation and potential notification of the breach to counter-parties and data subjects could be material. In addition, our remediation efforts may not be successful. If we do not allocate and effectively manage the resources necessary to build and sustain the proper technology and cybersecurity infrastructure, we could suffer significant business disruption, including transaction errors, supply chain or manufacturing interruptions, processing inefficiencies, data loss or the loss of or damage to intellectual property or other proprietary information. If such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could

70


result in a material disruption of our development programs and our business operations, whether due to a loss, corruption or unauthorized disclosure of our trade secrets, personal information or other proprietary or sensitive information or other similar disruptions.

If a security breach or other incident were to result in the unauthorized access to or unauthorized use, disclosure, release or other processing of personal information, it may be necessary to notify individuals, governmental authorities, supervisory bodies, the media and other parties pursuant to privacy and security laws. Any security compromise affecting us, our service providers, vendors, strategic partners, other contractors, consultants, or our industry, whether real or perceived, could harm our reputation, erode confidence in the effectiveness of our security measures and lead to regulatory scrutiny. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or systems, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary or personal information, we could incur liability, including litigation exposure, penalties and fines, we could become the subject of regulatory action or investigation, our competitive position could be harmed and the further development and commercialization of our products and services could be delayed. If such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our business. Furthermore, federal, state and international laws and regulations can expose us to enforcement actions and investigations by regulatory authorities, and potentially result in regulatory penalties, fines and significant legal liability, if our information technology security efforts fail. We would also be exposed to a risk of loss or litigation and potential liability, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations or prospects.

Disruptions in internet access could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

As an online business, we are dependent on the internet and maintaining connectivity between ourselves and consumers and sources of internet traffic, such as Google. As consumers increasingly turn to mobile devices, we also become dependent on consumers’ access to the internet through mobile carriers and their systems. Disruptions in internet access, whether generally, in a specific market or otherwise, especially if widespread or prolonged, could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. For example, the “denial-of-service” attack against Dyn in October 2016 resulted in a service outage for several major internet companies. It is possible that we could experience an interruption in our business, and we do not carry business interruption insurance sufficient to compensate us for all losses that may occur.

Changes in the regulation of the internet could adversely affect our business.

Laws, rules and regulations governing internet communications, advertising and e-commerce are dynamic, and the extent of future government regulation is uncertain. Federal and state regulations govern various aspects of our online business, including intellectual property ownership and infringement, trade secrets, the distribution of electronic communications, marketing and advertising, user privacy and data security, search engines and internet tracking technologies. Future taxation on the use of the internet or e-commerce transactions could also be imposed. Existing or future regulation or taxation could increase our operating expenses and expose us to significant liabilities. To the extent any such regulations require us to take actions that negatively impact us, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If securities analysts publish negative evaluations of our stock or stop publishing research or reports about our business, the price of our stock could decline.

The trading market for our common stock will rely in part on the research and reports that industry or financial analysts publish about us or our business. We currently have research coverage by several financial analysts. If one or more of these analysts should drop research coverage of us or if one or more of the analysts covering our business downgrade their evaluations of our stock, the price of our stock could decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover our stock, we could lose visibility in the market for our stock, which in turn could cause our stock price to decline.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

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Item 2. Properties.

Our corporate headquarters are located in San Jose, California, where we lease approximately 30,434 square feet of office, research and development, engineering and laboratory space pursuant to a lease agreement which was effective as of July 30, 2018 and expires on February 28, 2022. We also lease approximately 14,965 square feet of office space, which is primarily used for our customer support operations, in Nashville, Tennessee, pursuant to a lease that commenced on March 15, 2019 and expires on March 31, 2021. In February 2021, we entered into an amendment of our lease in Nashville, Tennessee, that reduced our office space to 9,327 square feet and extended the term to March 31, 2023. We believe that our existing facilities are adequate to meet our business requirements for the near-term, and that additional space will be available on commercially reasonable terms, if required.

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

We are not currently a party to any material legal proceedings. We may, however, in the ordinary course of business face various claims brought by third parties, and we may, from time to time, make claims or take legal actions to assert our rights, including intellectual property rights as well as claims relating to employment matters and the safety or efficacy of our products. Any of these claims could subject us to costly litigation, and, while we generally believe that we have adequate insurance to cover many different types of liabilities, our insurance carriers may deny coverage, may be inadequately capitalized to pay on valid claims, or our policy limits may be inadequate to fully satisfy any damage awards or settlements. If this were to happen, the payment of any such awards could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, any such claims, whether or not successful, could damage our reputation and business.

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

Not applicable.

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PART II

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Market information for common stock

Our common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “EAR”. Public trading of our common stock began on October 16, 2020. Prior to that, there was no public market for our common stock.

Stockholders

As of March 8, 2021, there were 201 holders of record of our common stock. The actual number of stockholders is greater than this number of record holders, and includes stockholders who are beneficial owners, but whose shares are held in street name by brokers and other nominees. This number of holders of record also does not include stockholders whose shares may be held in trust by other entities.

Stock performance graph

The graph below shows the cumulative total stockholder return assuming the investment of $100 and the reinvestment of any dividends in each of our common stock, the NASDAQ Composite Index, and the S&P Healthcare Equipment Index. The comparisons in the graph below are based on historical data and are not indicative of, or intended to forecast, future performance of our common stock.

 

Dividend policy

We have never declared or paid, and do not anticipate declaring or paying in the foreseeable future, any cash dividends on our capital stock. Any future determination as to the declaration and payment of dividends, if any, will be at the discretion of our board of directors, subject to applicable laws and will depend on then existing conditions, including our financial condition, operating results, contractual restrictions, capital requirements, business prospects, and other factors our board of directors may deem relevant.

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Securities authorized for issuance under equity compensation plans

See the section titled “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters” for information regarding securities authorized for issuance.

Sales of unregistered securities

From January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, we sold and issued the following unregistered securities, which share numbers have been adjusted, as appropriate, for the 3.0-for-1.0 reverse stock split of our common stock that occurred on October 8, 2020:

 

1.

Between March 2020 and April 2020, we issued convertible promissory notes in the aggregate principal amount of $10.1 million to 21 accredited investors.

 

2.

In July 2020, we issued an aggregate of 1,889,542 shares of our Series E convertible preferred stock upon redemption of convertible promissory notes issued by us, in exchange for approximately $10.3 million in cancellation of indebtedness.

 

3.

Between July 2020 and August 2020, we issued and sold an aggregate of 10,513,924 shares of Series E convertible preferred stock to 24 accredited investors at $6.7836 per share for gross proceeds of $71.3 million.

 

4.

In September 2020 we issued a warrant to purchase 53,487 shares of our Series E convertible preferred stock with an exercise price of $6.7836 per share to one accredited investor.

 

5.

Prior to filing our registration statement on Form S-8 in October 2020, we granted stock options and stock awards to employees, directors and consultants under our 2010 Equity Incentive Plan, covering an aggregate of 3,885,943 shares of common stock, at a weighted-average exercise price of $3.02 per share. The weighted-average exercise price per share reflects the repricing of all options granted from January 1, 2020 to August 3, 2020 with an exercise price greater than $2.55 per share that were repriced to $2.55 per share on August 3, 2020.

 

6.

Prior to filing our registration statement on Form S-8 in October 2020, we issued an aggregate of 555,654 shares of common stock at a weighted-average purchase price of $1.81 per share to employees, directors and consultants for aggregate proceeds to us of approximately $1.0 million upon the exercise of stock options.

Use of proceeds from public offering of common stock

On October 20, 2020, we completed our initial public offering, or IPO, and issued 9,029,629 shares of our common stock, which includes an additional 1,177,777 shares of common stock purchased by the underwriters pursuant to their option to purchase additional shares, at an initial offering price of $18.00 per share less underwriting discounts and commissions. We received net proceeds from the initial public offering of approximately $148.5 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions of $11.4 million and offering costs of $2.6 million. None of the expenses associated with the initial public offering were paid to directors, officers, persons owning 10% or more of any class of equity securities, or to their associates. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and BofA Securities, Inc. acted as book-running managers for the IPO.

Shares of our common stock began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on October 16, 2020. The offer and sale of the shares were registered under the Securities Act on a registration statement on Form S-1 (Registration No. 333-249075), which was declared effective on October 15, 2020.

There has been no material change in the planned use of proceeds from our initial public offering as described in the related prospectus filed with the SEC pursuant to Rule 424(b)(4) under the Securities Act. We invested the funds received in cash equivalents and other marketable securities in accordance with our investment policy.

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Issuer purchases of equity securities

None.

Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

The consolidated statements of operations data for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, and the selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

The selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2018 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements which are not included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

The information set forth below is not necessarily indicative of results of future operations, and should be read in conjunction with Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes included in Part II, Item 8, “Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Data” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

Year ended December 31,

 

(in thousands, except share and per share amounts)

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Revenue, net

 

$

69,154

 

 

$

32,790

 

 

$

23,163

 

Cost of revenue

 

 

21,873

 

 

 

15,790

 

 

 

11,423

 

Gross profit

 

 

47,281

 

 

 

17,000

 

 

 

11,740

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and development

 

 

12,045

 

 

 

12,841

 

 

 

9,520

 

Sales and marketing

 

 

49,525

 

 

 

35,725

 

 

 

25,540

 

General and administrative

 

 

20,582

 

 

 

12,470

 

 

 

8,251

 

Total operating expenses

 

 

82,152

 

 

 

61,036

 

 

 

43,311

 

Loss from operations

 

 

(34,871

)

 

 

(44,036

)

 

 

(31,571

)

Other income (expense), net:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest income

 

 

37

 

 

 

627

 

 

 

164

 

Interest expense

 

 

(1,920

)

 

 

(711

)

 

 

(424

)

Other income (expense), net

 

 

(1,474

)

 

 

(366

)

 

 

(1,403

)

Loss on extinguishment of debt

 

 

(1,627

)

 

 

 

 

 

(559

)

Total other income (expense), net

 

 

(4,984

)

 

 

(450

)

 

 

(2,222

)

Loss before income taxes

 

 

(39,855

)

 

 

(44,486

)

 

 

(33,793

)

Income tax provision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net loss and comprehensive loss

 

$

(39,855

)

 

$

(44,486

)

 

$

(33,793

)

Net loss attributable to common stockholders, basic

   and diluted

 

$

(30,015

)

 

$

(44,486

)

 

$

(33,793

)

Net loss per share attributable to common

   stockholders, basic and diluted

 

$

(3.80

)

 

$

(173.47

)

 

$

(149.69

)

Weighted-average shares used in computing net loss per

   share attributable to common stockholders, basic and

   diluted

 

 

7,890,375

 

 

 

256,452

 

 

 

225,754

 

75


 

 

 

 

As of December 31,

 

(in thousands)

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Consolidated balance sheet data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

$

212,185

 

 

$

13,384

 

 

$

51,051

 

Working capital(1)

 

 

198,739

 

 

 

(2,377

)

 

 

43,029

 

Total assets

 

 

232,632

 

 

 

27,305

 

 

 

59,042

 

Long-term debt, current and noncurrent

 

 

14,837

 

 

 

12,246

 

 

 

6,990

 

Convertible preferred stock warrant liability

 

 

 

 

 

396

 

 

 

81

 

Convertible preferred stock

 

 

 

 

 

152,880

 

 

 

152,015

 

Accumulated deficit

 

 

(199,058

)

 

 

(159,203

)

 

 

(114,717

)

Total stockholders’ equity (deficit)

 

 

193,911

 

 

 

(156,103

)

 

 

(112,999

)

(1)We define working capital as current assets less current liabilities. See our consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further details regarding our current assets and current liabilities.

 

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations together with our consolidated financial statements and the related notes included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

This discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements based upon our current beliefs, estimates, plans and expectations that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Our actual results may differ materially from those contained in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including those set forth under “Risk Factors” or in other parts of this Annual Report.

Overview

We are a medical device company dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with hearing loss. We developed the Eargo solution to create a hearing aid that consumers actually want to use. Our innovative product and go-to-market approach address the major challenges of traditional hearing aid adoption, including social stigma, accessibility and cost.

We believe our Eargo hearing aids are the first and only virtually invisible, rechargeable, completely-in-canal, FDA regulated, exempt Class I or Class II devices for the treatment of hearing loss. Our rapid pace of innovation is enabled by our deep industry and technical expertise across mechanical engineering, product design, audio processing, clinical and hearing science, consumer electronics and embedded software design, and is supported by our strategic intellectual property portfolio.

We market and sell our hearing aids direct to consumers with a personalized, consumer-centric approach. Our commercial organization consists of a talented marketing team with deep experience in consumer-focused brand and performance marketing, a team of inside sales consultants, and a dedicated customer support team of licensed hearing professionals. We generate revenue from orders processed primarily through our website and over the phone by our sales consultants.

We believe that our differentiated hearing aids, consumer-oriented approach and strong brand have fueled the rapid adoption of our hearing aids and high customer satisfaction, as evidenced by over 60 thousand Eargo hearing aid systems sold, net of returns, as of December 31, 2020.

On October 20, 2020, we completed our initial public offering, or IPO, pursuant to which we sold an aggregate of 9,029,629 shares of our common stock at a price of $18.00 per share, resulting in net proceeds of $148.5 million after deducting underwriting discounts, commissions and offering expenses. Upon the closing of our IPO, all outstanding shares of our convertible preferred stock automatically converted into 28,196,388 shares of our common stock.

For the year ended December 31, 2020, we generated net revenue of $69.2 million, an increase of $36.4 million from the year ended December 31, 2019. To date, all our revenue has been generated from customers in the United States.

Our net losses were $39.9 million, $44.5 million and $33.8 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, we had an accumulated deficit of $199.1 million and $159.2 million, respectively. We expect to continue to incur losses for the foreseeable future.

Factors affecting our business

We believe that our future performance will depend on many factors, including those described below and in the section titled “Risk Factors” included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Efficient acquisition of new customers

We have spent and expect to continue to spend significant amounts on sales and marketing designed to build a strong brand, achieve broad awareness of our Eargo solution, acquire new customers and convert sales leads. We

77


have also invested and expect to continue investing in growing our teams of sales consultants and licensed hearing professionals to keep pace with increased demand, converting leads into satisfied customers and potentially growing our revenue.

Sales return rate

Our return policy allows our customers to return hearing aids for any reason within the first 45 days of delivery for a full refund, subject to a handling fee in certain states. The most commonly cited reason for returning our hearing aids is unsatisfactory fit, which we believe is a byproduct of our direct-to-consumer model and online distribution that results in nearly all of our customers ordering our product without trying it first. In addition to unsatisfactory fit, the next most cited reason for returns is that our hearing aids do not provide sufficient audio amplification. Customer return accrual rates were approximately 26% and 35% for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. The decline in our sales return rate in 2020 and 2019 was a result of the growth in customers with health insurance coverage for hearing aids and repeat customers which have generally lower return rates than other customers, and our initiatives to improve customer service and enhance the quality of our pre-screening assessments. We report revenue net of expected returns, which is an estimate informed in part by historical return rates. As such, our return rate impacts our reported net revenue and profitability. If actual sales returns differ significantly from our estimates, an adjustment to revenue in the current or subsequent period is recorded.

New product introductions

Our technical capabilities and commitment to innovation have allowed us to deliver product enhancements on a rapid development timeline and support a compelling new product roadmap that we believe will continue to differentiate our competitive position over the next several years. With the launch of the Eargo Neo HiFi in January 2020, we have launched four generations of our hearing aids since 2017, with each iteration having improved audio performance, physical fit and/or comfort. We are focused on continuing to launch new versions of the Eargo hearing solution that further improve audio quality, fit, comfort and/or ease-of-use. We believe that the continued introduction of new products is critical to maintaining existing customers and increasing adoption of our solution, and as such, we expect to continue to invest in research and development to support new product introductions. In connection with our product innovation and iteration, we also need to successfully manage our product transitions to avoid delays in customer purchases, excess or obsolete inventory and increased returns as customers wait for our new products to become available. Our development priorities are focused, in part, on adding a refurbishment capability for returned hearing aids, which would allow us to refurbish and re-sell returned devices, which we anticipate would benefit our gross margin, although there is no guarantee that these efforts will succeed.

COVID-19 pandemic

We believe the COVID-19 pandemic thus far has largely resulted in favorable trends for our business. We believe that shelter-in-place restrictions and increased reluctance of consumers to be exposed to the virus, particularly among older consumers that comprise a majority of the population needing hearing aids, have increased customer interest to consider our vertically integrated telecare model. We believe our sales model can help consumers decrease their risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 by avoiding multiple trips to hearing aid clinics and close proximity to audiologists and other individuals at such clinics, which are part of the traditional hearing aid sales model.

Although we believe the COVID-19 pandemic has largely resulted in favorable trends for our business, we have experienced business disruptions, particularly at our California headquarters, where a majority of our employees have been working remotely. Moreover, travel restrictions, factory closures and disruptions in our supply chain could happen and we may not be able to obtain adequate inventory to sell.

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 depends on the duration and severity of the pandemic, which are difficult to assess or predict. While we have experienced growth in our sales volume during the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot be certain whether we will maintain the current level of demand for our hearing aids. As a result, the impact of these or any future factors could be substantially different than what we have experienced to date. Please see the

78


section titled “Risk Factors” for further discussion of the possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business.

Key business metrics

To analyze our business performance, determine financial forecasts and help develop long-term strategic plans, we review the following key business metrics, each of which is an important measure that represents the growth of our business:

 

Gross systems shipped. We define our gross systems shipped as the number of hearing aid systems shipped for which we recognized revenue during a reporting period.

 

Return accrual rates. Return accrual rates are determined by management at the end of each reporting period to estimate the percentage of returns made during a period. This determination is informed in part by historic actual return rates. Return accrual rates do not represent actual returns during a period as customers may return the product for a period of time that can extend beyond the period end, which can result in a hearing aid being returned after the period in which the revenue from its sale was recognized. If actual returns differ significantly from the return accrual rate determination made at period end, we may adjust revenue in subsequent periods to reflect the actual returns made. Such an adjustment to revenue will not result in an adjustment to the return accrual rate for the period.

The following table details the number of gross systems shipped and return accrual rates for the periods presented below:

 

 

 

Three months ended

 

 

 

March 31,

2019

 

 

June 30,

2019

 

 

September 30,

2019

 

 

December 31,

2019

 

 

March 31,

2020

 

 

June 30,

2020

 

 

September 30,

2020

 

 

December 31,

2020

 

Gross

   systems

   shipped

 

 

5,363

 

 

 

4,955

 

 

 

5,257

 

 

 

7,212

 

 

 

7,030

 

 

 

9,040

 

 

 

10,077

 

 

 

12,096

 

Return

   accrual

   rate

 

 

36.7

%

 

 

34.4

%

 

 

35.3

%

 

 

34.0

%

 

 

28.2

%

 

 

27.1

%

 

 

25.2

%

 

 

24.3

%

 

We believe these key business metrics provide useful information to help investors understand and evaluate our business performance. Gross systems shipped is a key measure of sales volume, which drives potential revenue, while return accrual rates are an indicator of potential reductions to revenue and an indicator of change in customer mix.

Components of our results of operations

Revenue, net

We generate revenue from the sale of Eargo hearing aid systems, accessories and extended warranties, with the majority of our revenue coming from sales of our Eargo hearing aid systems. We currently offer three versions of our hearing aid systems, the Eargo Max, the Eargo Neo and the Eargo Neo HiFi, at three different price points, and we periodically offer discounts and promotions. For product sales, control is transferred upon shipment to the customer. We report revenue net of expected returns, which is an estimate informed in part by historical return rates. Prior to January 2020, we also offered extended product warranties to our customers which covered the product for an additional year, commencing on the day after the initial one-year warranty expires. For extended warranty sales, control is transferred over time based on time elapsed throughout the extended warranty period.

Cost of revenue and gross margin

Cost of revenue consists of expenses associated with the cost of finished goods, freight, personnel costs, consumables, product warranty costs, transaction fees, reserves for excess and obsolete inventory, depreciation and amortization, and related overhead. We expect cost of revenue to increase in absolute terms as our revenue grows.

79


Our gross margin has been and will continue to be affected by a variety of factors, including sales volumes, product mix, pricing strategies, return accrual rates, costs of finished goods, product warranty claim rates and refurbishment strategies. We expect our gross margin percentage to increase over the long term to the extent we are successful in decreasing our rate of returns and implementing refurbishment programs after new product launches. Any increase in gross margin will likely fluctuate from quarter to quarter as we continue to introduce new products and adopt new technologies.

Research and development expenses

Research and development, or R&D, expenses, consist primarily of engineering and product development costs to develop and support our products, regulatory expenses, non-recurring engineering and other costs associated with products and technologies that are in development, as well as related overhead costs. These expenses include personnel-related costs including salaries and stock-based compensation, supplies, consulting fees, prototyping, testing, materials, travel expenses, depreciation and allocated facility overhead costs. Additionally, R&D expenses include internal and external costs associated with our regulatory compliance and quality assurance functions, and related overhead costs. We expect R&D expenses, net of capitalized internal use software development costs, to increase in absolute dollars as we continue to develop new products and enhance existing products and technologies.

Sales and marketing expenses

Our sales and marketing expenses are the largest component of our operating expenses and consist primarily of personnel-related costs including salaries and stock-based compensation, direct marketing, advertising and promotional expenses, consulting fees, public relations costs and allocated facility overhead costs. Sales and marketing personnel include our inside sales consultants, licensed hearing professionals, marketing professionals and related support personnel. We expect our sales and marketing expenses to increase in absolute dollars, but decrease over time as a percentage of revenue, as we hire additional sales and marketing personnel, expand our sales support infrastructure and invest in our brand and product awareness to further penetrate the U.S. market and potentially expand into international markets.

General and administrative expenses

Our general and administrative expenses consist primarily of compensation for executive, finance, legal, information technology and administrative personnel, including stock-based compensation. Other significant expenses include professional fees for legal and accounting services, consulting fees, recruiting fees, information technology costs, corporate insurance, bad debt expense, general corporate expenses and allocated facility overhead costs.

We expect to continue to incur additional general and administrative expenses as a result of operating as a public company, including expenses related to compliance with the rules and regulations of the SEC, and those of the Nasdaq Stock Market, additional insurance costs, investor relations activities and other administrative and professional services. As a result, we expect general and administrative expenses to increase in absolute dollars in future periods.

Interest income

Interest income consists of interest earned on cash and cash equivalents.

Interest expense

Interest expense consists of interest related to borrowings under our debt obligations and convertible promissory notes.

80


Other income (expense), net

Other income (expense), net consists primarily of adjustments to the fair value of embedded derivatives associated with certain redemption features of our convertible promissory notes and adjustments to the fair value of our convertible preferred stock warrant liabilities.

Loss on extinguishment of debt

The loss on extinguishment of debt arose on the redemption of our 2020 Notes into shares of our Series E convertible preferred stock in July 2020.

Income tax provision

We use the asset and liability method to account for income taxes. Under this method, deferred tax assets and liabilities are determined based on differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their tax bases. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates applied to taxable income in the years in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. A valuation allowance is established when necessary to reduce deferred tax assets to the amount expected to be realized. Due to our historical operating performance and our recorded cumulative net losses in prior fiscal periods, our net deferred tax assets have been fully offset by a valuation allowance.

Financial statement effects of uncertain tax positions are recognized when it is more-likely-than-not, based on the technical merits of the position, that it will be sustained upon examination. Interest and penalties related to unrecognized tax benefits are included within the provision for income tax.

Results of operations

Comparison of the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019

 

 

 

Year ended December 31,

 

 

Change

 

(dollars in thousands)

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

Amount

 

 

%

 

Revenue, net

 

$

69,154