Movable Ink was born out of a simple yet revolutionary idea: personalizing emails at the very moment they’re opened. It burst onto the NYC tech scene in 2010, and since then has helped more than 700 of the world’s largest brands create unique visual experiences for millions of consumers — but, according to Founder and CEO Vivek Sharma, they’re just getting started.
We sat down with Vivek and two other members of his product team to learn more about Movable Ink’s deep-rooted innovation culture and how it’s helping them transform digital marketing for good.
EMPLOYEES: 180 locally, 298 globally
WHAT THEY DO: Movable Ink’s visual experience platform helps marketers create unique, relevant and compelling experiences that can be personalized for individual consumers across email, web and display.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Midtown Manhattan — just across the street from Bryant Park
PRODUCTIVITY PERKS: To keep their teams firing on all cylinders, Movable Ink provides a flexible working environment and cold brew coffee on tap.
STARTUP SPIRIT: Despite having been in business for nearly 10 years, Movable Ink maintains the energy and agility of a startup. In addition to an open-door policy that gives Inkers at all levels access to leadership, the company also embraces a move-fast mentality that allows them to pivot quickly when necessary.
Vivek Sharma, Founder and CEO
As founder and CEO, Vivek helps further Movable Ink’s mission to “create visual experiences that move people,” ensuring the other leaders of his team have the people, resources and vision they need to innovate and thrive.
BEYOND WORK: Vivek enjoys playing acoustic guitar, is learning how to kiteboard, and is also a student of Filipino martial arts.
When Movable Ink was first founded, you were charting new territory in email marketing. What would you consider to be the “next frontier” of email? How is your company leading the way?
The next frontier of email, and all marketing, is the challenge of “personalization” in the visual era. Personalization has evolved. It’s no longer about a hodgepodge of tactics — name merges, triggers, recommendations. It’s about speaking to people as individuals. My bets are on visuals as the best way to achieve that.
Visuals give consumers something visceral and tangible to interact with. We’re leading the way with solutions that enable brands to take all the great data they have and transform it into personalized visuals in real time. Augmented reality is another great example of data-driven visuals, and we’re making inroads with our AR capabilities. AI will be a big part of this next frontier of generating unique visual experiences, and we’re building new internal capabilities and partnerships in this area, too.
With innovation running so deep in our DNA, it was only natural to embed it into our company culture.”
How does Movable Ink’s culture foster an environment for tech innovation at your company?
With innovation running so deep in our DNA, it was only natural to embed it into our company culture. Like many progressive tech companies, we regularly engage in activities like design sprints, rapid prototyping, participatory design and co-creation with clients, hackathons, ideation sessions and team building. But at Movable Ink, the learning and experimentation that we’re fostering is all based on a foundation of true collaboration between engineering, product and design. In the end, it’s about cadence, trust and empowering teams to find effective solutions for our clients that meet their business goals.
What’s next for your company?
Movable Ink is at an exciting point in its life. After seeing how our clients wanted to use our intelligent creative beyond email, we expanded into web and display — and we’re not stopping there. In close collaboration with our clients, we’re working towards solving similar challenges in mobile and beyond. We’ve also built out a talented client strategy team to ensure that our clients have the tools, resources and guidance they need to get the very most out of our platform.
Within five years, Movable Ink will scale creativity to eliminate marketing noise. We believe it’s possible to build software that is capable of creative expression. This will be transformative for every brand on the planet and will help marketers communicate with their customers in unique ways. We are building for the long term with this vision in mind.
Amber Britton, Product Manager
Amber works on two product teams in her role as product manager — focusing on analytics with the reporting team and user management, security and navigation with the general platform team — all with the goal of solving problems and innovating as a team.
BEYOND WORK: Outside the office, Amber is the lead singer of a local alternative rock band.
You’ve worn many hats in your three years with Movable Ink. Tell us about your professional development journey with the company. What attracted you to the product side of the business?
I started the process of getting my MBA right when I started here at Movable Ink. During that time, I was on our client experience team and was constantly relaying feedback and ideas to our product team. I started to sit in on some sprint planning meetings and loved the idea of being able to shape the direction we took our product in. It was exciting to see some small nugget of an idea turn into this larger feature that positively impacted all of our users. Once I finished school, I was looking for a new challenge and Movable Ink was happy to help me find a new path within the company on the product team. The product and engineering teams welcomed me right away.
Our focus is on outcomes, not output.”
From start to finish, what’s your process for creating or building out a new feature?
Everything starts from one of two places — either a true business problem or a user need. Our focus is on outcomes, not output. Once we have identified the problem we are trying to solve, we move to research. That can be in-person interviews with different types of users or simply visiting a client and observing their workflow.
Recently, my team was looking at the way users get invited to our platform. I looked at a lot of data with the help of some analytics vendors we use, found several small steps that were causing frustration and brought that data to the team. We all agreed that some of these were no-brainer fixes and that we could even go broader. We implemented an entirely new user invite flow that allows you to invite a user to multiple groups at once, provides clear validation on who you are inviting, and gives the end user more control without the need to reach out to their client experience team for help with something administrative.
Andrew Deutsch, Head of Immersive Technology
In his role as head of immersive technology, Andrew leads product design, development and go-to-market strategy for Movable Ink’s augmented reality product. He also collaborates with the client experience team to help them consult with clients on how to best leverage the platform’s new AR feature.
BEYOND WORK: Andrew likes to flex his creative muscle both inside and outside the office. In his free time, he writes and records music — something he’s done since he was a kid.
Movable Ink recently launched a new AR feature for customers to leverage in their digital marketing campaigns across email, web and display. Tell us a bit more about this new feature. How did it come about?
I met co-founders Vivek Sharma and Michael Nutt at a party. I had just started playing with ARKit, Apple’s augmented reality SDK, and shared a demo of what I’d been working on (it was an adorable cat hopping up and down). I hadn’t met other people who were as excited about AR developments, and after I got home that night, I decided to start a Meetup focused on ARKit. Remembering Michael and Vivek’s enthusiasm at my hopping cat demo, I asked them if Movable Ink would like to host, and they agreed to.
After a few months, they invited me in to talk about AR. We had a great conversation about how they could introduce AR as a product. A few weeks later, they asked me to join Movable Ink to explore creating an AR product for the company as a senior creative technologist. We didn’t have a clear product vision when I started, but after researching the Movable Ink platform and the state of AR, it became clear that there was an opportunity in building an AR product that could publish campaigns in the browser. Even though we’ve released an exciting product, it feels like we’re only getting started.
Even though we’ve released an exciting product, it feels like we’re only getting started.”
How else does Movable Ink plan to leverage AR within the platform?
Our launch products focus on the front-facing camera, allowing users to change themselves via playful, branded visual experiences. We’re currently creating a product visualization tool that will allow our clients to place their products into their customer’s world without requiring an app download.
Talk to us about the problems you solve when you come into work and the technologies you're using or building to accomplish those goals.
Because we’re still in the early stages of integrating AR in our platform, what we work on every day can vary pretty widely. In addition to app development, we work very closely with sales, marketing and production teams to provide guidance and support needed to help our clients have the best experience with our AR solution — both in terms of using the tool and generating meaningful results. A day might start reviewing a marketing video promoting the product and then end with helping a client determine whether to use a 2D or a 3D hat.