Neil Patel

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In the realm of entrepreneurship, there exists a unique breed of individuals whose journey embodies the essence of resilience, adaptation, and unwavering determination. Vivek Sharma, the visionary behind Movable Ink, epitomizes this spirit of tenacity and innovation.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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A Childhood Shaped by Change: From South India to Massachusetts

Born into a family that traversed continents in pursuit of opportunity, Vivek’s upbringing was a tapestry woven with diverse cultures and experiences. Vivek’s father was a mechanical engineer at Tata Steel in Jamshedpur.

He grew up speaking Hindi and English until they moved to the south, where they spoke Tamil, his family language.

Despite the challenges of relocating and navigating through nine different schools by eighth grade, Vivek’s innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge propelled him forward.

From the warmth of Tamil Nadu in South India to the unfamiliar landscapes of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, his early years were marked by constant change and adaptation.

Vivek recalls what it was like starting and dealing with new schools and making friends every time. However, he also talks about how the experiences shaped his personality.

The culture and weather changes came as a shock, and Vivek wasn’t a fan of the constant moving around. Eventually, Vivek’s family settled in Pepperell in the snowbelt of northern Massachusetts.

Nurturing a Passion for Technology: The Dawn of Digital Innovation

It was a pivotal moment when Vivek realized that his future lay in harnessing the power of digital platforms to shape the world around him. His first introduction to computers was the PC at home that his dad used for his engineering work.

Vivek and his brother downloaded and played games, but later, Vivek took a Pascal programming class in high school. Since he was keenly interested in math and science, Vivek entered the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which has a great engineering program.

Initially, he wanted to be an aerospace engineer, thinking it would be exciting to work on NASA shuttles. A year and a half into it, Vivek realized this wasn’t his passion.

His work involved differential equations, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and intense math and engineering. But physical systems had constraints.

Entering the technological wave sweeping through the late 20th century, Vivek found himself drawn to the burgeoning world of programming and web development. Witnessing the birth of the internet and the rise of web browsers like Mosaic ignited his passion for software and innovation.

That’s when Vivek switched to a new computer science major and followed his interest and curiosity, eventually landing him in Silicon Valley right after college.

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Working at Pratt & Whitney and Blue Martini Software

Vivek quickly realized that corporate wasn’t as exciting as he first thought. Right out of college, he did a couple of internships. One was at Pratt & Whitney, which makes jet engines, and Vivek wrote test software.

After college, he landed at Cisco, where he wrote network management software. However, working in big companies made him feel disconnected from what the business was really up to.

After quitting his job, Vivek landed at a startup in the Bay Area called Blue Martini Software, where the engineering team had built Netscape Commerce Server. The salespeople were from Oracle, and it was about 20 people in size. The atmosphere was electric and dynamic.

Vivek came in as a contractor at first and joined full-time to work on the first version as part of the 6-member core engineering team. In two and a half years, that company went from $0 revenue to north of $100M.

It was one of the biggest IPOs of 2000 and became a $5B company at its peak. Vivek recalls it was an amazing ride, going from 20 people to 800 people in a short period of time and probably one of the most intense work environments he had ever been in.

Vivek identifies the magical ingredient that contributed to the company’s success. The CEO had assembled a dream team right from the start, and this nucleus of talent attracted the best.

Navigating Setbacks and Pivoting Towards Success: Lessons from Early Ventures

Toward the later years of his time in Blue Martini, Vivek spent a few years in Tokyo. He had learned a lot in engineering, but sales was an unfamiliar territory. He recalls that he had no idea what salespeople did, what a lead or an opportunity was, or how deals got closed.

Although Vivek wanted to start a company, he had no sales experience and didn’t speak Japanese. Even so, he spent six months in the city learning about cell phones in Japan, which were unlike the feature no-name brands in the US.

During this time in Japan and later in London, Vivek was introduced to more advanced phones that could do more interesting things. His early foray into a mobile social network showcased the importance of timing and market readiness.

Vivek partnered up with a student from the MIT Media lab. Machine learning and AI were part of what they wanted to do from the early days. They also wanted to figure out how to use Bluetooth to identify who’s proximal to whom and how to facilitate interactions in the real world.

However, the duo quickly realized they were too early for the market. Vivek considers it a big mistake not to keep things simpler early on. After struggling for over three years, they finally shut down the business. The iPhone came out a couple of years later.

Vivek talks about how using their technology would have been possible, but knowing how and when to make bets is almost as important as working on the thing.

Despite initial setbacks, Vivek’s resilience shone through as he pivoted towards new opportunities, each failure as a stepping stone towards greater achievements.

The Birth of Movable Ink: Revolutionizing Personalized Marketing Through AI

Vivek recalls how they started out by building a two-sided marketplace called, which turned out to be challenging to execute. So they pivoted.

Recognizing email’s untapped potential as a communication channel, Vivek and his co-founder, Michael Nutt, embarked on a journey to revolutionize personalized marketing experiences. The duo focused on email, which was really interesting because it’s a ubiquitous communication channel.

They focused on mobile and email and started to explore if they could squarely focus on the content personalization aspect of email marketing. The turning point came with the inception of Movable Ink, a pioneering venture focused on content personalization.

Movable Ink transcended traditional marketing paradigms by leveraging AI algorithms to tailor content and optimize campaign strategies. Vivek recalls how their early customers were startups. In the initial stages, they avoided contacting enterprises, thinking it would be hard to sell to them.

However, a year later, they landed their first enterprise deal for $12K to a pilot and then closed at a $70K deal.

From that point, they only went after enterprises with big teams and audiences and the budget to spend on things that are driving effectiveness. That’s how Vivek found their initial product market fit: by nailing that enterprise customer.

The Movable Ink Business Model

Movable Ink has a core technology that we call Studio today. The initial product would tap into any data source you have, whether it’s an API or a CSV file.

It could even turn a web page into a restful API, activate it, and generate content from it. Much like a composite image that forms inside an email.

This image is unique to every single person who’s a subscriber to an email list, so it automates the idea of personalization from the user’s own data. It’s a consumption-based model that depends on the number of emails that open.

Vivek reveals how they played around with all sorts of pricing models. It was really important to not only nail what the product does but also to sell it and how it gets priced and packaged. That could be the key because pricing can make it easy to adopt or very challenging to adopt.

They estimated that customers might start to spend around $30K to $40K a year and scale it over the years to upwards of $1M or several million dollars every year. Today, Movable Ink has more than 400 enterprises that use its products in a variety of ways.

The company also has four household names, 20 divisions of Amazon, Home Depot, the largest airlines in the US, American Express, and a who’s who list of Blue Chip companies. Essentially, Movable Ink is solving a problem that the big email service providers of that time weren’t solving.

Raising Funding for Movable Ink

Vivek talks about how they have raised $97M for the company to date. At this time, they are well beyond a $100M run rate. They raised around $55M in 2022 and have been very capital-efficient throughout the company’s entire life.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Vivel Sharma was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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Seed investors like Contour Ventures and Compound are among the investors backing the company. Vivek also appreciates the seed round backing they got from Matt Gorin at Contour Ventures, Marc Michel at Compound, and John Frankel at ff Venture Capital.

Vivek also talks about the time when someone made an error in the business model, and instead of the six months of cash runway they had, they only had 60 days left.

Luckily, funding from Intel Capital came through, which recognized a talented team that was executing against a big market opportunity.

After this experience, Vivek underscores the importance of being on top of the company’s details and knowing every aspect of the business, even though it’s not within the founder’s expertise.

As part of the job of being the CEO, founders should be deeply involved in being able to anticipate risk, to try to mitigate that risk, and really understand what’s happening in the business.

Integrating AI with Movable Ink

Vivek anticipates a big revolution happening in AI right now. This technology resonates with him because it connects a lot of his interests from university. Thinking about machines that can think, partner with humans, and do really interesting things.

Vivek talks about how they integrated their Coherent Path acquisition (now known as Da Vinci AI) with Movable Ink. AI brings marketers and machines together, removing the gut and intuition from the equation–fundamentally changing how marketing gets done.

Da Vinci can track the customer’s journey through their discovery and behave like a personal shopper. It can predict the right send time for the email campaign, the right frequency, and the creative copy that they should see.

Vivek and his team are incorporating this whole class of AI services into Movable Ink. It’s a big departure from how marketing programs used to work in the past. It is very data-driven, and it’s about discovering how to create a unique path and journey for every customer marketers are talking to.

Vivek asserts that they don’t win deals unless they show incremental value. Using the tools, customers see a 25% lift in revenue, higher click-through rates, and lower unsubscribes. They are also seeing dormant subscribers get reactivated and start purchasing.

Embracing Honesty and Resilience: Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

Movable Ink is an entirely different concept and is ushering in this world where people are going to be working with machines a lot more. AI is going to infuse itself into the marketing department and fundamentally change how marketing gets done.

Consumers will have a more tailored experience instead of the more generic one they might have been served in the past.

Vivek’s journey is a testament to innovation and the power of honesty and resilience in the entrepreneurial landscape. He emphasizes the importance of being ruthlessly honest with oneself, acknowledging what works and what doesn’t on a daily basis.

This commitment to continuous learning and adaptation enables entrepreneurs to navigate challenges with clarity and purpose.

Conclusion: The Enduring Power of Resilience and Innovation

Beyond his own achievements, Vivek finds joy in sharing his insights and experiences with aspiring entrepreneurs. Engaging with founders at the early stages of their journey, he finds inspiration in their fresh perspectives and boundless enthusiasm.

By offering guidance and support, Vivek hopes to empower the next generation of innovators to realize their dreams and navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Embrace change and diversity, for it fuels innovation across continents.
  • Failure is not a roadblock but a stepping stone towards greater achievements.
  • Honesty and resilience are the cornerstones of entrepreneurial success.
  • Continuously challenge assumptions and validate ideas to stay ahead in the game.
  • Leverage technology to revolutionize traditional industries and create impactful solutions.
  • Share wisdom and empower others, for collaboration breeds innovation.
  • In the entrepreneurial journey, persistence and adaptability are the ultimate currencies of success.


For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.


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Neil Patel

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