Founders Interviews: Manuel Albuquerque and Carlos Ramalho of Primetag

Indico Capital Partners
12 min readMar 4, 2024

Our Founders Interview this month is with Primetag’s co-founders, Manuel Albuquerque and Carlos Ramalho.

Primetag is an influencer marketing analytics platform that helps teams measure every single campaigns’ KPI with a full funnel view, in real-time to prove whether strategies are delivering consistent ROI.

First, can you tell us about your professional background and the path that led you to Primetag?

M: My background is in civil engineering. I worked as an engineer for 15 days and I quit right after. Not because I didn’t like to work, I love to work, but it for me the path that I was embarking on was pretty clear by looking at the people sitting at the desks next to mine. I was around 24 years old back then and my colleagues ranged all the way from 34 to 64 years old. I could see that my future was lined up to be what was their present already, and that was not what I wanted. I didn’t envision myself there in 10, 20 or 30 years, so it was pretty obvious for me, I had to quit. I started working at night in bars and nightclubs and during the daytime, I was pushing myself to create little projects, technical projects, that I did with my friends. That’s the way it all started. So, my background is 15 days in engineering and 99.9% as an entrepreneur. Working by night and by day trying to build interesting projects.

Primetag was launched in 2015, but between 2012 and 2015 we did two projects — RadLegacy and SwitchOn, that didn’t work at all. Primetag was launched as a different project as well. It was launched as a social commerce tool. Today social commerce is very known but nine or ten years ago it was not that common. So, we launched the first social commerce. We scaled fairly quickly, actually, I think in six or seven months we did almost half a million euros in revenue and then social media blocked us. We also had a solution for blogs and websites, which we continued with, but after two years, 2017/2018 the audiences in blogs and websites and whatnot dropped dramatically because of social media. So, we lost access to social media and then our remaining audiences moved from websites to social media, meaning we had to pivot. That’s when we launched Primetag as it is today. It was 2019 when we decided to just shut down the old Primetag but keeping the name because we liked it. The market was still same, but the project was completely different, it was now a B2B SaaS. We were ramping up quickly, launching in Spain within 2019, but in 2020 COVID hits and it was pretty harsh. We were over 20 people and ended up being five or six. So, 2021 was a year of reboot, reset, and in general, like we say in Portuguese, fazer omeletes sem ovos [making omelettes with no eggs]. 2022 was building foundations, 2023 was regrouping management — it was when Carlos joined — and in 2024 explosion, go all in.

C: In my case its a very different story because Manuel is really a pure entrepreneur, he’s got it in his DNA. I’m coming from a 25 year-long corporate career, which began at P&G. Initially I was doing Electronic Engineering but actually Procter & Gamble convinced me to start in marketing and I loved it. It was very interesting; Procter is a great school. I’ve been in a couple countries. Started in Portugal, then moved to Spain, and then 12 years with the Danone Group, a French company, in four different countries. I did a couple different marketing director roles in Asia including Thailand and Indonesia, also in South Africa, and at the global headquarters, where I got to travel a lot. I then came back to Portugal thinking I found a very interesting project that I could join the board of, but it turned out to be not what I expected. I quit it very quickly because it was not a cultural fit at all. There was an extremely aggressive and polarizing attitude and for me it was just not the right thing. So, I made that mistake, but I kept thinking about how I would love to join a startup project one day, and that I had to do so with the right partner. I kept working for 6 years at a big media agency group called Dentsu. Their most well-known agency is called Carat. I started in Portugal and Spain, then I was Managing Director of Carat at the Madrid office, and that’s when I met Manuel and Primetag. At the time I was actually a client. The social media team decided to bring in Primetag’s technology and by coincidence I met Manuel. I was very impressed, seeing a young entrepreneur from the north Portugal, like myself. We really met by pure coincidence, I was in working in Spain at the time so we had a mutual curiosity to get to know each other because we were both Portuguese.

When I left Dentsu, around two and a half years ago, Manuel immediately asked me if I could be his advisor, and I started to do some advising and some consultancy. What started as once per week advice became more and more involvement with the business plan, which ended up being discussing financing, and now here I am. After all those conversations I joined Primetag as a late COO and co-founder. So, it’s a very different story, but I think we are very complementary, and I think I joined because I found the project I believe in and especially the right partner. Manuel has this instinctive spirit of entrepreneurship and I bring many years of experience, and I think it’s working well. We both learn a lot every day.

Carlos, do you mind expanding on the red flags you identified in your first startup experience that made you decide to move on?

C: Without getting into too much detail, I found three characteristics that didn’t work for me. As you put it, red flags. The first one is when you have someone that’s stopped caring for the people in their company. So, they grew a lot and he became inaccessible to everybody. He just recruited senior managers to be pushing the entire organization, but he completely kept himself from being close to the people. The second one is what I might call cultural red lines. When honesty and transparency are lacking, it becomes extremely difficult, especially when its coming from the founder themselves. So, people worked with a lot of secrecy, taking that on from the founder. That’s a cancer for any culture in a company. The third one, I would say that they lost the innovation mindset. It was all about squeezing to get results and not really having a vision of innovative and disruptive approaches to markets. When you lose at least two of these things I think it’s almost certain that it’ll go south.

What has been the most crucial moment in the history of Primetag?

M: There were several, each one with different impacts, but I think the hardest one was COVID. This is because we decided to a major pivot from a social commerce to Primetag SaaS B2B, and it was going very well. It was a big hit, after 12 months we were like like 30 people and all of a sudden we had to fire 80% of them. This just had me thinking like, “damn, again?”. I always say there’s a fine line between commitment and craziness and at some point, I didn’t know if I was being committed or being crazy, to be honest. I just believed in what I was doing, and I believed that the company could go along if we stayed extremely focused, and that’s what we did. But I think that that moment of seeing people leaving every month just makes you think that you’re going to hit rock bottom. You don’t have any money, clients are pausing or canceling everything because of what’s happening on a macro level. I even remember calling my lawyer and asking what I had to do to shut down the company. I just don’t know why I did not do it. Maybe because I was right at the fine line between commitment and craziness, but I’m happy I didn’t do it. I won’t say that we are the same company, I think the way that we reset after made us different. Not necessarily better or worse, but I’m glad that we were able to survive it and it was a very harsh moment back then.

It seems like the craziness is starting to bear its fruits now! Focusing on Primetag’s value proposition, what makes your product unique in the market?

M: Its very simple, actually. Influencer marketing nowadays is a sector that is growing a lot. Before 2021, when you look at a marketing P&L, influencer marketing would most often be categorized under “Other”. 0.5% of spend just wasn’t that relevant, but I think COVID helped tip the scales, and nowadays influencer marketing is a great to humanize brands. What we do is we help these companies make sure that they are making the right bets, investing their money in the best way possible. That they invest in the right creators. What makes us unique is that our value proposition never changed. We always focused on creating the new ROI, we call this Return on Influence. So, every single point of our technology, the reason why we wake up every single day is because we are obsessed with bringing this to the table. Saying that this was relevant five years ago wouldn’t be truthful, that’s why our competitors didn’t focus on the “ROI” and instead focused on being a marketplace, a CRM, a discovery platform. They didn’t focus on the “ROI” part, but when the market explodes, what do C-levels ask for? They ask for results, and that’s where the so-called “ROI” comes into play. So right now we are in the sweet spot of being the only platform in the world to provide an accurate omni channel influencer ROI. We track ROI from online stores as well as from offline stores. As may be able to deduce, great part of influencer marketing is physical presence, going to stores in-person and showing their experience through their mobile phones. So being able to practice omnicality is one of the most disruptive things out there in the market, and that’s the reason why we are so unique so far. Its also the reason why you fundraised with Indico and Iberis, because we believe that these messages need to be spread throughout the world, not just Portugal or Spain. We want to reach a plethora of other countries and do so fast, and to do this we need gas.

Do you have any tips or advice for someone just embarking on their entrepreneurial journey?

M: Don’t do it! No, I’m kidding. I think it can lead to both the best in worse moments of your life. I remember when I first got started, I was so obsessed with building a company. Not because I had a vision for where to go, necessarily, I was just so obsessed with creating stuff. I remember that — and this is interesting now because I get to travel, I have my dog, I have friends and whatnot — at least from 2014 to 2019, I said no to any kind of social events, no vacations. My friends would ask me to go out and do stuff and I always prioritized what I needed to prioritize. I was just so hooked on the work that I completely forgot about everything else that surrounded me. I think that helped me be the person I am today, of course, but its important to emphasize that if you want to actually build something and be relevant, bring value to the world and whatnot, you have to say no to a lot of stuff. Unfortunately, most of the stuff you’d have to say no is usually your friends, your family, your girlfriend, your traveling, your money. It’s a very harsh path, but I would say at the end of the day that if it’s something that you really want to do, you’ll find a way and after a few years it’ll be easier to understand the purpose of that harsh part of your life. Once you can see the light at the end of the tunnel it’ll be worth it, but until then you have to push through. You have to commit; you cannot be a part-time entrepreneur. That doesn’t happen, at least from my perspective of what entrepreneurship is.

Anything to add Carlos, from the perspective of joining a startup from the corporate world?

C: Sure, I am a so-called “late-founder”, so I can tell you more from that perspective. What I can say is that if you want to do that, going from the corporate experience into the startup world, I think that there are two or three things that I learned that are really critical. The first one is like we say in Spanish, “no se me van a caer los anillos”. I’m not sure how to translate this into English, but it means that if you are already a posh person, that you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty. You shouldn’t be so obsessed with titles and whatnot that you’ve had for a long time and that you thought were important. Once you surpass that, you’re closer to being ready to make the shift. If you are very worried about your status, don’t do it. Secondly, you should really believe that it is the right project for you to add value. It’s can’t be about joining this train because it’s really speeding up so you could potentially get some equity and make a lot of money. I say this because there are a lot of people coming out of the corporate world to try and join a fast-paced startup for that reason. So, if that’s your mindset I recommend that you don’t do it, because as I’m learning you pass through a lot of harsh things, so you have to not think about that because if that’s on your mind you’re not focused on the right things. Last but not least, you should really feel a passion for the project that you’re joining. I managed to tick these three points internally, and I think that in my case, I managed to bring complementarity. Manuel was saying a lot of things about spirit, I’m more a person that likes to do two things: I love to structure things and manage, because of my engineering thinking from the past, maybe, or because I was in big companies that really require concrete structure and organizational strategies. So joining my management experience to the creativity and spirit brought by Manuel, together we can do great things.

What can we expect from Primetag now that you have raised a €3.5 million seed round?

M&C: Growth!

M: Grow like hell, that’s a very easy question to answer! Joking aside, growing is obvious, but I think the hard part of growing is simultaneously maintaining the cultural value within everyone inside the company. We’ve seen that cultures can easily hold on up to 10 or 15 people, but then when you scale to 50 or 100, it becomes more of a challenge. So I’d say besides growth, I think culture wise you have to be very keen on how to keep the culture inclusive and how to help others be more successful, whether that be in terms of being more productive, in terms of providing the right training, or seeing which are the variables that you can push forward so that somebody can strive even further. I think that’s the stage that we are at now, we are at the stage where we have the opportunity — because we have the gas money from our investors — to put Primetag into a different velocity, and I think this is where Carlos and I have to help others be more responsible, be more autonomous, and focus on a company level. So, I think that for us to achieve growth and scale, we should maintain the culture of speed that we’ve always had while bringing the right people on board doing the right jobs. Having the right people is extremely important, it’s all about the people. Within three years, we see ourselves having hired the right people and pushing the right buttons to scale the business to 5 times what it is today.

C: I would add that we want to grow in a way that we are always adding further differentiation. So, not just grow for the sake of it, because as you know you can buy growth. While growing, everything that you are doing should bring innovation and therefore increase your differentiation. That’s when you are growing the right way. Sometimes this is not easy, because with money it is very easy to spend it quickly. It’s very easy to lose focus. So that’s one of the things that we are very obsessed with, is how we use the money the right way. What can we do to keep building further on what makes us unique and different.

M: Absolutely, I think that spirit of Primetag is inherent in all of us inside the company. Besides the product, besides the technology, we keep our disruptive mentality without looking at the market standards, and I think that this is something that we need to strive to keep. We can’t lose this along the way.