Before president Bukele, before Bitcoin became legal tender in El Salvador, Hugo — a super app consolidating services ranging from food and cash delivery to ride-hailing and fintech and acting as a general business hub — was the name synonymous with tech disruption in El Salvador.
The company’s CEO and co-founder, Alejandro Argumedo, was 27 when he launched Hugo in 2017. Before co-founding Hugo, Argumedo in New York’s tech scene alongside the founding CTO of Uber. He said he couldn’t escape the negative stereotypes of being a Salvadoran in the U.S. — people would often ask if he was a gang member — and he came back to his home country convinced that El Salvador and Central America had a lot to offer to tech entrepreneurs. Where most other funders and founders saw El Salvador as too small and unconsolidated of a market, Argumedo saw an unfulfilled promise in an underestimated region.
In five years, Hugo went from having just $15,000 in the bank to serving over 1.3 million users and forcing Uber out of Central America. The service has since expanded out of El Salvador, and by uniting disparate small countries, from El Salvador to the Dominican Republic, under its single bright purple icon, Argumedo helped turn a Central American app into more than the sum of its parts.
The Salvadoran super app has made a regional backwater into a center of tech development. The company has helped boost Venezuela’s only super app, Yummy, with an early investment; it has also made efforts to bypass issues with its home country’s connectivity and backed other startups with at least $10 million in funding, while encouraging traditional business people in Central America to take up VC investment, making El Salvador a tech hub in its own right.
In a sign of Argumedo’s success, Delivery Hero gave him a call late last year. The multinational firm acquired Hugo for $150 million last October.