Andrew John Butash has fond childhood memories of spending many summers in Spain — in a little town called Cunit, in Tarragona south of Barcelona, to be exact. At a very young age, he was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the world, as his parents believed that visiting new places was the best form of education. Today, he still calls Spain his second home. His passion and enthusiasm for travel have helped him become the founder and CEO of Gypsy Circle and one of the youngest certified lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender entrepreneurs in the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Available for Apple devices, Gypsy Circle is the ultimate travel connector. While other successful social media apps like Instagram or Facebook concentrate on the here and now, what makes Gypsy Circle even more unique is its focus on the future. It allows friends to glance through one another’s trips and give or get recommendations. More importantly, users can input an upcoming trip and see who has overlapping dates. Friends not only can see each other’s travel dates, but also are notified when they are visiting the same city or overlap trips. Voila! No more ships passing in the night.
“The name ‘Gypsy Circle’ comes from a personal background, but also a desire to redefine the term as a celebration of the culture of travel and to remove any outdated negative connotation. It aims to pay tribute to a culture of travel, as well as tie to something very personal from my childhood,” Butash said, adding that as a child, his dad used to say, “Let’s ride, Gypsies!” to get him and his sister out of the house. “My parents called me ‘Gypsy’ more and more, when I started to make travel a priority in my life,” he said.
He said the ships passing in the night problem was exactly what he was trying to solve in creating Gypsy Circle. Traveling to Europe the same time as his friends a few years ago, he wanted to see where his friends were going to be and where they had been. In addition, as he made new friends in hostels, he wanted to stay connected and be able to see them again if their travel plans coincided or overlapped. “I heard story after story of people who found out after the fact that friends had been in the same city,” he said. “I wanted to solve these missed connections.”
Thanks to Gypsy Circle, Butash said his favorite feedback now is when users say they not only discovered a friend traveling at the same time, but also ended up booking a hotel together or splitting a cab to the airport because of it. He also heard of a student traveling abroad who was able to connect with her parents, so they could always know what city in Europe she was in. “It’s music to my ears,” he said.
Travel experts agree that Gypsy Circle will make an impact on how people have typically and traditionally approached travel in the past. Nikki Vargas, founder and editor of The Pin the Map Project — ranked as a Top 100 travel site in 2015 — said Gypsy Circle is both “necessary” and “long overdue.” She said, “As travel becomes more of a shared social experience, it becomes imperative to create lines of connection amongst travelers.”
Gypsy Circle was launched in July 2015 and has had consistent and steady growth since then. Butash said it has had a “solid boost of users” since the release of the latest version in March. The app is marketed primarily through his own networks and social circles. He has also recently begun marketing the app to students and young professionals who will be studying abroad this summer. In addition, he is launching an ambassador program with “Gypsies” at major universities who will help build circles on their campuses and abroad. As he builds Gypsy Circle’s user base, he hopes to eventually sell the user data, and — ultimately — negotiate partnerships with hotel chains and airlines, so users can book their travel through the app.
In addition to referrals from users, he also hopes to spread the word about Gypsy Circle through his new membership in the NGLCC. He recently became certified, and while he’s fairly new to the NGLCC family, he has attended a few events and said everyone has been gracious and open to help in any capacity they can. “It’s been inspiring and comforting to know that our community is so supportive and collaborative,” he said.
As for the future, Butash said — no surprise — that next on his bucket list is more travel, of course. A “big seafood and wine guy,” Lisbon, Portugal, is one of his favorite destinations as he enjoys the mindset and lifestyle there. He also plans to learn as much as possible and apply it to his company. “I truly fumbled into this whole business and created Gypsy Circle out of a need for me and my friends, and it grew into something bigger than I ever thought it would be,” he said. “I never anticipated getting into the tech business, but I love it now and can’t get enough!”
He describes himself as “proactive, social and goofy” and admits he has a long way to go and thinks there is much to improve before he’s content and comfortable calling himself successful. However, he has some simple but sage advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to follow in his footsteps. “Advice is often worth more than a check. Seek mentorship and guidance as much as possible,” he said. “Write out all obstacles you may have [imagined] with your business idea and come up with answers on how to tackle them. Then…go full throttle.”
Article by Genny Hom-Franzen