Founder Andrew Butash had a stellar idea for a social travel app, but little technical background. To turn his idea into reality, Andrew attended a hiring day at Fullstack Academy in New York and has now hired two graduates to build his app, Gypsy Circle. We talk with Andrew about his satisfaction with the new hires, the initative that his developers take to learn new technologies, and what's next for the Gypsy Circle team!
Tell us about your app Gypsy Circle.
Gypsy Circle is a social travel app that connects users with friends and friends-of-friends before you arrive. There’s no app right now that shows you where your friends are going to be. We aim to be the first social future-tense app. The travel apps available now are all present-tense; Gypsy Circle solves the problem of missed connections. Users can also plan trips with our chat feature on the app so you can see where your friends are travelling and where they’ve been. It’s the social network for travelers.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was actually backpacking with friends in Europe a little over a year ago and we ran into the problem of meeting people when we were traveling in hostels and wanted to connect with them and see their travel plans. We were in cities where we knew we had a network but we couldn’t easily see who was there without spending hours on Facebook.
I came up with the idea for an app to see where friends of friends are travelling. That would have made our trip so much easier.
Did you have a technical background before you started working on Gypsy Circle?
I had no experience in tech. I could barely reset my iPhone. Gypsy Circle was more of a solution to a problem I saw. My strengths are in design, marketing, and branding. I obviously needed help with the tech side.
So how did you get connected with Fullstack Academy?
I was actually connected to Fullstack Academy through Course Report. I saw that they were based in New York, where I work, and asked for an introduction. I was on the edge, making a decision to work with the design company The 88, who had done the front-end design and branding for the app. I knew that back-end development wasn’t their specialty, so I took a risk and went to check out Fullstack.
At their hiring day, I met a great developer, Edward Izzo, and I actually hired one from that meeting. I interviewed him the following week and he’s been working with me since August.
What role did you offer Edward?
Initially, it was a freelance contract to see how he worked out. As we started working together, we developed a rapport and he became our lead developer. He’s a fulltime Gypsy Circle employee now.
Our second developer, Andrew Glancy, worked on the same project with Edward at Fullstack, so they had experience working together.
Was their final project what convinced you to hire them?
I wrote down notes during all of the presentations and they were definitely one of the guys that knew the technology that I needed. They shared the same vision of social connectivity.
What they knew was very valuable for what I wanted to put in the app so those guys were my first choices when I first went to Fullstack.
Since you didn’t have a ton of technical experience, what role did Fullstack play in the hiring process? Did you feel like the students were already screened for you?
Totally. It was great to have Fullstack as a middleman- sort of like a Michelin Star rating for developers. I don’t know if I would’ve trusted someone on Craigslist to develop this app because it’s very important to me, but having a school like Fullstack that has a great reputation for producing great developers was reassuring. They wouldn’t have these hiring days if they didn’t feel like they could actually do the work.
Did you do a technical interview with your Fullstack hires?
When I interviewed Edward I didn’t even do a technical interview, which was probably naive on my part, but it worked out. We found two unicorns of tech. In talking with my business advisor about everything or other people who are in the tech space, they’re amazed that I found two guys who already have a good working relationship together and who know what they’re doing. The Gypsy Circle beta is now finished and it’s honestly one of the best-designed, seamlessly working app I’ve ever used. We obviously need to include more features but right now it looks like it’s already on the app store - it looks flawless.
I think it’s just so rare that I found developers in New York City at this time because they’re in such high demand. Additionally, developers that are this talented and committed to Gypsy Circle are a rare find. And third, these developers already have a working relationship so they get how they can push each other or give each other slack; the camaraderie between them is just fantastic, which I couldn’t ask more from between two developers.
Have you been impressed with the skills that Edward & Andrew learned from Fullstack?
It’s obvious that Fullstack isn’t teaching frivolous things- they’re not learning codes that are just some little widget you can put on your computer. The coding that they’re taught is very substantial and these guys know more than some of the other developers I’ve met who are working on pretty legit apps.
The technology stack they learned (MEAN stack) is really impressive. Since this is my first startup, a lot of pieces are up in the air, but everything is just falling into place right now. That is just pure luck- but it’s certainly because of Fullstack.
Are there things that Edward and Andrew have not known? Things they’ve had to learn or skill up on?
Totally; That's the nature of development- whether it's software or building a business. It's an endless cycle of encountering challenges and finding solutions. Their education at Fullstack clearly prepared them to do that. One example that they’re researching right now is doing map integration with the app so it can show your current location and match you with other travellers in your area. I know we’re exploring different routes for integrating maps into the app to make it easier with synching up locations and trips and socializing in future.
They’re really proactive in finding the newest technology for messaging and now for maps.
Did you pay a referral fee when you hired Edward and Andrew from Fullstack Academy?
No. I haven’t received a bill yet!
Would you recommend hiring from Fullstack to a friend or a business partner?
Completely. If somebody is looking for a developer, I would automatically shoot them over to Fullstack. If they can’t find someone there, it’s definitely a good stepping stone into the dev community.
Working with Fullstack saved me a lot of time. If there weren’t coding bootcamps like Fullstack Academy, I have no idea how I would have found a developer, to be honest. I think I would have posted on NYU or Columbia job boards. I’m sure those kids are smart but they’re not as experienced. These schools are like brokers for developers, which is super helpful.