We had the good fortune of connecting with Andru Fratarcangeli and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andru, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
GACUCON Game Cruise really started from community organizing in Miami. In 2015 my partner, Frank Velazquez, and I started organizing the Miami Game Developer community with several others at the Venture Hive in Downtown Miami. Over the years the community was large enough to start thinking of running an annual event. Being a community of game developers, essentially entrepreneurs, we started thinking of what we could do for an event that would be interesting enough to get attention from people across the US vs doing a standard event much like SuperCon, Magic City Con or other geeky comic convention style events. This essentially led to researching unique venues, which had cruise ships pop up for large group events. Having been a fan of cruising I figured lets try to make it happen and by 2017 we held our first GACUCON Game Cruise with a pre-cruise event in Miami, Florida. We wanted to make something of value for the community and for attendees of an event so this met both criteria, a geeky vacation, perfect venue for networking in a meaningful way and appeal for people across the world now booking with our cruise each year.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
GACUCON is a convention much like Comic Con, Supercon, etc. with the unique twist of being on a cruise ship. It’s the fun activities from conventions tied into a relaxing vacation which makes for something special, alot of really good friendships have been made on our unique event. As a business we’re on year 5 with 3 annual sailings to date, every year has been better than the previous year in terms of both number of attendees and content we provide. It made it this far through alot of hard work from the team and I including our own web development, travel agency function, customer service and content providers each year leading up to the event. It’s never easy starting up a new business but since we all love this and the community it’s all worth it. The challenges we’ve faced along the way have been pretty trying from shipping challenges to the COVID Pandemic shutting down 2 years of events (2020 and 2021). We’ve really made it through these by being very cautious with our decision making and not having knee-jerk reactions to bad news, instead we, as a team, pull together info and make the best possible decision we can make for our customers first and business second. As a lesson learned, the customer first approach may sound cliché, but in our line of business of fairly exclusive luxury vacation for geeks and gamers you really get to know your customers. Your success depends on their satisfaction to keep trusting you with their hard earned money and vacation time. In the end if the world only had to know one thing about our brand or story it would be we just want to have a great time and keep growing until we can make even more legendary events on the sea or vacation spots for like minded geeks. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Miami is a majestic city, pretty much everything is available and from my own time having travelled across the world I can confidently say there is something for everyone. If I had to point people towards some of generally for my nerdier friends I would definitely recommend visiting The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science for more cerebral entertainment, if you wanted to absolutely geek out then definitely visit Arcade Odyssey in South Florida to really enjoy a legitimate arcade game experience. Food wise there are innumerable options, which is definitely a strength in Miami but if they haven’t ever had any local Cuban cuisine then we would definitely hit up El Palacio De Los Jugos at least once, maybe some Vicky Bakery for some fresh pastelitos. Last would be to check out the Make Games Miami, Florida Game Developer Association and/or Unreal Game Developer meetups each month when things start back up post-pandemic. Great place to meet some fun gamers, game developers and learn a thing or two. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shout out to my wife, Melissa, for trusting and supporting the non-trivial life decisions of starting a convention on a cruise ship through the ups and downs of entrepreneurial endeavors. Of course I need to mentioned my business partners as well for putting up with the crazy pivots and iterations. Finally our game developer and geek cruiser community that makes this entire thing possible each year.
Image #5 Perfect Day at CocoCay by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines