When it comes to gifting, a notable trend that’s emerged over the last few years has brought more focus on the experience that one might be able to create, and less on the object itself.
For Ben Ferry, a software developer out of Pasadena, the motivation to create an experience and a love for solving challenges led him to create Lockbox Adventures. Ferry describes it as a “reverse escape room,” in a box.
The game is this: You get a box in the mail that’s filled with loot, but no combination. The only way to get the combo to unlock the mystery prizes is to solve a series of brain teasers and puzzles.
It’s the kind of challenge that offers something to solve with others. And in the pandemic, when social gatherings are limited, it’s an experience that comes to you.
Ferry also sees it as a potential activity for companies seeking to boost morale among remote teams. After all, we’re all looking for some culture-building activities when we can’t get together for happy hour.
“This is something that comes straight to your house,” he said. “You can do it with a group of people in the safety of your own home. That was an unintentional benefit of this product in 2020.”
It’s the latest in a series of turns that has propelled the product, and in turn, led Ferry to entrepreneurship.
He started to create lockboxes as part of the Reddit Secret Santa Gift Exchange, which brings users on the social platform together to spread some holiday joy.
It became one of the most popular gifts on the platform. By the third year he offered it, in 2018, Ferry won the top-rated gift, beating out Bill Gates. The next year, he was paired with Adam Savage, of “Mythbusters” fame, who walked through opening the box on his “Tested” video series:
And it’s not just tech titans and online community. Ferry initially took an early version to Odenton’s Crooked Crab Brewing Company, and showed it to an acquaintance. Not wanting to take it home, they started solving it on the spot.
“Within 10 minutes, a crowd had formed,” Ferry said.
Soon, he was invited back to host themed nights where groups opened the box together. He really knew he had something when people would show up at noon on Sunday. He also got a chance to test the minds of folks who are used to codebreaking, as he was invited by the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, bringing the challenge to crypto analysts.
With the pandemic leaving folks looking for home entertainment, Ferry has found more sales this year, going from selling 20 last year to a steady cadence of a couple a week this year. He also has tabletop versions, with arcade and “bomb squad” themes. The boxes are manufactured by another firm, and he assembles them himself.
It’s been a busy day fulfilling orders for many of you. I want to humbly thank @testedcom and all of you who found me through Adams latest Christmas video! Welcome to the adventure! #startup pic.twitter.com/Yu8NOusSPt
— Lockbox Adventures (@LockboxAdvent) February 1, 2020
Over eight weeks this fall, Ferry was among the founders that took part in the inaugural cohort of the StarTUp Accelerator at Towson University. He’s focused full-time on the business now, and looking to expand the product line with additional options of partaking in the challenges, as well as a potential tech-based format in the future.
But with ecommerce business going now, he’s returning to the holiday season as a prime way to spread it. (Any holiday gift shoppers out there: Get orders in by Dec. 15.) Along with the business, he’s once again taking part in the Reddit exchange.
While it’s not building software directly, Ferry said he’s at the helm of a product now that’s a fit with how his brain works.
“I found myself interested in software engineering because I love to solve problems and I love logic,” he said, adding, “I enjoy challenges.”