$8K Per Month Side Project Helping People Solve Murder Cases

Published: November 12th, 2018
Jimmy Cowe
Founder, Crimibox
from Ghent, Belgium
started June 2017
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
270 days
average product price
growth channels
Email marketing
business model
best tools
Slack, WordPress, Canva
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
24 Pros & Cons
7 Tips
Discover what tools Jimmy recommends to grow your business!
customer service
Discover what books Jimmy recommends to grow your business!

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Jimmy and I’m the founder of Crimibox. We develop and sell unsolved fictional murder cases. Our customers receive the police file, photos of the crime scene and bags of evidence. The goal is to catch the killer.

Not only do our players (we call them detectives) need to use the items in the box, but they also need to investigate online. They’ll need to check the social media profiles of suspects, analyze surveillance footage, find locations through Google Maps, …

Our customers are mostly people who love escaping from escape rooms. We sold more than 4,000 Crimiboxes so far. Our monthly revenue is a bit more than $8,000. Our retention rate (people who bought the first and a second case) is more than 38%.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My day job is in the criminal investigations of the Federal Police in Belgium. Every day, I’m seeing dozens of cold cases on my desk. Over the last couple of years, most cases get solved at the detective’s desk instead of out in the field.

This involves double-checking witness reports, alibis, motives, … So that got me thinking of creating fictional murder cases and letting people solve it with the police file and online media.

Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.

In designing the game, our first step is to make a roadmap of our criminal case.

We come up with all the different characters involved in the case. The next step is thinking of the steps our detective needs to take to solve the crime. This whole process takes about one month.

How does our game work? Our detectives receive a box at home. That box includes the police file, photos of the crime scene and bags of evidence.

The first thing they need to do is read the whole police file. They should check all of the possible suspects with Google. Some of them have social media profiles which they should investigate closely.

The most important thing we’ve learned was to start marketing before launching. Try to build up an email list before your launch.

Through those social media profiles, they can find other trails and leads in the case. For example, one of the suspects seems to have a blog. On that blog, the suspect leaves his cell phone number at the contact page.

Our detectives could call that number to get more information. In most cases, they will reach a voicemail message, and that could contain another hint.

Included with the game is an app. We developed this app for iOS and Android. Within the app, they can use a chatbot to help them with their investigation. They can ask help if they are stuck in the investigation. They can give orders to interrogate another suspect. On that app, they can also search in a fictional police database. That database contains 1000’s of fake people, license plates, …


We make dozens of social media profiles and websites. We also bought a lot of cell phone numbers. As you can tell, Crimibox is a true ARG game.

All of the police files that our send to our detectives are based on the layout of real police files. The only difference is the Crimibox logo instead of the police logo. We use an online printer to print all the documents and most of the evidence.

At this stage, we still use our garage to make and stock our boxes. But it’s a matter of time before we will have to move to a warehouse.

We started out with $5000 and haven’t looked back. We did a pre-order campaign for our first case, so we got all the money from the customers first to be able to buy all the boxes attributes. A month before shipping our first boxes, people could pre-order through our webshop.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We bootstrapped our company. I learned all about making websites thanks to YouTube. To test our concept, I created a Facebook ad with only a few lines explaining our concept.

Here’s what it looked like:


People who liked it got the option to leave their email address. We spent about $200 and got more than 1,000 people to give us their email address.

We also had one month before the first batch of deliveries when people could pre-order our first case. We sent out an email to our email list, and after 4 hours, we already received 100+ orders.

The most important thing we’ve learned was to start marketing before launching. Try to build up an email list before your launch.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We tried almost everything.

Our main source of acquiring customers is Facebook ads. On average we pay 4 dollars for a purchase via Facebook ads.

Results of a small Facebook campaign:


In the last couple of months, we’ve also been pouring a lot of money into Instagram Stories ads. We pay on average $0.08 for a website visit. After they visit the website, we make sure to do retargeting ads for those visitors.

Results of an Instagram Stories campaign:


Example of one of our Instagram Stories ads:


A quick tip for Instagram Stories ads, test 100’s of photos. We discovered that the text is important, but the photo does the trick. Test which photos convert the best.

FB Messenger marketing

We’re also experimenting with Messenger marketing. It’s like e-mail marketing on steroids.

We hold contests through our Facebook page. We tell people they should tag a friend to participate in the contest. When they’ve done that, they get an automated Messenger message from our chatbot.

The chatbot asks if they want to participate in the contest and asks if we can contact with more promotions or information about Crimibox. If they agree, they subscribe automatically to our chatbot. That means that we can send them easily a message through Messenger. So that way we can build up a chatbot list, just like an e-mail list.

The big difference is that we get an average open rate of 25% on our e-mails, and we get an open rate of 95% with our chatbot messages.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

At this stage we are profitable. Our margin per box is about 43%. If we are able to grow, we can order in bigger quantities and get our margin up to 58%.

We get about 300-400 website visitors a day with a conversion rate of 4%.

We’ve grown our email list to 5,000 subscribers. We also got 800 subscribers to our Messenger chatbot.

Next month, we are launching our newest murder case. Perfect timing for the upcoming Christmas period.

Our future plans are making enough cases that we can offer a subscription plan to our customers. So they will get a new box every month. If we get that in place, we want to expand to the united states.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I do believe we got a bit lucky with our timing. Since the escape rooms have been getting more and more popular, we have also received more attention. Our target audience is mostly people who love escaping from escape rooms.


What also helped was getting into Messenger marketing. Once I saw how powerful it was, I knew this was another great way to get customers.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We made our webshop through WooCommerce (Wordpress). We tried Shopify first, but we felt we got more options with Wordpress.

Our logo was made through a contest on 99 Designs. For small design tasks, we used a couple of designers via Fiverr. For our Messenger marketing, we use Manychat.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk. Not only for motivation, but also for some tactical advice like the $1.80 strategy on Instagram.

I have two children so I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts in my car. I’m a big fan of Social Media Examiner, Masters of Scale, The Agents of Change and How I Built This .

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Just do it. Do enough tests. If you want to start something new, check if there’s a market.

Try testing it through Facebook lead ads. And make sure you saved enough money to start.

Where can we go to learn more?





E: [email protected]

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