It started with a Secret Santa gift exchange. It ended with a profitable business.
Reddit's annual Secret Santa gift exchange — where Reddit matches up each participant with another to send a gift to — is dubbed "the world's largest gift exchange." Since its inception in 2009, it has resulted in the exchange of over a million presents among 900,000 people in 225 countries, and even high-profile people like Bill Gates, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Fallon are known to participate.
Chris Waters is one of those annual participants. In 2015, Waters was 29 and working as an account manager at a software company in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was competitive when it came to gifting, and the Secret Santa swap was his Super Bowl.
"I was always the one, where, if I go to the office white elephant gift exchange, I want my gift to be stolen three times," Waters tells CNBC Make It. (White elephant is a gift exchange in which participants can "steal" a better gift from others.) "I want to be that one that gives a gift where people aren't disappointed."
In 2015, Waters was matched with a young man named Blane, who was in his early 20s, living in Phoenix, Arizona. Waters saw a lot of himself in Blane.
"The guy was basically just like me, but four or five years younger," he recalls, ticking off their similarities: Blane was a student at an Arizona school (Waters graduated from University of Arizona), they both studied journalism and they were both big sports fans. Since Blane lived just 20 minutes away, Waters decided to do something special for the guy with whom he was matched by happenstance.
"I had this opportunity to do something really, really cool for an Internet stranger," Waters, 32, says.
Waters happened to have a financial windfall from a recent poker game with friends, so he decided to use the money to build a scavenger hunt date for Blane and his girlfriend. At the end, the Secret Santa gift would be waiting. Waters asked Blane some questions to get a feel for what they might enjoy and asked them to block out an entire day.
The morning of the scavenger hunt, Dec. 19, 2015, Waters had a friend knock on Blane's door to start the adventure.
"At exactly 8 a.m., there was a knock on the door and he had this centuries old suitcase with a bouquet of flowers on top," Waters recalls. Inside were envelopes with symbols on them and there was a box secured by a chain and lock. There was also a note that "basically said, 'Get excited, here's your day. You need to find your gift, follow all of the instructions. Sincerely, the architect,'" Waters says.