Testing our key assumptions

Society Experiments

We know that ideas that look great on paper may never work on the ground. Sometimes there is something wrong with the idea itself. Sometimes the execution falls short. But often it is a matter of ensuring the concept fits current economic and cultural realities. You can build a perfect system, running like clock-work in theory – but reality is messy, imperfect, and stubbornly indifferent to the dreams of starry-eyed entrepreneurs. So how do we solve this problem? How do we gain some assurance that we are building something people actually want? WE ASK THEM. Here are the stories of the experiments we ran, are running, and will run long before opening the doors of this venue.



This was an experiment intended to test market response to the use of open education resources in promoting entrepreneurial literacy. How to Build a Startup was a ten weeks course offered by, starting on September 14th, 2012.

Cain organized weekly local workshops in Dubai, to amplify the value delivered online. Attendance was free of charge. Participants met at Cain's offices, in groups of 7-10 people. We experimented with three approaches, testing participant interest and engagement:

CONVERSATION: participants experienced the course in a group of peers. Content was limited to course materials. Cain only participated as moderator of discussion and reference point. We found out in the first few sessions that watching videos together was fun, but not very productive - and the remaining sessions had the pre-requisite that online materials were to be absorbed before the workshops.

MENTORSHIP: participants engaged in debate on topics covered by the course. These conversations tapped into participant knowledge of local market conditions, in the format of case studies and anecdotes. Cain identified and invited mentors or relevant other entrepreneurs to attend select workshops, bringing to the table expert local insights relevant to the topic of the week.

APPLICATION: participants conducted research. The initial intent was to adapt the course theory to the regional context. Cain was to guide research efforts and occasionally offer access to premium databases. The resulting content was to be uploaded on, to benefit other entrepreneurs. However, in practice, we changed the objectives away from content creation and focused on value creation for the participants. As each of them was at that time working on their startup company, we utilized our time to articulate and test the assumptions behind their actual business models.