Ticket Grab: New Game at Caine's Arcade + 5 lessons for entrepreneurs

Nirvan Mullick, the filmmaker who made the sensational short movie about the boy named Caine in East Los Angeles who built an amusement arcade out of cardboard, says:

Caine and I just got back from France, where Caine was the youngest speaker at Cannes Lions. Caine had never been on such a big airplane before, and he really loved the safety announcements and the Emergency Exits. The day after we got back, he built this new game, Ticket Grab, which includes said Emergency Exit. He also wrote 5 lessons that he has learned so far on the back of an Air France barf bag:

What did caine learn

5 Lessons for Entrepreneurs Caine has Learned:

1. Be nice to customers.

2. Do a business that is fun.

3. Do not give up.

4. Start with what you have.

5. Use recycled stuff.

The above reminds me of P.T. Barnum's advice for entrepreneurs that Cory posted about earlier this morning!

Learn more about Caine's Arcade as well as Caine's Arcade Imagination Foundation


  1. I’ve seen the Ticket Grab machine advertised as the hot new thing at ChuckECheese for birthday parties. I’d rather play Caine’s version.

  2. This is not trolling…he should add “be lucky enough to get filmed in a heartwarming way and have it go viral”…the problem with Caine’s Arcade is that the lessons are all wrong…the kid built a business that is a relentless failure and rather than teach Caine valuable lessons for future endeavors (he’s got passion and that counts for a lot) the end result is that this horrible arcade was saved by a viral video…99.9999999% of businesses can’t rely on that.

    I think we are better off teaching our kids basics like “Provide what the market wants” and “If it isn’t working, maybe it’s time to do something new”…etc..etc…

    The truth is Caine would be better off devoting his time to school…or making friends his age, rather than running an arcade nobody wants.

    1. That viral video was (free for him) ADVERTISING. Advertise your stuff; don’t rely on people finding out by accident. His advertising was free, and a result of  a happy accident, but that doesn’t mean you can’t advertise your business. If he had implemented his business in a way that didn’t meet his rules, the guy who made the video wouldn’t have bothered.

    2. Not trolling, eh?  Then it’s just dumb and wrong.  I’m guessing you have an MBA.  Screw teaching the kids the basics – kids learn by doing.  The fact that this kid is able to think creatively enough to recreate silly carny games with found stuff and then has to keep his customers happy is better experience any schooling.  Yes, he got lucky that Nirvan found him, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been long before someone would have if Nirvan hadn’t.  Fact is, creative, sustainable products with a good value proposition and good customer service in this days and age in America are no longer commodities and (hopefully) will win out over time. And the internet has lotsa eyes.

    3. i’m ambivalent about this project (an especially painful ambivalence since i like nirvan’s other work, and he is also an alum of my alma mater) for the reasons you cite. the disturbing thing to me is that “what the market wants” IS these cute stories about scrappy underdogs pursuing otherwise unsustainable endeavors. maybe it will be liberating, but i see also quite a bit of “dance, monkey, dance!” behind it… at any rate, it’s interesting to contrast it with another boingboing perennial: amanda palmer and her kickstarter.

      1. Folks, the kid is 9 or 10 years old.  Who cares if there’s a hint of paternalism – what kid do you know that doesn’t need help from adults getting their business venture off the ground?  And just look at his face when he talks about his games – even if Nirvan were exploiting him for his own personal gain, Caine sure seems be either a really good actor or having a dang good time.  Oh yeah, and he got to go to France to talk about his arcade – would that all kids could be so exploited.

        I get it; heck knows I’m a cynic too, but I also have kids and maintain this is as valuable as anything he’ll learn next year in 5th grade (it’s not like he’s dropped out of school to run the thing!).

        And I’m not sure I’m seeing the connection between the 9-year-old viral video success recipient and the nearly 40-something career artist with some modicum of fame and a rabid fanbase who’s spent years building her career in a respectable manner.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she’d like Caine’s ethos.

        1. i don’t think nirvan is exploiting him directly. i just think there’s a little bit of ghoulishness behind the “look at how resourceful poor people can be, isn’t that cute?” aspect of this. i admit i was vague, but i’m sure nirvan had no ill intentions at all; i’ve spoken with him before, he’s a pure soul who gets theatricality.

          i agree with you about school, but i think that mostly says that 5th grade is almost worthless, just like many other grades. it shouldn’t be, but it is.

          i guess i just hope that caine knows or realizes in time that this was, more or less, a fluke, and that he might need to do this ten, twenty, or a hundred times until someone notices his next feat.

          1. Caine is poor? Where the @!#$@#$ did that come from?

            So far, I have never picked up on that from the videos. He father own an auto-parts store. Not a publishing or hotel empire, but he’s not out picking trash to survive.

            >he might need to do this ten, twenty, or a hundred times until someone notices his next feat.

            I don’t think he gives much of a d**n what you think, or what I or anybody else thinks. He loves the attention, sure, but he was building the arcade WHEN NOBODY CAME.

            He loves to build.

      1. Which is all the more reason why he nailed it.  He’s 9.  Look at his first tenet, “Be nice to customers.”  Most of the business world could learn a lot even if Cain hadn’t  written down his other 4.

    4. THIS.

      While I like the Caine story, as someone who has run a small, very successful side business for over a decade (and uses Caine’s rules, since they are basically common sense) it took me 4-5 years before I grossed as much as Caine was able to make in a couple of weeks after having a viral video rocket him to stardom.

      The real reason why we’re all discussing Caine is due to one rule:

      1 – Be lucky. Being young, adorable and crossing the path of an aspiring documentary filmmaker with access to people and equipment which is then used (gratis) to share your business story with the entire world is a random success you cannot intentionally obtain no matter how hard you try or what other rules you do or do not follow.

      1. There wouldn’t be much point in discussing him if nobody had heard of him.

        I’m fairly certain it would be IMPOSSIBLE to discuss him without having heard of him.

        Wouldn’t diminish his fun in creation in any way, however.

  3. Cain’s notes are prescient advice.  I argue that Cain grasped the fundamental principle in all entrepreneurship: spot a need and fill it.  We can dissect this forever, but I argue that Cain wanted to have fun and bring fun.  THAT is a perfectly legit need.  Did you see the original video of that run-down shop, his dad slaving away at eBay selling used auto parts and the neighborhood basically lifeless?  Well, Cain was bored, recognized a way to have fun and followed his idea to a very creative conclusion.

    Along came 1 customer, who was intrigued and also wanted to have fun.  It was genuine and from the heart.  So he made a video.  Then thousands came and gave to Cain generously, because he BROUGHT THE FUN.  And also happened to touch their hearts.

    That is the pure soul of an entrepreneur, and an all-around good guy.  Cain deserves everything that has come his way, and even more in the future.  Good going, kid.

    Trolls be damned, get off my screen.

  4. It maters not whether Cain built a successful business. The kid is 9. He created something, had fun and learnt something. Isn’t that what is being a kid is all about? What he learnt may not be “how to run a business”, but so what? 

    (I put “I’m not trolling but….” into the same category as “I don’t want to offend you, but…”. These qualifiers always precede a troll-like comment and offensive statement respectively.)

  5. I think that what a lot of people are trying to say here is to pay attention to lesson #6: Get really lucky.  I haven’t followed this story too closely from the start, but what I seem to gather is that while he succeeded at 2 and 3, those items alone weren’t making this idea very ‘successful’ until 6 came along.  What was his vision of success though?  If it was solely to have a little bit of fun, then he did succeed from the start.  If it was meant to be a business venture, I’d argue that he succeeded but his ‘lessons learned’ shows that he didn’t learn lesson 6 yet.

  6. The undercurrent of jealousy in this thread grosses me out. “Get lucky?” Um, FUCK that. Saying that Caine was “lucky enough to get filmed in a heartwarming way and have it go viral” gets it entirely backwards (and cynically dimisses the entirely authentic reactions of thousands of people as a Pavlovian response, to boot). Rather than being “lucky,” Caine did something that was worth being filmed in the first place, and because it was heartwarming and inspiring it went viral. I’d posit the real #6 is “Do something.” Because it doesn’t matter how lucky you get or who you meet if you haven’t done anything worth noticing to begin with. I would’ve thought a community of makers would appreciate that.

  7. That was awesome. It’s not about the money. It’s that smile at the end. That’s what life is all about.

  8. As an educator that focuses on problem solving, creativity as well as entrepreneurship, I think that some of you are reading into this more than you need to.  Caine is a child with a passion for building his own arcade.  He never anticipated the viral response -who could have ?  The point is he is learning about entrepreneurship through his creative arcade.  The thinking skills that he used to develop some of his games as well as the idea of using a calculator to check that the fun passes are authentic – this is a young boy that is thinking, discovering, learning and in time, will develop his business acumen.   I have taught many students in elementary schools that showed some business savvy just like Caine.  Caine’s passion (with the help of Nirvan) is leading to the development of teaching content, a Global Caine’s Arcade Day, etc and these projects have been created because Caine is a wonderful example of how young people should be encouraged to build, design, trade – yes…   his fun passes are too cheap…  yes Nirvan’s assistance was a tremendous bonus – but the fact of the matter is that despite all of the coverage – Caine is still working at his Arcade, inventing new ones and has gained the respect of his peers…. This young man will be a great businessman in the future because he is riding the learning curve early.  I look forward to tracking his successes and Nirvan’s intention to make the documentary was actually about doing something special for Caine – I commend him for the way he has done it!

  9. It’s pretty crappy to dismiss Caine’s list of what he learned just because it’s “common sense.”  Sure it is – if you’re an adult.  At some point in your life, however,  you may not have been so astute.  

    In general, we don’t know things until we learn them, and I think it’s pretty damn great that Caine is learning these lessons at his age…unlike so many other kids.   Hell, for that matter, I know plenty of adults who don’t seem to know (or is it understand?) the lessons that Caine has listed.  

  10. Regularly visiting this site for years, this is the first time I can say that I am disappointed in a majority of the comments. Why are we talking about this as if Caine is trying to make millions? He’s a kid who is having fun and has found tons of people who want to come out and share in it. 

    This great “capital venture” is about t-shirts, $2 fun passes and games that range from a quarter to $1.50. I wish one person had given my pursuits a micron of the attention Caine has gotten when I was his age. This is why Caine’s Arcade is such a success, because you can get away from the adult mindset that EVERYTHING has to be about making a profit. He’s 9! EVERYTHING has to be about having fun (at least and especially so during summer vacation).

    All that said, I went to Caine’s Arcade a few weeks back. I was a little apprehensive about being a grown man playing these games, but as soon as I started playing I started giggling like I was 10 and having a great time – it was a nice foray back into childhood. I met Nirvan and Caine’s father George, they both came across as incredibly supportive and interested in Caine’s welfare. 

    Caine came across so damn grounded and so much still a kid at the same time, it made my heart grow a bit. He never talked about making money or doing this forever, he instead insisted I play and rooted for me. He jumped up and down with energy just minutes after spending a good portion of time with another kid building, testing and refining a new game.

    Isn’t that what Boing Boing so loves promoting?! Makers? People who do it not to make a dollar but because they can and it fulfills them in a way that just buying something at a store can’t? I really don’t get the stuffy adult types in these comments, but if there’s a complete opposite of Caine’s joy, enthusiasm, and spirit, we’ve found it.

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