Ammar Kandil ‘10, co-founder of Yes Theory shares his inspiring story in a candid interview with Dean Hatim Eltayeb.
Ammar Kandil ’10 co-founder of the Yes Theory movement has brought together a community of over 10 million followers around Seeking Discomfort and living authentic lives.
In September, Yes Theory partnered with Google to release an inspiring film with over 700,000 views to date on Ammar’s journey titled Free Child.
As part of the Redefine Expectations Webinar Series, Ammar Kandil joined Dean Hatim Eltayeb for a candid exploration of his personal and entrepreneurial journey.
Ammar started the webinar by providing the attendees with information about his background. Born and raised in Egypt, Ammar grew up in El Sadat City-2 hours outside of Cairo. He was always passionate about people and had a strong fascination for technology and the interaction between the two. Ammar ended up chasing an opportunity in Cairo to work for a non-profit focused on tech development, human resources, and leadership. It was through this opportunity that he was nominated by his team to join the next generation of African leaders in Johannesburg.
Ammar went on to discuss his ALA journey and how it shaped his entrepreneurial ventures. His passion for people and the intersection between social media and storytelling evolved at ALA into understanding how to change narratives to make people realize that a new reality can exist for themselves and as a collective through him experiencing the Egyptian Revolution from Johannesburg. He believes ALA was the bedrock and foundation for Seeking Discomfort. In his eyes, ALA encompasses the very idea of Seeking Discomfort-leaving one’s home country for a new and academically rigorous environment and having to forge new friendships with people from different backgrounds. This unique environment pushed Ammar to develop deep and long-lasting friendships. According to him, ALA was the first real experience Ammar had of what him and his co-founders have now coined as Seeking Discomfort as part of the Yes Theory movement.
Hatim and Ammar continued the discussion focusing on his journey post ALA. After graduating from ALA, Ammar took a gap year and worked for a tech company in San Francisco for hands-on experience before starting at Quest University in Canada. In his sophomore year, Ammar created the idea 1^up which was essentially a TikTok or Instagram for competition where people were able to challenge each other in their specific skillsets and talents. According to Ammar, “The whole concept is that our competitive nature and our ability to engage with each other makes us better.” After a road trip from Vancouver to Montreal with a friend who was interested in developing the idea, things changed very quickly from Ammar and he ended up on a completely different path.
Six months into Montreal, Ammar realized that he was in the wrong city to be raising money in the tech industry. Through his ALA roommate who was working at a startup at Google, Ammar was put in touch with some investors to put money into a prototype of his application. However, a few days before he left for New York he crashed a party in Montreal (as Hatim aptly points out later perhaps the very definition of Seeking Discomfort) and instantly connected with Thomas who would become one of his co-founders.
Five and a half years later, the core message of Yes Theory has been refined over time. During the session, Hatim and Ammar explored the core message of Yes Theory by looking at the how the business works, its philosophy, and, the community created around it. Ammar and his co-foundershave coined the phrase “Youtube Startup” to describe Yes Theory in order to encourage people to have a different relationship with Youtube and instead of focusing on popularity, focusing on buildinga community around a shared ideology. Instead of creating fans, they have created a community around people who are challenging themselves by seeking discomfort and living authentically. Before international travel shut down due to the pandemic, Yes Theory hadkicked off theirLive World Tour. The first-ever sold out LA event demonstrated to the team the power in drawing their whole tribe togetheras a family-the Yes Family. Ammar implored the participants to think about the philosophy-the idea that the best things will happen when you step outside your comfort zone and that growth truly happens when you are completely removed from what you are familiar with. His long-term vision is to build the world’s greatest city that can be decentralized. The idea that a shared ideology can connect people spread all over the world and Yes Theory is the first phase of testing the power of bringing people together around a well-phrased ideology and principles they can live by.
In the final minutes of the discussion Ammar and Hatim discussed the power of strong narratives and connected it to the Egyptian Revolution, “I always think about the power of narrative. I have struggled with my mental health a lot and the deeper I got into understanding these struggles the more I realized because the person you end up creating because of certain story you believe and how the more you get to refine the story and make the story feel what actually feels right to you the happier and more fulfilled you live. Through that logic- the reality was that the Egyptian revolution was a failure and some might argue that Egypt now in terms of freedoms is in a place far worse than 10 years ago and the path to meaningful change is even harder than before. The story of the Egyptian revolution tome is completely different -seeing the collective rise together and seeing what can happen when people just decide they want the same thing was the story I took from the experience. That is the story I decided to focus on. We are trying to build something that is revolutionary and that has never been done before-a positive movement and a part of someone’s identity.”
Just before the ALA team brought on a surprise guest for Ammar, Hatim and Ammar discussed the new film Free Child and where the concept came from. Google approached the Yes Theory team with an offer to collaborate on a project and Ammar and his team pitched the idea of framing his life through his Google searches. The inspiring and emotional story told shows how the different searches in Ammar’s have shaped his journey and enabled him to live his authentic self and chase his dreams.
Rawan ElShobakythe Year 2 student Ammar sponsors was brought on just before the Q&A section of the evening. In a moving moment, Rawan thanked Ammar for his support in her education journey and aske da couple of questions on behalf of the Year 2 class about 1) Ammar’s role model and 2) His advice on overcoming challenges.
With over 150 participants in the Webinar, the Q&A section was filled with comments of admiration and insightful question. Ammar and Hatim concluded the discussion covering topics including the relationship between courage-vulnerability and entrepreneurship, the challenging decisions he had to make around his relationship and his father, and lastly when we should expect to see Ammar back on the quad.
Just before the ALA team wrapped up the evening, Ammar surprised the audience by committing to donate the equipment for ALA students to have a podcast and the capability to record their passions, hopes, and dreams for the future.
Click on the video below to watch the webinar.