Yusuf Ben-Tarifite, founder of The Aspiring Medics

Yusuf Ben Tarifite photo

Yusuf is a final-year medical student at the University of Oxford and the founder of The Aspiring Medics, a venture that helps students in getting into medical school. Coming from a state school with no family members in medicine, he is passionate about widening participation and levelling the playfield in medical school admissions. Shape 

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Coming from a state school with no doctors in my family, getting into medical school was an uphill battle. I struggled with the information gap, the inspiration gap and the skill gap. Against all odds, I was able to get into Oxford University to read Medicine. A week before fresher’s week, I founded The Aspiring Medics to help all students regardless of their background to get into medical school because talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.  

What is your definition of entrepreneurship? 
The Aspiring Medics logo

For me, entrepreneurship is a craft, it’s a vocation, it's about creating impactful, scalable solutions and fostering innovation. It involves a relentless pursuit of a mission that can transform lives, it’s about creating value, continuously iterating you, your team and your systems as a company to provide ultimate value to your customers whilst being financially scalable.  

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it? 

My idea for the Aspiring Medics stemmed from personal experiences and a keen understanding of the unmet needs in medical education, particularly for those lacking resources and support. Our initial in-person school visits confirmed interest but were costly and limited. Pivoting to online courses and now an AI platform has enabled us to scale our impact.  

What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why? 

Success in entrepreneurship hinges on resilience to overcome obstacles, creativity in problem-solving, and strong communication skills to lead and inspire teams effectively. Without a doubt, running a business has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done but yet the most fulfilling. The highs are high, and the lows are low and thus building resilience is critical to enable you to weather the storms and navigate difficulties inherent to the startup journey. Creativity enables you to improve products and processes through iteration continuously so that you can have a competitive advantage.  Communication not only between you and team, your customers, your stakeholders is critical to be unified under your mission and vision. 

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur? 

The most fulfilling aspect of entrepreneurship for me is the journey of constant learning and seeing the tangible impact of our work in enhancing students' chances in the medical field. It brings me energy and purpose to watch my team grow professionally as individuals. Recognizing the stories of students, we empower grounds me in our profound mission of expanding access and opportunity. 

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why? 

Sam Altman inspires me with his visionary thinking on AI and articulate communication style. His perspective on leveraging technology for educational equity aligns with my goals of using innovation to open doors for disadvantaged students.  

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss? 

In my conversation with Sam Altman, I would focus on understanding the current state and future prospects of AI in education. I am particularly interested in how AI can be made equitable and accessible across different social classes and nations. It's crucial to me that the benefits of AI in education do not become exclusive to a privileged few, ensuring equitable access in terms of class and addressing social determinants in education and social mobility.  

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business? 

A defining moment for me was launching AVA (Your AI Virtual Assistant), the world’s first AI Interview Platform for Medicine and Dentistyr Interviews. Hearing how much our students have benefitted from it and to me sums up what The Aspiring Medics is all about. Equalising opportunity, innovative, and disrupters in the market. - https://youtu.be/Qp_Zh3vYS7M  

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur? 

As an entrepreneur, I've learned that making mistakes is inevitable, but what's more important is how you correct for them and adjust your approach continuously. Being able to do this course correction is crucial. For example, initially, in-person school visits proved costly and ineffective, so we pivoted to focus more on online courses, which allowed us to reach a wider, not geographically limited audience. Another example is shifting from paid Google search ads to improving our website and YouTube content, which organically improved our reach and engagement.  

How have you funded your ideas? 

Funding for my ideas initially started with bootstrapping, using £200 from my pocket money. This humble beginning taught me valuable lessons about being lean and efficient in business operations. Over time, the venture grew financially, enabling further scaling. This experience underscored the importance of creative problem-solving and resourcefulness in the early stages of a startup. 

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you? 

In my journey with Aspiring Medics, sector-specific awards and programs like the UK Government’s Young Innovator Award and the Oxford Venture Builder Programme from Enspire Oxford have been crucial. These opportunities provided not just financial backing but also mentors and key learning experiences exposure, playing a significant role in the growth and development of my venture.  

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? 

Being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire is highly beneficial due to the supportive community and abundance of resources available. The area fosters a collaborative atmosphere, offering ample opportunities for networking, mentorship, and growth. Entrepreneurs in Oxfordshire benefit from access to a wide range of expertise and support systems, aiding in the development and success of their ventures. 

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? 

If a new entrepreneur or startup approached me for advice on entrepreneurship resources, I would recommend EnSpire (I promise I’m not sponsored to say this!). This platform offers valuable resources and networking opportunities that can be crucial for new entrepreneurs. It provides insights, tools, and connections necessary for anyone starting in the entrepreneurial world, making it a great starting point for guidance and support.

Any last words of advice? 

To aspiring entrepreneurs, I advise a deep commitment to your vision, a willingness to continuously learn and adapt, and an unyielding focus on your mission. Resilience, creativity, and effective communication are the cornerstones of successful entrepreneurship. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, foster innovation, and prioritize clear and inspirational communication within your team and community. Stay true to your values and goals, and remember that the journey is as important as the destination.