Akram Alotumi (MTEI ‘16)
Akram Alotumi (MTEI ‘16)
Founder & CEO, Spritely Technologies Inc.
Co-founder & CEO, 3D Next
Halifax, Nova Scotia
After coming to Canada from Yemen to study at Saint Mary’s, Akram Alotumi was inspired to help newcomers (and tourists!) become better connected to their new cities.
We caught up with Akram to learn more about his entrepreneurial spark.
Can you tell us about your companies, Spritely and 3D Next?
Spritely is an application-based tourism and relocation tool that pairs knowledgeable, qualified locals with tourists and relocators to help make their visit or move to a new city easier, faster, more personal, and less stressful.
3D Next is a 3D printing company that sells 3D printers and does consulting and training on these emerging technologies.
Where did you get the ideas for these companies?
I came to Nova Scotia as an international student, and I remember how challenging those first months were. With limited English language skills, I was navigating many tasks to get settled in Halifax and was also trying to establish a sense of connection to my new city.
In the third year of my bachelor degree, I started a company called Azal Student Agency; it aimed to help other newcomers have an easier transition than I did. The concept was very popular, but it wasn’t scalable. I started to get calls from prospective clients in other Canadian cities, but couldn’t serve them – that’s where the idea for Spritely came from. Spritely takes the peer-to-peer settlement support model of Azal and leverages technology to make it scalable beyond Halifax.
3D Next came from an interest in the technology and a good partnership with my co-founder.
Why did you decide to take SMU’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship & Innovation program?
Joining the MTEI program was my natural next step. I found the program emphasized practical experiences and I was able to use class assignments to further develop my business and improve as a professional.
The diversity of classmates and the experience of the professors was very appealing. It was a journey not only for me but also for my business. I would encourage all students in the program to apply their learning to either their own business ideas or to existing businesses in the community; this applied learning is very effective.
In a recent media story, you were described as a “serial entrepreneur.” What do you think of that title?
I have no problem with that title – it reflects the fact that ever since I started my first venture, I’ve had one or more businesses on the go.
I feel people who can use system thinking while designing and implementing their operational business processes have the ability to run multiple businesses or a group of companies. In my case, I have a big interest in systems. And in my other master’s degree at Royal Roads University, I’m focusing on systems thinking and business leadership.
At the moment, I have three businesses (Spritely Technologies, 3D Next, and Alotumi Consulting) but the majority of my time and focus is on Spritely. I have a great co-founder that helps me with 3D Next, and I work with selective clients for Alotumi Consulting.
Did you always plan to start your own companies? What’s your inspiration?
Yes, I’ve always been passionate about business. I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment, and that was the inspiration for my own path. My father is a businessman, and my grandfather ran a small business. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with them both, watching them work and helping them. Both have inspired me a lot.
Today, I also draw inspiration from Warren Buffet and Arlene Dickinson who have built their businesses from the ground up in challenging conditions.
You came to Halifax from Yemen to study. Would you like to stay in Nova Scotia long-term?
I’m proudly a dual citizen of both countries, Canada and Yemen.
Nova Scotia is home. I really want to stay in Nova Scotia and keep the headquarters of Spritely here – to create jobs and positively impact this beautiful community.
As a successful entrepreneur, what advice would you give aspiring business owners?
Resilience is super important. Never give up, be brave, and take risks. When you build your team, make sure that honesty, integrity, and a positive attitude come before skills.
Even when resources are limited, invest time, money, and patience into building a positive workplace culture; it’s worth it. And be kind and honest, always, despite the challenges that you are facing.
Finally, know your market, competition, and clients. And always be open to evolving, adapting, and improving – but stay true to your vision and measure the performance and goals that help you achieve your dreams.
Looking back at your time at SMU, what makes you nostalgic about your time on campus?
The close relationships that I was able to build with faculty, administration, and other students really enhanced the program. I loved that at Saint Mary’s, everyone knows you by name. The University offers a very personal experience and cultivates relationships.