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Olugbenga ‘Olu’ Ajala, Founder Ashipa Electric, Helps Homeowners Reduce Energy Costs

Olugbenga “Olu” Ajala is the founder of Ashipa Electric, an energy company that helps to make sure people get reliable power and reduce energy costs and has 20 total employees. (Provided)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

Looking back, maybe it was destined for Olugbenga “Olu” Ajala to become founder of an energy company that delivers power supply.

“Growing up in Nigeria, seeing firsthand what it meant to have limited access to electricity, and I just wanted to be a part of that solution,” said Ajala. “For me all roads lead to how can we solve this energy problem. I wanted to grab everything I could on information about electricity.”

Ashipa Electric serves as an energy company that helps to make sure people get reliable power and reduce energy costs and has 20 total employees.

“Our objective is to help homeowners and businesses reduce energy costs, thereby stimulating economic activity and hopefully positively impacting millions of lives …” he said.

He launched during a time many people were closing or downsizing their businesses. “When everyone is running away from something that’s when I stick my head in it,” he said. “Our solution is to help people get power. 2020 is when everyone was staying at home. If you are home, you need power. It was a fantastic time to introduce creative approaches to insure that people have reliable and resilient power.”

Ajala was recently named one of the Birmingham’s Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2024 an honor he considers to be “a good thing” to be recognized by an outlet that brings out the best and brightest in Birmingham. “It’s encouraging more people to become better, to bring back, and to contribute to Birmingham,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and I look forward to being a part of it. It’s a blessing.”

Ajala,37, first embarked on the journey of working towards energy solutions in Africa.

“I did a lot of exploratory work. We (Ashipa) got a lot of customers, had a lot of great discussions, a lot of investors, and people excited about the initiative but unfortunately the polices were far behind promises or there was just not a good framework to implement our solutions at that point in time. We had to reduce our operation and I had to return to the U.S. to work in the utility space. That’s when I joined Southern Company (in Birmingham),” said Ajala.

He was born in Dallas but moved to Nigeria where his parents are from and spent much of his childhood in Nigeria.

“My childhood was amazing. I played a lot of street soccer and imaginary martial arts (in Nigeria), he said. “I spent a lot of time watching movies and practicing my [soccer and martial arts] skills as well. I lived in a middle-class neighborhood and there I had the opportunity to be exposed to all walks of life. All the way from the bottom to the top.”
Olu said when he was younger, he was very active in school extracurricular.

“When I moved back to the U.S. … It wasn’t a hard transition, it was normal. The first school I went to I joined the JROTC [Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] and the soccer team. The second school I joined the National Society of Black Engineers, and that’s where I had the most fun. I did science fair competitions and math competitions. I had a blast.”

After moving back to the United States, Ajala and his family made a home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he found his love for electricity expand. While living in Nigeria, he encountered people from all walks of life.

Ajala said it gave him the opportunity to meet different people and experience different lifestyles.

Ajala graduated from Scotlandville Magnet High School in Louisiana and attended Louisiana State University (LSU) where he studied electrical engineering and graduated in 2008.

“Born in Texas, grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. Finished high school in Baton Rouge and then after I finished college, I moved to Mobile, Alabama, then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and then to Birmingham” when he worked for Southern Company.
Ajala said he came back to the Magic City after completing his MBA from (Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.)

“Looking around, I asked myself where a good place would be to work on renewable energy projects and Southern Company was a fantastic opportunity. They were employing huge renewable energy initiatives around that time, I chose Birmingham.

Ashipa was a part of the first class (2020) of TechStars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator that helps participants build and grow businesses across the energy industry. He’s also been a part of incubators and energy companies in Los Angeles, Boston, and Nigeria where he’s won a number of awards.

For him it’s not about the awards but,” continuing to have significant impact in the communities in which we operate,” he said.

Because Ashipa operates as a global company, Ajala is always on the move. If he’s not in Nigeria, he’s state side, anywhere between Texas and Alabama and when he finds free time he enjoys a plethora of hobbies.

“I have a lot of hobbies, but the question is do I have enough time to participate in those hobbies? When I do have the time, I have a lot of hobbies I like to. I like to paint; I like to play musical instruments that I know how to play. Not many of them do I know how to play, but I try to play. I like to dance and practice martial arts. If I can do some pickup games of soccer, I’ll indulge in that from time to time. I love to play with my kids and hang out with family and friends,”

The husband and father of a four- and two-year-old, that” keeps me busy,” said Ajala adding, “they keep me on my toes.”

Even though he currently resides in Houston, Texas, his business has headquarters in Birmingham and Nigeria. His favorite thing about the Magic City is “it is a place you can lay low. It’s where you can focus, and I like that about Birmingham,” he said.