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Founder Of Fast-Growing St. Louis Startup Engagedly Makes Music A Side Project

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Courtesy of Sri Chellappa
Maplewood-based Engagedly has seen meteoric growth in the past three years. Co-founder and president Sri Chellappa credits St. Louis' startup ecosystem.

Maplewood-based Engagedly is one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., with 577% growth over the past three years. That’s enough to earn it a spot on the Inc. 5000 — one of just five St. Louis-area companies to make the top 1,000.

The company promises a “people-centric talent management platform.” What that means, said co-founder and President Srikant Chellappa, is a software management system designed not just to manage processes for top executives, but to help employees feel valued and supported.

Said Chellappa, “What we have seen in the last few decades of technology being used to run organizations is that the people-oriented part of the software that is run for internal people management has been very much driven by, what I would say, top-down organizational-process compliance, check-the-box type of stuff. And what Engagedly is doing is [building] a software that people actually want to use, they actually want to be part of the organization.” That helps with both retention and collaboration as employees work remotely.

The company now has 110 employees globally. And for Chellappa, who came to St. Louis after taking a job here nearly two decades ago, its success demonstrates how local initiatives to support startups are now bearing fruit. Engagedly started in the T-Rex incubator downtown before moving earlier this year to a new home in Maplewood.

“T-rex was a great help,” Chellappa recalled on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “First of all, it's extremely affordable. And second, there's lots of startups. It's a good ecosystem to be around the people that are extremely supportive of the startups. … And the thing about T-Rex is you can start with one room, and then you can get another. And eventually, we got where we had five offices, and not every office was adjacent to each other. And at this point, we decided, ‘OK, it's probably time to get our own office.’”

'A Software That People Actually Want To Use'
Sri Chellappa discusses his company, and his newish hobby, on St. Louis on the Air

The new headquarters in Maplewood offers more opportunities for Chellappa than just further Engagedly growth. A longtime film buff, he wrote and directed the 2017 film “Bad Grandmas,” starring Florence Henderson and Pam Grier. Now he’s purchased the former SmithLee recording studio in Maplewood. As Kalinga Productions, it’s open to doing film production work and is already recording local bands. Engagedly takes the upstairs floors.

Chellappa said he started taking music lessons three or four years ago and now has a band of his own. “It's something that I can do on the side, you know, without having to compromise the focus I need to have to make Engagedly really successful. It's also a good way to let your emotions flow and give you that fresh perspective in life, where you're not just constantly working like Elon Musk does.”

Chellappa said he’d like to see St. Louis develop a specialization, something it’s known as a true hub for. But he said he’s happy to be building his business here.

He said: “Overall, St. Louis is very affordable. There's plenty of talent here. And the local ecosystem is thriving; it's doing really well.”

He added, “It's easy to get around. I hated traffic growing up in [New] Delhi. Every time I go to L.A. or New York or Atlanta, I'm like, ‘I'm glad I don't live here.’”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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