48 Innovate isn’t a typical consulting or tech company. And its founder, Melissa Kennedy, is neither a typical CEO nor entrepreneur. Instead she and her company are something entirely new.

On one hand, Kennedy fits right in with the Triangle’s community of passionate and innovative entrepreneurs. Sporting bright red hair, she’s gregarious and the consummate cheerleader at startup events—hers is the cheer you hear rising above all the others. While perhaps more extroverted than some techies, her passion and dedication to discovering and supporting innovation in all business sizes help her blend into the Triangle startup community.

Conversely, Kennedy’s demeanor and the way she presents her new company, 48 Innovate, is more polished than any entrepreneur I’ve yet encountered. Her carefully crafted (yet witty and personable) responses to interview questions remind me of an established CEO rather than someone whose company is just a year old.

Her recent launch party at American Underground’s rooftop patio exemplified the graceful nature in which her company navigates both the startup and big business worlds. The 85 attendees weren’t the typical faces seen at American Underground—70 percent were directors or leaders of large companies. A wide range of hor d’oeuvres were offered, and the featured cocktail was aptly named, “Innovation Fizz.” But in true startup fashion, Kennedy, event partners, customers, and guests gave a series of 60 second pitches. And the night was topped off with an awards ceremony of sorts for the winner of the “clever captions” contest Kennedy conducted over social media in the hours leading up to the event. The winner’s “crazy innovative prize”? A pound of bacon. 

Kennedy and her team of eight part-time employees have used the past year to streamline and polish the 48 Innovate experience. With $500,000 worth of upcoming 48 Innovate sessions in the pipeline here locally, she believes she’s poised to scale the business and the process beyond the Triangle. While contacts made at her launch party will help add scale, her vision for the company is bigger than incrementally adding customers to her portfolio.

Kennedy realizes she and her team can’t be everywhere at one time. She also knows from her own experience with working, then consulting, for Cisco that other consultants might have better, already established relationships with companies that could benefit from the 48 Innovate process. Thus, she envisions developing a licensing and certification process through which consultants can become certified to conduct 48 Innovate sessions in businesses throughout the country and world. She’s also currently developing and testing proprietary software that will further streamline the 48 Innovate process.

And with those plans, a seemingly innocuous consulting company becomes a full-fledged tech startup company. 

With a tested process, an energetic and polished leader, and a slew of clients under its belt, you can expect Kennedy to continue to be a fixture in the Triangle startup community. In the near future you might even have the opportunity to cheer for her and 48 Innovate as she’s cheered for you.