An Oasis in the Desert: Centric’s Origin Story

By December 26, 2018 January 3rd, 2019 Uncategorized

Jerry McColgin is the Founder & President of Collidea, a Central Indiana-based innovation firm that uses non-traditional tools to develop breakthrough new strategies, products, services, and marketing. He is also the Founder and long-time President of Centric. Jerry will be stepping away at the end of 2018 to pursue a new venture with his wife, Tara. We sat down to discuss Centric’s history and why Jerry started this group nearly 12 years ago.

When did you first enter the innovation business?

I left corporate life in 1999 to start my own consulting business. My goal was to focus on identifying unmet consumer needs and co-developing innovative solutions for large consumer product companies.

How was business for Collidea when you first started?

The business started off well with most of my clients coming from my existing network. The only problem was, much of that network was dispersed around the country, meaning that anytime I was doing business, I needed to be on the road. By the mid-2000’s I decided that I wanted to establish a client base closer to my Central Indiana home. That is where my frustration began.

What were those frustrations?

While I had established credibility within my own network, I found it very tough to convince Indiana-based companies to believe that an “innovation expert” could be found locally. I distinctly remember one particular sales call where I spoke of our capabilities. The CEO told me how intrigued he was by our offerings, but went on to say that his company had a firm in Boston that they worked with to do such work. He was concerned that getting similar deliverables from a local company would not be believable to his senior team or board. 

“If it ain’t the East Coast and it ain’t the West Coast, it’s the desert.”

Not long after that, I attended a conference in Boston. One night after dinner I was taking a taxi back to my hotel. The cabbie asked me, “So buddy, where are you from?”. I told him “I’m from Indiana”. Without a moment of hesitation he replied “Ah… the desert”. Sitting in the back seat, I wondered if this guy was a geographical idiot or if he had misheard my response. I pondered this for a few moments then asked him for clarification. To which he told me “You know… If it ain’t the East Coast and it ain’t the West Coast, it’s the desert”.

That is frustrating. What did you decide to do about it?

That really fired me up. It hit me in that moment that this Boston cab driver was saying the exact same thing I was hearing from business executives in my own state. Upon my return, I met with a group of guys that I worked with and shared my frustrations. We all agreed that there was expertise in our area, and certainly a need. What we were suffering from was a false impression. We came up with the idea of bringing people together on a regular basis that had a passion for innovation to share ideas and best practices. Centric was born.

While we’ve gone through several iterations since that time, Centric was born from that desire to elevate the perception of innovation across our state and to showcase the expertise that existed.

Thanks for sharing. What inspired you to keep building Centric all these years?

I have loved to see its growth and still love the mission of Centric. It really is a good thing for our city and state. This thing has grown so far beyond me, it is a true testament to the network of innovators that exists here in Indiana. Centric is in better hands now.

Jerry McColgin owns and operates Collidea and Suite D in Carmel, IN. In 2018, he co-founded Shocking Marriage Ministries with his wife Tara. Shocking Marriage Ministries is dedicated to making good marriages great and great marriages – Shocking! Jerry will still work with Centric as Director Emeritus.

Jason Williams

About Jason Williams

Executive Director - Jason has been a part of Centric since the beginning as a volunteer organizer. After more than 16 years in corporate marketing, he was hired as Centric's first Executive Director in 2016. Jason is a graduate of Butler University and stays extremely active in Indiana’s innovation and entrepreneurship communities. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn as "jawbrain."