Hans Utz is an entrepreneur with Atlanta in his DNA. After graduating with both a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech, he served in the US Army. He’s worked at Coca Cola, KPMG, Bain, and most recently he was the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the City of Atlanta, where he oversaw the city’s $2B operational budget. In 2014, he and K.P. Reddy founded The Combine, which aims to connect startups with large companies. We recently chatted with Hans to learn more about his thoughts on Atlanta and what’s in store for The Combine.
As someone who’s seen Georgia’s capital develop over the years as a businessman and a city employee, Utz has some ideas to further propel the city’s development as a tech hub. “The government should create incentives for folks to offer scalable and flexible space for startups,” asserts Utz. Regarding funding, he feels that local investment (especially early offerings) are inadequate. “The whole idea that you starve them until they create is insane,” he states. “Only raising $50k puts startups in a tough position to work because they have to immediately focus on raising more capital to survive and build.” Having said that, Utz forwards that Atlanta’s status as a center for big business could benefit the city’s innovators. “Atlanta has the 3rd highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, but the highest concentration of those that don’t compete with each other,” says Utz. This unique asset prompted Hans and K.P. to create The Combine as a way to bring the corporate and startup worlds together.
The Combine aims to credibly connect innovation seekers (enterprises) with innovation providers (entrepreneurs). Their goal is to, “spur larger companies to foster innovation,” explains Utz. “Larger companies want a specific problem solved. The Combine finds startups who can solve it and vets them for the companies. The enterprises get an anonymous peek into who is in the market, direct connections, and an independent perspective. We also want to uncover the ideas and smaller company offerings that the big companies can utilize, but don’t know to ask for.” In turn, The Combine also provides the startups access to the decision makers of large companies and can guide them through the enterprise agreement.