Q&A with Rene Solorzano, Co-Founder and CPO at Entidad

Written by:

Elizabeth Melton

5 minutes

Rene Solorzano had an incredibly varied career even before he started Entidad. As one of the three co-founders of the organization, Rene officially wears the CPO hat, but he brings a finance and strategy lens to every problem he encounters. I took a deep dive into how Rene grew professionally since graduating from Stanford and how that journey shapes the meaningful and rewarding work he does at Entidad today.

Q: Rene, thank you for speaking with me today! I’ll start by saying that your career has had some exciting twists and turns—can you explain how you went from investment banking to entertainment to where you are today? 

Well, I actually didn’t start out in investment banking. I graduated from Stanford with a degree in mechanical engineering and got a job as an engineer at a medical device company. But at that time, it was the height of the dot com bubble, and a second bubble was emerging on Wall Street that really grabbed my attention. I thought being a research analyst could be fun; I’d either make the news or be talking about the news. Plus, banking was a clear, structured path.

So I began learning finance through CFA coursework, and I convinced a small company that I should join their team. That “small company” ended up being the Lehman Brothers, and I gained a ton of experience there covering software and video games. But after a while, I decided I wanted to be on the decision-maker side. In addition, my dad’s health was deteriorating, so I was motivated to move to California.

Although I didn’t know much about the entertainment industry, I landed a role at Paramount Pictures, working in their home video sector. I learned all about distribution, consumer behavior, M&A, and strategy. While I was there, I saw how valuable it could be to work at the intersection of entertainment and tech, so I joined MGM to work on licensing. At that job, I spent a lot of time gathering requirements, managing and scoping projects, and building Excel models—basically doing the work of a product manager before that was a “thing."

Then, I got recruited to be a VP at RLG Entertainment, which was an eye-opening experience. The company had gone through a SPAC, and as a result, I touched every aspect of their business, from deal flow to business development work, loan modifications, and SEC filings, acting as a quasi-CFO. It turns out you can learn a lot from a distressed public company.

Eventually, RLG was acquired, and I ran Finance and Treasury at a media company. I worked there for about a year before that company was acquired, which was the perfect time to start working on Entidad.

Q: Wow, you made some incredible moves! Tell me, how did Jorge and Jesus play into this time period, and what propelled you to co-found Entidad?

I met Jesus and Jorge in college, and we’ve stayed close ever since. Jesus was the best man at my wedding, and Jorge’s kids get along great with mine.

Jesus pioneered the Entidad idea. He was doing a digital transformation project for the UFW Foundation and asked Jorge and I for advice from time to time. After learning more about the ins and outs of the farm worker industry and all the players involved, we realized that there was a need for an entire ecosystem, not just a one-off digital transformation project. There needed to be a whole infrastructure.

All three of us got so energized by that idea, but the time had to be right for all of us to leave our corporate jobs. I was on the CFO track, Jorge was on the CTO track, and Jesus had a fantastic run as a music producer, talent manager, and media strategy. But we knew that combining all those experiences would lead to a pretty killer overall skillset. So when Jesus officially pitched us on forming a company with a mission we cared about, it was difficult to say no.

I will say that it's vital to set clear boundaries for anyone who is thinking about founding a company with their friends. We did that from the beginning, and it’s helped us express our concerns while maintaining professionalism. It also helps that we’ve built up years and years of trust and can hang out outside of work and not talk about work at all.

Q: Noted, that is great advice. Let’s pivot to Entidad and your role there. As the CPO, who would you say are your customers, and what are the main problems you are trying to solve?

I’d describe Entidad as a B2B2C company in that we build products and services for the organizations that serve consumers. At the moment, those consumers are farm workers. And ultimately, we are responsible for making both groups’ lives easier.

The way I conceptualize this is through personas. For example, let’s say we are building something to help a farm worker complete their immigration. Our user stories have to cater to two linked personas: the farm worker’s persona and the foundation’s persona. The farm worker needs to know what documents to collect, how to submit them, and when the next step in the process is coming. The foundation needs to keep track of who is applying, update its database, and disseminate the guidance farm workers need.

And there can be many of these scenarios. For example, farm workers may start a family and want to enroll their kids in DACA. Or maybe they may want to buy property and eventually pass down that estate. The list goes on and on. But if you think about it, solving for the end-user will solve organizations’ problems, too.

Q: How do you think about Entidad’s product-market fit, and what has been surprising about developing products in this space?

There’s no getting around it: product-market fit is hard for B2B2C businesses to measure. We start by tracking fairly standard metrics, like the number of users on our platforms, user engagement, etc. One of the aha metrics we’ve found is the usage of more than one of our products or services. The idea is that they liked the first product enough to try another one as well. We also rely on NPS-type feedback on the foundation or advocacy group side.

A few things have surprised me. One is the difficulty in truly connecting with the population you’re serving. Farm workers have strong personal networks and absorb a lot of content on YouTube and TikTok. They rely on word of mouth and outlets that they trust.

One example of this is South American notaries. Notaries are viewed almost as lawyers in that geographical area, and farm workers go to them for immigration advice. If we could tap into that group and get their support, we could start to enter the conversation and spread through word of mouth. We haven’t gotten to that part of marketing ourselves yet, but that’s definitely on the roadmap.

Another thing that isn’t necessarily surprising but is top of mind is not to overbuild. My team gets excited about the opportunity to code something extraordinary and we start adding more and more features. But simplifying what you’re working towards and iterating is the way to go. It’s hard to balance our ambition and focus, but that’s something we are working on.

And lastly, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on UX and UI because it’s crucial to get it right. If someone doesn’t immediately understand what they are supposed to do in your app, they’ll just never use it.

Q: Alright, we’ve come to the final question. What do you hope Entidad will be known for in 5 years?

Right now, our focus is on farm workers, but I genuinely believe that Entidad can solve problems in any underserved population. There are many people suffering, and at least some of that suffering can be combatted by the right infrastructure. As a social impact organization, I hope that Entidad has made a significant difference in five years, not only for farm workers but also for other communities.

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Julette Martinez

CEO, Farm Worker Organization