Robert F. Smith
American investor, inventor, engineer, philanthropist, entrepreneur. He is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, focused on investing and partnering with leading enterprise software companies.
Robert F. Smith was born to two working-class parents in a predominantly African American, middle-class neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. From an early age, his parents stressed the importance of giving back and supporting his community. He first learned that everyone had a role to play in creating a better world from watching his parents, who donated their limited resources to charities on an ongoing basis, no matter what was happening in their personal lives.
Smith earned a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University. After graduating, he began working in industry in Applied Research and Development and received two US and two European patents and numerous awards. He graduated with honors from Columbia Business School and entered the investment banking in Mergers & Acquisitions for Goldman Sachs in New York City and later San Francisco. To empower technology companies in the enterprise software market, Smith launched Vista Equity Partners, a global investment firm, in 2000. Today, Smith is Vista’s Chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, the firm’s portfolio has grown to include some of the world’s leading enterprise software companies.
Throughout his life, Smith’s commitment to philanthropy and equity has never wavered, and finding ways to make a difference in the communities where he lives and works is central to his character and approach to life. During his 2019 commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black institution, Smith surprised the graduating class by pledging to pay off the entire class’ student loan debt — a $34 million gift that helped nearly 400 graduates. He is also a major donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Chairman of Carnegie Hall, and the Chairman of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, among many others.
We will only grasp the staggering potential of our time if we create on-ramps that empower all people to participate, regardless of background, country of origin, religious practice, gender, or color of skin.
– Robert F. Smith
About Vista Equity Partners
Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a leading global technology investment firm.
As one of the most active investors in the enterprise software market, Vista believes in the advancement of technology to create opportunity. Vista manages a robust investment platform by applying market expertise across private equity, permanent capital, credit and public equity investment strategies. This singular focus over the past two decades enabled Vista to develop an adaptable, analytical approach to growth and cultivate a network of companies composed of industry leaders across end markets.
Robert F. Smith prioritizes making a difference in the communities where he lives and works. In particular, his philanthropy honors the sacrifices and contributions of his parents, grandparents and African American ancestors who he says paved the way for his success. Over the years, Smith has made major contributions to the National African American History Museum, Carnegie Hall, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Cornell University, Morehouse College and many other organizations.
In addition to his personal philanthropy, Smith is the founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation, a charitable organization making grants to support a broad range of organizations. In 2017, Smith became the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge — a commitment to donate a majority of his net worth during his lifetime to charitable causes.
Sometimes we think it’s just the Giving Pledge-kind of people making a difference, but it’s also individuals who may not have great wealth but who give generously of their time and resources.
— Robert F. Smith
The 2% Solution
The 2% Solution is a groundbreaking idea for generational change in at-risk communities. In neighborhoods where predominantly Black families live, there has been a systematic removal of goods and services which has weakened economic prosperity and destroyed the social fabric of these communities. The nation’s top corporations can reverse this by rebuilding these key infrastructures by allocating 2% of their net profits for the next 10 years to four key pillars: Banking and Financial Services, Healthcare, Education and Technology and the Digital Divide.
Southern Communities Initiative
The majority of African Americans live in just six communities in the U.S. — Birmingham, AL; Houston, TX; New Orleans, LA; Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC and Memphis, TN. By concentrating efforts to close gaps in funding education, technology, home ownership, healthcare, employment opportunities and more in these communities, we can magnify our impact. This effort will drive corporate collaboration with local grassroots community organizations to help achieve scalable projects that can be rolled out across the country wherever inequity exists.
Watch the latest videos of Robert F. Smith’s speeches, TV interviews, and other appearances.
Billionaire investor Robert Smith on providing financial help for minority-owned small businesses
Billionaire investor and CEO of Vista Equity Partners Robert Smith joins CBS This Morning to discuss the Paycheck Protection Program and what his company is doing to help minority-owned small businesses.
Cradle to Greatness | Fund II Foundation
Two years ago, Fund II Foundation developed Cradle to Greatness, a framework that aligns our strategic grantmaking priorities with outcomes that prepare and propel generations of talent. The framework ignites innovation, demands fair access, and accelerates the careers of young people who have been overlooked and underestimated.
NBC Meet the Press: Robert F. Smith talks about the impact of Coronavirus on communities of color
Robert F. Smith joined Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press to discuss the devastating toll coronavirus has had on communities of color, and how new software can help increase Payment Protection Program loans to minority-owned businesses.
If you’re successful and do the hard work and focus on your job, focusing on the mission instead of the role, your success will be recognized and given visibility. That is where Robert is right now.
– Richard Parsons
Robert F. Smith received accolades from a number of different organizations for his charitable work, entrepreneurship and industry leadership. Among the recognitions he received are:
• 2020 Forbes Diversity & Inclusion Award
• 2020 TIME’s 100 Most Influential People
• 2019 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy
• 2019 Inductee into the Texas Business Hall of Fame
• 2019 UNCF President’s Award
• 2018 Honored by National Park Foundation
• 2017 Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award
• 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award
• 2010 Ripple of Hope Award from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
• Forbes 100 Greatest Living Business Minds
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