Robert F. SmithFounder, Chairman and CEO at Vista Equity Partners
Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. Founded in 2000 by Smith, Vista exclusively invests in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled organizations. As a leading global investment firm, Vista’s focus has been on building sustainable value across its portfolio of companies and has more than two decades of success to show for its investment approach.
In 2020, Smith was named as one of TIME magazine’s Most Influential People in the World. In 2017, Smith was named by Forbes as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. In 2019, Smith received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and that same year he was also named to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
Born in Denver, Colorado Smith earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and his MBA with honors from Columbia Business School. Before founding Vista Equity Partners, Smith worked at Kraft General Foods, where he utilized his engineering degree to earn four patents, two from the United States and two from Europe. In 1994, he joined Goldman Sachs as the first Co-Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs, including assisting companies such as Hewlett Packard, IBM, eBay and Apple.
Smith has many philanthropic causes and projects that support the African American community, the environment, the arts and education. In 2019, Smith made headlines when he announced he would donate $34 million to pay off the student loan debt of the entire graduating class of Morehouse College. In 2017, Smith signed on to the Giving Pledge, the first African American to do so. And, in 2016, his gift of $20 million at the time was the largest by an individual donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
He also serves on multiple boards, including as the Chairman of Carnegie Hall and on the Board of Directors for the Business Roundtable, the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, as Founding Partner of the REFORM Alliance, and as a Member of the Cornell Engineering College Council.
Smith is also the founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the African American experience. The Fund II Foundation also works to safeguard human rights, provide music education, preserve the environment while promoting the benefits of the outdoors and sustain critical American values. Under Smith’s leadership, in 2019, Fund II Foundation launched InternX, a platform to match leading companies with diverse internship candidates. In 2020, Smith, along with the Fund II Foundation, founded Student Freedom Initiative, which provides an income-contingent funding alternative to junior and senior STEM majors at HBCUs. Students at all levels can take part in the program’s other tools and resources, which include internships and mentoring.
Smith’s business achievements and global philanthropic works have received recognition from numerous entities. Over the years, he has received such honors as UNCF’s President’s Award, the International Medical Corps’ Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award, Jackie Robinson Foundation ROBIE Achievement in Industry Award and the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, among others.
Smith also has been a strong advocate for what is known as The 2% Solution - calling on large corporations to commit 2% of their annual net income for the next decade to empower minority communities.
Robert F. Smith is active on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.