Robert F. SmithFounder, Chairman & CEO at Vista Equity Partners
Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. He directs Vista’s investment strategy and decisions, firm governance and investor relations. Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of over $75Bn and oversees a portfolio of over 70 software companies that employ over 70,000 people worldwide. Since Vista’s founding in 2000, Mr. Smith has overseen over 455 completed transactions by the firm representing over $173Bn in aggregate transaction value. There are over 200 million users of Vista’s software.
Vista has managed capital for hundreds of limited partners, endowments, family offices, high net worth individuals, and prominent pension plans representing more than 40% of public safety employees, including police and firefighters, and more than 50% of teachers and education employees. Vista, committed to delivering value for these important shareholders, has never lost money on a buy-out investment.
In 2020, Smith was named as one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2017, Smith was named by Forbes as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. Robert has also been named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year.
Born in Colorado to two parents with EdDs, Mr. Smith trained as an engineer at Cornell University, earning his B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Following his MBA from Columbia Business School with honors, Mr. Smith worked at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two United States and two European patents. In 1994, he joined Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking, first in New York and then in Silicon Valley. As Co‐Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage, he executed and advised on over $50B in merger and acquisition activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo. He was the first person in San Francisco at Goldman to focus solely on Tech M&A.
Mr. Smith’s business achievements and global philanthropic works have received recognition from numerous entities – including Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Award, the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, UNCF’s President’s Award, the International Medical Corps’ Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Morehouse Candle Award in Business and Philanthropy, Ebony’s first John H. Johnson Award, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award, the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation, the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies, the Pierre Toussaint Award from the Archdiocese of New York, the Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Ron Brown Scholar Program American Journey Award, among others.
Mr. Smith is the founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the African American experience, safeguarding human rights, providing music education, preserving the environment while promoting the benefits of the outdoors, and sustaining critical American values. In January 2016, Cornell University honored Mr. Smith’s leadership by naming the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Smith has been a leading voice advocating for companies to take diverse internship candidates in STEM fields. Under his leadership, in 2019, Fund II Foundation launched InternX, a platform to match leading companies with diverse internship candidates.
In 2019, Smith received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse College and made headlines by announcing that he would cover the student loans of nearly 400 Morehouse College 2019 graduates in a commencement address. After his Morehouse pledge, Smith founded the Student Freedom Initiative to relieve the crushing burden of student debt for STEM students at all HBCUs.
In 2017, Smith signed on to the Giving Pledge, the only African American to do so. His gift of $20 million was the largest by an individual donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Smith is the Chairman of Carnegie Hall and the Chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Business Roundtable, the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, as a Member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, and is a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco.
Smith also has been a strong advocate for what he has named the 2% solution - calling on large corporations to commit 2% of their annual net income for the next decade to empower minority communities.