Robert F. Smith
Founder, Chairman & CEO
Vista Equity Partners, Austin
Robert F. Smith is Vista’s Founder, Chairman and CEO. He directs the firm’s investment strategy and decisions, governance and investor relations. Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of over $57 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 65 enterprise software, data, and technology-enabled companies that have more than 200 million users and employ over 70,000 people worldwide. Since Vista’s founding in 2000, Mr. Smith has overseen over 400 completed transactions by the firm representing more than $130 billion in transaction value.
Born in Colorado to two parents with EdDs, Mr. Smith trained as an engineer at Cornell University, earning his B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Upon receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School with honors, he 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 $50 billion 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 is also 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. He 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. Vista runs its own internship offering to boost diversity, the Vista Frontier Fellows Program.
In 2016, Cornell University honored Mr. Smith’s leadership by naming the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
In 2017, Mr. Smith signed on to the Giving Pledge, the only African American to do so. That same year he was named by Forbes as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.
In 2019, Mr. 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. In December he was included on Bloomberg’s list of the 50 people who defined the year.
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 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.
He is a major donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 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 Overseers of Columbia Business School, as a Member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, and a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco.
B.S. in Chemical Engineering, Cornell University
MBA, Concentration in Finance and Marketing, Columbia Business School