Robert F. Smith

Robert F. Smith ’94
Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Vista Equity Partners, Texas

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 oversees a portfolio of over 50 software companies that employ over 60,000 people worldwide. Since Vista’s founding in 2000, Mr. Smith has overseen more than 300 completed transactions by the firm representing over $97 billion in transaction value. In 2017, Mr. Smith was named by Forbes as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.

Born in Colorado to two parents with doctorates in education, Mr. Smith trained as an engineer at Cornell University, earning his BS in chemical engineering. After graduating from Cornell University, Mr. Smith worked at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two United States and two European patents. He left Kraft General Foods to pursue his MBA from Columbia Business School.

Mr. Smith’s business achievements and global philanthropic works have received recognition from numerous entities – including 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 Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award; and the Ron Brown Scholar Program American Journey Award.

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 2017, Mr. Smith signed 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 Overseers of Columbia Business School, as a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, and as a trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco.