Robert F. Smith
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners (Vista). Vista, which was established in 2000, invests in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses. Under Smith’s leadership, the firm cultivated a unique approach to enterprise software investing — one that prioritizes value creation through operational transformation.
Throughout his career, Smith has made his philanthropic work a top priority. Smith is the founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving the Black American experience. Additionally, the Foundation works to protect human rights, make music education more accessible, preserve the environment and promote the benefits of the outdoors.
In 2017, Smith was named by Forbes as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. That same year, he became the first Black American to sign the Giving Pledge. As a signatory, Smith made a commitment to give away the majority of his wealth to philanthropic causes throughout his lifetime. Prior to signing the pledge, Smith donated $20 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which was the largest gift from a single donor at the time.
Smith is also an active member of several boards. Currently, he is Chairman of Carnegie Hall, Vice Chairman of NAF, Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative and at-large board member of the Business Roundtable. Additionally, Smith serves on the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, is a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council and is a founding partner of the REFORM Alliance.
In 2019, Smith made one of his most notable contributions to date when he pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the Morehouse College graduating class during his commencement speech. After witnessing the positive impact his donation had on the Morehouse students, he worked with other business and education leaders to establish Student Freedom Initiative. The Initiative offers a variety of academic, professional and financial resources to students at participating Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Smith has also sparked positive change through his advocation for The 2% Solution. The premise of the Solution stems from the idea that lasting racial equity is possible through a major investment in economic justice for underrepresented communities. If U.S. companies invested 2% of their profits over the course of 10 years into communities of color, it could help to permanently close the racial wealth gap. Smith’s passion and efforts to close the racial wealth gap also inspired the creation of Southern Communities Initiative. The catalytic consortium is dedicated to improving racial equity in six Southern U.S. communities that are home to the majority of Black Americans.