Robert Smith amassed a fortune in the world of enterprise software on his way to becoming the second-richest Black person in America. Mr. Smith is second only to Oprah Winfrey and has surpassed Michael Jordan in the listing of the world’s billionaires after making the ‘Forbes 400’ list.
Smith is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, based in Austin, Texas. The company specializes in investing in smaller companies that develop programs in the realms of data collection, organizational structure, and other tools that assist businesses of all sorts. Valued at $2.5 billion, Smith’s private equity firm has client assets valued at $15.9 billion and he owns 50 percent of the company.
As a teenager at Denver’s East High School, Smith developed a knack for computer science and learned about the transistor device. After learning that Bell Labs made the device that controlled electron flow in a computer, he made it his mission to work for the company.
For two weeks each day, Smith called to inquire about a summer internship with Bell. After a stroke of luck, Bell Labs allowed him to intern and he began working for the company while beginning his college career.
Smith holds degrees a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in chemical engineering, and a M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. According to his Forbes profile, Smith worked at Kraft Foods but quit to attend Columbia, which wasn’t his parents’ first choice. He then worked for the Goldman Sachs firm in New York and in Silicon Valley.
In 2000, after an IPO launched by Goldman, Smith cashed out and started Vista, slowly building the company to the powerhouse it is today. True to Smith’s nature, the mogul has contributed greatly and quietly to African-American and African causes while also being a major political contributor to Hillary Clinton and some GOP interests.
Smith made rare headlines this summer after he married 2010 Playboy Playmate of the Year, Hope Dworaczyk. The pair have one son and another on the way.