Robert F. Smith is the billionaire everyone is talking about, but nobody knew about just a few months ago. He is the 52-year-old founder of the private equity firm, Vista Equity Partners. Vista deals in the not-so-sexy category of enterprise software, which might be why he’s flown under the radar until now.
Smith was recently on the cover of Forbes richest Americans issue, which is how he came to our attention. His net worth of $2.5 billion makes him number 268 on the list of the wealthiest Americans. It also makes him the second wealthiest African American behind Oprah Winfrey. But who is Robert F. Smith and how did he get so rich?
Smith showed tenacity early in life. In high school, he applied for an internship at Bell Labs. The problem was, the program was for junior and senior college students only. Smith was undaunted. He called the H.R. Director at Bell Labs every single day for two weeks. Then he cut back and just called every Monday for another five months. When an intern from M.I.T. didn’t show up in June to start the internship, the H.R. Director finally called him back and Smith got the job. While interning at Bell Labs that summer, he developed a reliability test for semiconductors.
Smith is also Chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, and a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. He is a Board Member of Carnegie Hall and an avid fly fisherman.
We may have been unaware of Robert F. Smith before now, but one thing is for sure, we’re never going to overlook him again!