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 manages equity capital commitments of over $14Bn and oversees a portfolio of over 30 software companies that employ over 30,000 employees worldwide. Since Vista’s founding in 2000, Mr. Smith has overseen over 170 completed transactions by the firm representing over $45Bn in transaction value.
During that time, Vista has managed capital for hundreds of limited partners, including many prominent public, private and corporate pension plans, endowments, family offices, and high net worth individuals. For the second time, based on its performance over the last 11 years, Vista was named as world’s #1 performing private equity firm, according to the HEC-Dow Jones annual ranking conducted by Professor Oliver Gottschalg. In 2012, Buyouts magazine awarded the firm’s Vista Equity Partners Fund III the Gold Medal as the top-performing 2007-Vintage Buyout Fund in the U.S.
Under Robert Smith’s leadership, Vista has exclusively focused on the enterprise software, data and technology enabled solutions sectors. Vista understands the software business model, uniquely creating value for all shareholders by combining specifically developed operational improvements (the “Vista SOPs”), operational capability and a long-term perspective. Among Vista’s portfolio companies are Misys, TIBCO, Solera, Active Network, Bullhorn, Omnitracs, and Newscycle.
Born in Colorado to two parents with PhDs, Smith trained as an engineer at Cornell University, earning his B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Following his MBA from Columbia Business School with honors, Robert 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 $50B in merger and acquisition activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo. He was the first person at Goldman to focus solely on Tech M&A.
In November 2010, Mr. Smith launched a national philanthropic effort called Project Realize. This visionary approach – termed “Free Market Philanthropy” – combines the best elements of the American free enterprise system with the core American ideals of giving back and lifting others up. Project Realize currently operates in Chicago, Austin and San Francisco. He also is the founding director and Chairman 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 January 2016, Cornell University honored Mr. Smith’s leadership by naming the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Mr. Smith is the Chairman of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and 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. Mr. Smith is a Board Member of Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Smith’s business achievements and global philanthropic works have received recognition from numerous entities – including 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 Rights, the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies, and the Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award.
Mr. Smith is also an avid fly fisherman.