Brother Robert F. Smith Brings Success Back Home

Brother Robert F. Smith Brings Success Back Home

It’s impossible to imagine that you haven’t heard about Brother Robert F. Smith, the tech entrepreneur and philanthropist, who made history during his 2019 Morehouse College commencement speech, when he freed the class of approximately 400 students and parents alike from student loan debt. 

Smith founded Vista Equity Partners (Vista) in 2000. Now, the firm, for which he stands as Chairman and CEO, is one of the leading global investment firms of its kind. Vista exclusively invests in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses through its four investment strategies – private equity, permanent capital, credit and public equity. And, as Smith’s platform has grown, so too has his commitment to giving back to underserved communities.

Smith’s generosity, beyond the scope of his wealth, extends to time spent sharing insights and experience with young professionals and students seeking their piece of the American dream. Whether it’s dropping knowledge during an ELEVATE conference at Columbia Business School, where Smith got his MBA, or giving a heads-up about digital transformation at Davos, Smith is focused on helping communities build self-sustaining infrastructures to aid the growth of Black business and leadership nationwide.

Robert F. Smith’s Philanthropy

Smith attributes much of his philanthropic philosophy to his family and the Alpha Phi Alpha commitment to community empowerment. In 2017, Brother Smith was the first Black American to sign the Giving Pledge, and by doing so, agreed to utilize half of his net worth for initiatives providing equal opportunity for underrepresented communities. These philanthropic ideas were united in 2014 under the mission of Fund II Foundation, a nonprofit of which Brother Smith serves as founding director and President. Smith also shows his continued commitment to the Black community as co-founder of Southern Communities Initiative, which is dedicated to advancing racial equity in the six Southern communities where more than half of Black Americans live. 

Smith innovates pathways for the future of Black success in the U.S. And his vision forward includes taking good care of our precious history. Brother Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s homes are now in the care of the National Park Foundation, so our children’s children can step inside history, due to a grant from the Fund II Foundation. The stories of our people are being digitally recorded and preserved at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, due to a grant from Smith, who believes this living tribute will not only enrich education but contribute to new curatorial studies. 

Smith has said that economic success over the next decade will be tied to careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To ensure the Black community takes part in the next cycle of wealth generation, Brother Smith made $10 million available at Cornell University, his alma mater, for scholarships to support Black and female students pursuing technology-related degrees. In 2022, Smith donated another $15 million to Cornell University’s College of Engineering to establish three funds – the Robert F. Smith Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, the Robert F. Smith Graduate Fellowship Fund and a third fund supporting student participation in career development events and conferences. In 2020, Brother Smith gave a $50 million matching gift to help launch Student Freedom Initiative (SFI), the capstone to his Morehouse College gift. SFI works to help relieve the burden of student loan debt and provides educational resources for qualifying STEM students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

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Stay up to date with Smith’s latest philanthropic and business efforts by following him on Facebook, Twitter (X), Instagram and LinkedIn and subscribing to his YouTube channel.