Back in 2013, when the founders of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture were seeking donors, they were encouraged to reach out to a man named Robert F. Smith. And that turned out to be a great idea because he later gave a $20 million donation to the project, making him the museum's second-biggest private donor. Oprah Winfrey was the biggest private donor with her $21 million donation.
So who is he?
Robert F. Smith is the 53-year old founder of Vista Equity Partners, a leading private equity firm focused on investing in software and technology-enabled businesses. With office locations in Austin, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco, his company manages equity capital commitments of over $14 billion and oversees a portfolio of over 30 software companies that employ a combined approximately 30,000 employees worldwide.
His company has been so successful that he has secretly built a fortune worth around $2.5 billion dollars. According to Forbes, Robert is one of the country's wealthiest men.
So why haven't we heard of him before?
Until now, Robert has always kept his work and philanthropy relatively quiet. Even until now, his profile is on the company's web site, but there is no picture of him. He says that he wanted his investors and executives to know him first by his abilities. He feared that if they saw the color of his skin, he might lose out on opportunities.