Robert F. Smith is the second-richest Black person in America, but you’ve probably never heard of him.
The Denver native isn’t an entertainer, athlete, or media personality, but he’s quietly built his $2.5 billion fortune as the chairman and CEO Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm with approximately $15.9 billion in client assets.
Smith, a self-described computer science geek, earned a chemical engineering degree from Cornell before heading off to Colombia for a MBA. After working for Goldman Sachs for six years, he decided to do his own thing, and started Vista in 2000. The firm invests in enterprise software companies, and according to Smith’s Forbes cover story, it’s made a “killing,” regularly turning out 30 percent returns.
In spite of his enormous wealth and Wall Street track record, Smith admitted still experiences racism, particularly when he’s trying to appeal to investors.
“I still see it when I raise funds,” he told the New York Times last year. “I know that’s the reason certain limited partners don’t back us.”
Still, Smith persists, and it shows in his business. Word around the industry is Smith’s firm has never lost money on an investment, and according to the magnate, Vista’s returns “are better than Warren Buffett.”