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Billionaire Trailblazer: Robert F. Smith’s Unlikely Path To Become The Wealthiest Black American

Posted on February 16 2018 by: Black Cool

Robert F. Smith

The long held myth that Black people can only become wealthy through sports and entertainment no longer stand. Meet Robert F. Smith, one of America’s newest Black billionaires and the wealthiest Black American, joined the ranks of the wealthiest people in America by traveling a path rarely trekked by Blacks.

The most famous wealthy Black Americans have relied on athletic or entertainment dominance to acquire their fortunes. However, Smith, the wealthiest Black person in America, has earned his by dominating two of the most powerful and competitive industries--technology and investment banking. While Smith’s name may not be all that uncommon, his path to amassing a $3.3 billion fortune sets him apart.

For nearly two decades Smith has headed Vista Equity Partners--a software focused private equity firm he founded in 2000. As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Smith has led the company to amass $30 billion in capital commitments and a portfolio of 35 software companies that account for over 50,000 jobs worldwide and $91 billion transactional value.

Smith credits much of the success of Vista Equity Partners to extracting value that is often overlooked and creating a company culture that seeks out the smartest people in the world, regardless of their background.

A glance at the Forbes 400, an annual list of America’s wealthy quickly reveals a detail that most would probably assume--there isn't much diversity as the list only features two Black people. This fact makes Smith’s inclusion stand out.

The lion’s share of the most famous, wealthy Black entrepreneurs have yet to acquire anywhere near the minimum $2 billion required to grace the list. As to be expected, Oprah’s entertainment empire has netted her enough ($2.8 billion) to earn a spot amongst the nation's wealthiest. But you could combine the net worth of two of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters Sean “P. Diddy” Combs ($820 million) and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter ($810 million) and it still falls short of earning a spot on the coveted Forbes 400.

Another trait that makes Smith stand out amongst America’s most wealthy is his passion for philanthropy. Smith donated $20 million to the National Museum of African American History in 2016. He also recently donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to launch the Robert Frederick Smith Center of Precision Oncology Excellence in Chicago to further research the prevalence of prostate cancer in Black men.

Smith provides representation in two industries where Black people are scarce, which is further proof that Blacks can dominate any field. His entrepreneurial accomplishments, humanitarian efforts, and ability to think BIG is an inspiration and catalyst for future Black billionaires.