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Robert Smith amassed a fortune in the world of enterprise software on his way to becoming the second-richest Black person in America. Mr. Smith is second only to Oprah Winfrey and has surpassed Michael Jordan in the listing of the world’s billionaires after making the ‘Forbes 400’ list.

Smith is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, based in Austin, Texas. The company specializes in investing in smaller companies that develop programs in the realms of data collection, organizational structure, and other tools that assist businesses of all sorts. Valued at $2.5 billion, Smith’s private equity firm has client assets valued at $15.9 billion and he owns 50 percent of the company.

As a teenager at Denver’s East High School, Smith developed a knack for computer science and learned about the transistor device. After learning that Bell Labs made the device that controlled electron flow in a computer, he made it his mission to work for the company.

For two weeks each day, Smith called to inquire about a summer internship with Bell. After a stroke of luck, Bell Labs allowed him to intern and he began working for the company while beginning his college career.

Little Known Black History Fact: Robert Smith  was originally published on

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