Entrepreneurship at Cornell has announced that Robert F. Smith ’85 has been named the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year 2017. He will be honored Nov. 3 during Cornell’s annual Entrepreneurship Summit in New York City.
Smith’s company, Vista Equity Partners, manages equity capital of more than $26 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 35 software companies that employ more than 42,000 people worldwide. Under his leadership, Vista has exclusively focused on enterprise software, data and technology-enabled solutions.
Smith earned his bachelor’s in chemical engineering at Cornell and his MBA from Columbia Business School. He worked at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two United States and two European patents. In 1994, he joined Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking, first in New York and then in Silicon Valley.
In 2016 he personally, together with the foundation of which he is a founding director, gave $50 million combined to support chemical and biomolecular engineering and African-American and female students in the College of Engineering. It also created a fellowship program at Cornell Tech that strengthens ties to Cornell Engineering. Cornell named the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in recognition of Smith’s philanthropy.
Smith serves as chairman of Carnegie Hall, founding director and president of the Fund II Foundation and chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. He is also a member of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School and the Cornell Engineering College Council, among other groups.
The Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year award is given annually by Entrepreneurship at Cornell to a Cornellian who exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement, community service and high ethical standards.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell is a universitywide program supported by every school and college at Cornell University and a dedicated core of faculty, staff and alumni. Undergraduate and graduate students benefit from studying and working in Cornell’s programmatic, research and clinical environments to develop the technical, business and leadership skills that position them for success in entrepreneurial endeavors.
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.