It’s fast times for Robert Smith, founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. In the last few years, he’s made himself more visible visiting with business media such as CNBC in Davos or in one-on-one interviews with David Rubinstein. Perhaps the most notable appearance was his recent graduation speech at Morehouse College where he announced he would personally relieve each of the graduates of their school debt. Calculations put that amount in aggregate at approximately $40 million.
For the longest time he was a bit of an enigma, at least to the public. Not many know he is America’s richest African-American, eclipsing Oprah by over $2 billion. He shied away from putting his picture on a web site and in inner private equity circles, people talked about him as the pinnacle of software investing. But now he is out and about and making an impact where he can.
He’s still also focused on investing as the software space has a long, long way to go. His most recent investment was in Black Mountain, which he termed the “standard-bearer for process management and portfolio monitoring solutions in its field”. Vista acquired the company from another large private equity firm, Stone Point Capital.
Black Mountain operates in a niche not widely known in the mainstream. It offers highly configurable solutions to asset managers and, in particular, credit investors. It streamlines tasks such as portfolio management, trade order management, compliance, research management, investment accounting, performance attribution, customer relationship management, investor reporting, enterprise data management and data warehousing. Its clients include the world’s leading hedge funds, private equity, direct lenders and banks who use its platform to manage all varieties of securities.
Interesting to note that Stone Point only held the investment for about four years. They acquired the company in 2015. Also interesting is the company is trading hands between two former Goldman standouts. Stone Point is run by Chuck Davis, a former partner at Goldman when he spent 23 years. The firm manages aggregate commitments of approximately $19 billion. Robert Smith was also at Goldman in his earlier years after earning his MBA from Columbia. It’s at Goldman that he got his start in technology transactions. His Vista Equity Partners firm has managed over $46 billion in cumulative capital commitments.