Robert Smith on Unfettered Conversations with A and Z
Ben and Marc talk to Robert F. Smith, founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, about his journey from chemical engineer to investor, including what he learned as an intern at Bell Labs, how he realized buyouts made sense in enterprise software, and his current philanthropic focus on broadband access, student debt, and music education.
- Robert's foundational experiences growing up [3:03]
- His introduction to computers, how he got an internship at Bell Labs, and what he learned there [6:38]
- Why he studied chemical engineering [13:15]
- Working at Kraft and engineering macaroni and cheese [15:08]
- Why he moved to investing [18:12]
- How he realized that it made sense to do buyouts in enterprise software [23:19]
- Creating a common playbook for running enterprise software companies [30:45]
- How does he think about retaining vs replacing founders [34:54]
- Vista's approach to evaluating talent and getting people in the right roles [37:02]
- Robert's next ambition [46:10]
- His philosophy of philanthropy [49:15]
- Why he paid off the student debt for Morehouse College Class of 2019 [1:00]
For our upcoming schedule of Clubhouse conversations, follow the a16z Club on Clubhouse or visit a16z.com/clubhouse.