In 1970, the Country was still in the aftershock of the tremors from the Civil Rights Movement. In Denver, Colorado, a young black high school student was on the ground floor of a new innovation in the American Economy called the Digital Revolution. Initially, the digital culture was a subculture that was taking the place of the Free Love Movement of the late 1960’s. The niche that evolved from this culture created one of the highest paying industries in the labor force: computer science. But to Robert Smith, of particular interest, was the Bell Laboratory invention of the transistor.
Smith knew that he had to get in the game. He phoned Bell and inquired about an internship for college students. A straight A student in Math and Science, Smith discovered that just being on the honor roll was not enough to secure the position. He was initially rejected several times but kept calling. He phoned everyday for 2 weeks until Bell stopped taking his calls. Finally, he scaled back his calls to every Monday for 5 months. His persistence paid off. He got the internship.
Smith worked at Bell Labs for the next 4 years during winter and summer break. After earning a chemical engineering degree from Cornell University, he gave Kraft a few year of his time until Wall Street came calling. Smith worked for Goldman Sachs in the Mergers and Acquisition Department for 6 years mastering his trade. His time in both New York and Silicon Valley served him well. In 2000, after Goldman Sachs went public, Robert Smith took the biggest gamble of his life. He gambled on himself. With his balls in one hand, and a mastery of investments and technology in the other, he struck out on his own and founded his own equity firm. When his colleagues questioned his sanity, Smith knew he was on the right track.
He acquired ownership interest in over 30 software companies in just 15 years. His ceasarian conquest has resulted in an empire of software companies that range from cyber-security to property and casualty insurance (talk about boss moves). And like the old saying goes, to the victor go the spoils. Smith attracted the attention of the business world when he married a 32 year old playboy playmate name Hope Dworaczyk in Italy. He is a father of five. Three of which was from a previous marriage.
In true machaivellian fashion, he strokes checks for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Robert Smith has the enviable distinction of being the second wealthiest person in Black America after Oprah Winfrey. Vista Equity, a firm which he founded, has one of the most successful hedge funds in the country boasting double digit returns. A philanthropist of the highest order, Smith has donated both personally and through a foundation, over 50 million dollars to his Alma Mater: Cornell University.
He would later give the Smithsonian Institute of African American History and Culture a 20 million dollar donation which expanded its’ acquisitions. The interesting thing was despite his 20 million dollar donation, Smithsonian Institute executives had absolutely no idea who he was. This was not due to them hiding under a rock. Smith intentionally keeps his philanthropy and work extremely quiet. He is so low key that when Forbes placed his photo on the cover of their magazine, he declined the interview. Apparently, like the former heroin kingpin Frank Lucas, Smith believes that the loudest one is the weakest one.
As the chairman and chief executive of his own equity firm, Smith owns 35 software companies with $26 billion dollars in assets under his control. His net worth is estimated to be about $3.3 billion dollars. Shockingly, with all of his success, Smith is brutally honest about his racial outlook inside of the context of American society. In one of his rare interviews with the Washington Post, he stated that he has been stopped numerous times by law enforcement for bogus reasons. However, he was never given a ticket. And he has never missed a flight. This is because his private plane wouldn’t dare take off without him.
Smith has stated that in the 21st Century, he wants computers and software to be for black people what the steel mills and auto plants were in the early 20th century. Under his vision, technology is the fastest way to wealth for blacks in America. He seeks to use digital apps to train human rights activists for community service in urban areas all across the country. This was probably why he was appointed as chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. This illustrates that he is not the usual cookie cutter wealthy conservative constantly bellowing the gospel of free market economics.
However, in his epic rise to power, the life of Robert Smith holds some very important lessons for black men.
- Keep your mind on your objective: The word no is just a word——not a self fulfilling prophesy.
- Network is more than a television station. It’s the way to success.
- Dare to leave your comfort zone. At Goldman Sachs, Robert Smith had what most would call a comfortable life. However, the subsequent scandals of the financial meltdown of 2007 shows clearly that his wisdom and calculations were light years beyond his peers.
- Dare to invest in you. In 2000, Smith took his income from his years at Goldman Sachs and invested in his own company. Today, in the shark infested world of software technology, he is the great black shark in the deep waters of the investment industry.
- Put in the time to study as an apprentice. Before Robert Smith was a Master Capitalist, he was Robert Smith the intern, then Robert Smith the employee; and now he is Robert Smith the Boss of 42,000 employees with over 670,000 clients.
- Take care of business-The flash is just a comic book character.
- The loudest one is the weakest one. Frank Lucas was right. We simply have to kill this burning desire to be “the nigga.” Attracting attention with nigga trinkets(usually rented or on credit) makes you a great big target; not only from envious, lethargic black people, but from less successful competitors that will make taking you down a moral crusade. It’s not a crime to move in silence. As the old African Proverb goes: “It’s the calm and silent waters that drown men.”
Robert Smith is a portrait of excellence. He must become the new standard by which we measure manhood. If there is any guy that personifies the title “Alpha Male,” it is he. He won in spite of failure. He achieves even as the cops stop him for “not signaling.” He supports measures and strategies to inform, enlighten and empower his community even as they are largely clueless of his status, power and achievements. He doesn’t give his undying allegiance to either of the 2 party politburos of the American Political System. Like his white counterparts, he keeps them in his pocket quietly through non profit foundations. Thus he stands on top of his industry as a lone conquerer of all he surveys with a legacy of service and wealth to bequeath to his progenies. He is living proof that white men have no exclusive monopoly on wealth and power.
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com. Please like, share and subscribe the articles and videos at both the Negromanosphere and Power and Strategy. Join the mailing list at Power and Strategy to get new articles hot off the press. Subscribe to the You Tube Channel or like us on Facebook @Power and Strategy.