Vista Equity Partner CEO talks race, COVID

Smith told Reuters that small Black-owned businesses in the United States needed more help to overcome chronic challenges in accessing capital that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The average small business has two months of working capital. These business had two weeks," Smith said as part of a new Reuters series of video interviews called "What Works."

Racial inequities have come into sharp focus in the United States after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in Minneapolis in May after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd's death sparked protests around the world.

Smith, who according to Forbes is the wealthiest African-American, said he was pushing lawmakers who approved a $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief bill in March to make more small-business aid, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, accessible to Black communities.

Roughly 70% of the African-American community does not have access to a bank branch, Smith said, leaving many Black people to rely on financial institutions specifically targeting minorities and economically disadvantaged areas.

Smith, who grew up in the United States during the late 1960s Civil Rights era and now runs a buyout firm that focuses on investing in software companies, said he now sees a more broad-based coalition of support for equality for Black people.

Smith, the first African-American to sign Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates'"Giving Pledge," has supported Black people extensively in his philanthropic efforts.

Last year, he pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the class at 2019 at the historically Black Morehouse College.

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