Gregoire Lehmann has had an interesting journey to becoming a principal at NewRoad Capital Partners, the Arkansas-based private equity firm. Originally from France, Lehmann was recruited to play tennis for the University of Arkansas, where he excelled as both a student-athlete and a student, earning degrees in finance and economics.

After getting a taste for entrepreneurship by scaling a business with former teammates after graduation, Lehmann returned to get his MBA from the University of Arkansas. His firsthand experience building a company from the ground up drew him to the world of private equity investing.

"It really made me appreciate how hard it was to scale a business," Lehmann said. "So it was attractive for me to be in a position to help founders."Lehmann joined NewRoad in 2017 as the firm was launching its operating partner model and focusing its investment strategy on the retail supply chain and logistics technology sectors. Working alongside senior operating partners from companies like Walmart and J.B. Hunt provided Lehmann a crash course in supply chain operations from true industry legends.

"I got my supply chain training from Chris Sultemeier who ran the largest supply chain operation in the world at Walmart, and Tracy Black who was leading IT at one of the biggest carriers in North America," Lehmann explained. "I got incredibly lucky learning from them."

So how does New Road identify and evaluate investment opportunities in their targeted sectors? Lehmann says the operating partner network, the firm's investor network, and methodical market mapping research all play a key role in the dealflow process.

Once an opportunity is identified, Lehmann leads the detailed diligence and analysis phase for potential investments. This involves reviewing the business model, market size, competitive landscape, product-market fit, the background of the founding team, and more.

"The management team is very important to us," Lehmann said. "We assess not only the CEO but the full supporting team throughout diligence."

New Road also taps its network to get feedback directly from companies using or considering using the startup's solution. If everything checks out, they proceed to pricing/valuation analysis and deal structuring.For companies that meet all of NewRoad's criteria, Lehmann said a few key factors determine if it's ultimately a fit:

"We look at how fast they're growing, the efficiency of that growth, and making sure we can really add value by leveraging our network and expertise," he said. "Our sweet spot is enterprise companies selling into the retail ecosystem where we can open doors."

Once an investment is made, Lehmann gets deeply engaged as a board observer or supporting NewRoad's operating partner board representatives. He helps portfolio companies with business development, go-to-market strategies, investor syndication efforts, and preparing for future fundraising rounds.

Lehmann also discussed the importance of having direct lines to industry stakeholders to stay ahead of trends and emerging technologies. NewRoad's network provides invaluable insights into current pain points and how the landscape is shifting.

Artificial intelligence enabling supply chain optimization is an area of keen interest currently. Lehmann pointed to sub-sectors like demand forecasting, inventory management, supply chain planning, supplier management, and warehouse automation as key opportunity areas.

He is also tracking the digitization of supply chain documentation, citing NewRoad's investment in WaveBL which is disrupting the paper-based process around global trade documentation like bills of lading.

Lehmann's path from being a top-ranked student-athlete who excelled at managing his intense schedule at Arkansas has served him well in his investment career today.

"The discipline, commitment to continuous improvement, and importance of working as a team are things that translated really well from being a student-athlete into my professional life," he said.