tan and Fergal’s paths first crossed at Harvard Business School where the two MBA students engaged in all manner of antics, from shared work placements in Japan, to internships at Morgan Stanley and Stan even witnessing with some amusement Fergal’s courtship of his future wife.
The friendship led several years later to Stan taking the helm of Photobox. When Highland sold the business, the partners were keen to keep Stan “in the Highland family”.
But even though Stan was as comfortable with the team at Highland as they were with him, the move introduced a distinct set of challenges.
“Running a business is very different from investing, so I needed some serious acclimatisation and re-education”
— Stan Laurent, Partner
The partners were adamant that Stan take the time he needed to embrace the opportunity. In January 2017, Stan was assigned a desk at Highland’s London office for a couple of days a week, marking the beginning of a gradual immersion.
“With PhotoBox, I’d seen how Highland works from the perspective of a portfolio company, but learning how the firm functions from within exposed me to the challenge of building the Highland franchise itself and this really excited me.”
One thing Stan immediately cherished about that introductory period was that he was always invited to the partner meetings – a decision that Irena describes as “obvious”. “We knew how much we would be able to benefit from his insight and expertise when it came to building a lasting, profitable business,” she explains. “So we wanted to make the most of it from the very start.”
Before the year was out, Stan had joined Highland full time and he’s continued to grow into both his role and the firm ever since.
“I feel I’ve been at the best possible school to transition to growth investing. Each new deal is such an enriching process, both in terms of establishing the right relationships with talented founding teams and finding the right areas to add value.”
“Above all, what counts the most is working with people I trust and enjoy being with.”