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The Power Of Funding: The Billionaire That Came From Nothing

Guy Laliberté

Not many people believed in the future of a circus guy, Guy Lalibertré, the billionaire that came from nothing, lived that kind of life. He had to eat fire and master the art of stilt-walking as a street performer. Capitalizing on what he knew best from the streets, he cofounded the acrobatic troupe known as Cirque Du Soleil. Who would have thought that the street performer and circus guy would end up being worth $1.4billion? We are about to understand Guy Laliberté story and the power of funding.

Never Underestimate The Power Of Funding!

Be careful who you look down on because that person might go on to gain a perfect understanding of the value of funding to realize their business dreams, and there is no telling who they might employ to build their company. Guy Laliberté, benefited hugely from the idea of social capital between his teachers of street performances, while also leveraging on grants and investors. A lot of funding ideas and unique expressions of his circus shows were the main ingredients in his success. He evolved the acts of the circus and got rewarded heavily. He came from nothing, the streets were kind enough to teach him and he mastered the art of the circus. This isn’t a boring lecture on funding; it is the story of Guy Laliberté, the billionaire who came from nothing.

Guy eating fire.

The Early Life of Guy Laliberté

The man was only 18 when he left Canada to hitchhike across Europe; on this path he met street fighters who taught him the art of eating fire and stilt walking. He also started earning some money from the public’s appreciation when he played his accordion. Guy Laliberté later joined a group of performers led by Gilles Ste-Croix in Baie Saint Paul. And early on he started organizing international festivals for his town. It was the success of his festivals that pushed him to seek a grant to start Cirque Du Soleil, which means Circus of the Sun. The circus act was only created to mark the town’s 450th anniversary in 1984.

The success of the Circus of the Sun made Guy and his compadres continue operations, which was hard at first. Guy later sourced for investors who helped the Circus to start touring in North America by 1985. The Cirque Du Soleil progressed with productions in Europe & Asia in the 1990s. 1993 marked the year the group started its first permanent show called Mystère in Las Vegas. What a long way Guy and the boys had come, hitting Las Vegas, a place symbolically known for hosting money spenders with the one intention of having fun. Although Vegas was the first, it wouldn’t be the last, Guy later opened other shows in different areas: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and the Tokyo Disney Resort.

The Cirque Du Soleil

Meaning Circus of the Sun, it started as a festive act and became a worldwide Circus having permanent shows at many locations.

The circus did things differently and changed this method of entertaining. In this circus everybody was equal, and all had their roles to play in the shows. There were no star performers, and so everyone felt respected and gave their best when given the opportunity. The circus also didn’t use animals in their acts, which was common practice for other circuses at the time. And most importantly, the Circus of the Sun didn’t like talking. The shows were never built around explanations using words, instead, they painted a picture of what they wanted you to feel and think. Many of their events revolved around imaginative combinations of the core practice of the group (acrobatic and artistic disciplines). And just like any Circus, it needed a lot of players from around the world.

The Circus of the Sun boasted of players like O, who performed in, on, and above a pool of water, KÀ, a set of twins who specialized in martial arts, that also changed the concept of the Clown. Guy Laliberté took his team of determined and skillful street performers and other circus players and became a successful circus story (The Power Of Funding). Much of the success attributed to the company drew the attention of big investors who acquired a major stake in the business in 2015. Guy retained a minor interest in a company he brought up from the dust, but that’s business- knowing when to leave for a huge profit.

Funding Styles Used By Guy Laliberté

It’s like saying “different strokes for different folks”. That’s how businesses vary in their response to certain funding patterns. For Guy Laliberté human capital was his first form of funding. Which is where we begin.

1) Human Capital

One would normally run at the thought of eating fire. But this act as entertainment gave Guy Laliberté his first form of funding. Like we discovered in 7 Sure Funding Styles To Kick-start Your Business Idea, human capital is as important as financial capital. Most of the people that started the Cirque Du Soleil with Guy didn’t earn much from it. It was simply a dream, and they maintained a certain level of social connection to be able to make that dream come to life. This is human capital when social relationships contribute to the success of an idea or business. Though probably not largely spoken about, human capital was the first form of money available to Guy. And when you really don’t own any assets, humans could be your best bet.

Human Capital in Cirque Du Soleil

2) Grants

In 1984, Cirque Du Soleil was first launched at Quebec’s 450th-anniversary festivities. The funding style that was used to make this possible was Grants. Guy early on knew about grants and checked for them. This was a little less complicated because the festival was done for the town. It’s way easier for the state to grant you support when you are definitely giving it back to them. This was the first form of major financial support that Guy got, and it’s been game on since then.

Quebec gives grant to Guy and his team.

3) Public & Venture Capitalist

In 1985 the Circus had its first and only tour at the time, hitting North America. This achievement wasn’t all Guy’s doing, even though he was responsible for sourcing the investors. The Cirque Du Soleil benefited greatly from private and public investors.

Cirque Du Soleil Investments (The power of funding)

4) Equity Financing

The Cirque Du Soleil grew to become a successful venture and attracted more investors. But this time, Guy and his team would have to give up major shares and became minor shareholders in the company. Though Guy sold off a large portion of his shares, he still had a stake in the company. It’s easy to say this is not equity financing because the owner no longer owns a major stake, but the sale was done to elevate the business.

Guy Sells Major Shares

The missing piece in this entrepreneurial puzzle was funding. And Guy didn’t have much of it in the beginning, forcing him to learn the rough way to the top. This is the journey of a man that played with fire, risking getting burnt. Hardly anything explains better the Power of Funding than: The Billionaire That Came From Nothing- The story of Guy Laliberté


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