Tip #9: Networks and investors bring advantages besides cash.
"One of the reasons I was waiting [to start BonitaSoft] is that I knew that to be an alternative worldwide you cannot do that in a garage," Valdés-Faura says. "As soon was we created the company, the target was to raise money. The company was founded in June and funded in July.
"It was hard, especially in 2009, and particularly in Europe. But even when the economy is bad, there are always investors; they are just more careful where they invest their money.
"As soon as you get those investors, it helps with visibility. Journalists didn't want to talk to me about BPM, they wanted to talk about how we got the money. We had the product, the technology was there, and we had the community.
"The last thing is that we were surrounded by people who had credibility -- including the CEO of French software company Talend, who is on my board of directors.
"This part came from my network. This guy [Bertrand Diard] created Talend in 2006. I met him several times, we exchanged numbers, and the idea for BonitaSoft came from a discussion with him at a Java conference in San Francisco. I was telling him about the trend that we had, and he said he said, 'Yeah, I think this is a perfect time.' He got us the introduction to the right VCs."
Tip #10: You may want to outsource your business plan.
This is another of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Europe, says Valdés-Faura. While investors in the U.S. -- especially in Silicon Valley -- are generally fairly accessible, it's very, very difficult to get an audience with European VCs. To get that audience, it helps to have a polished, professional business plan.
"Prior to meeting with the VCs, we had to build a new business plan," he says. "We hired a company to help us with the plan.
"They have a really good perception from the investors. When you get an introduction, if you have a really professional plan, you have more chances that the investors are going to listen to you for more than one hour."
And how much will this cost? "You can negotiate everything," Valdés-Faura says. "Most of them ask for cash upfront, and they take shares -- I prefer to not disclose the details of our arrangement. But I will say that everything is negotiable. You can negotiate everything in advance."
Tip #11: Here's your answer to why they should bank on you.
"The investors asked a lot of questions about personnel," says Valdés-Faura. "They said, 'You've never done this before.' They were a little bit worried.
"My answer was, 'No, I haven't; I cannot tell you otherwise. If you know other guys in Europe who can do this, check it out. If you can find other people who can do it, fine. But, I think we are the right people to do the best job for the company.'
"The good answer, I think, is always to be flexible. You are creating a company, and as soon as you need money, you have to be flexible. It could be you are the right person, but it could be someone else would be better for the company.
"So far, I am not doing that badly, and I am still the CEO. If someone else can do it it better, I am open to that."
Tip #12: Don't pretend you are the smartest guy in town.
It's our favorite closing question: What's the best business advice you've ever received?
"Don't pretend to be the smartest guy in town," Valdés-Faura says, "but surround yourself with guys who are the smartest in town. I knew this from day one, and we still believe in it. The team is what makes the difference -- even more than the product."
Fair enough, but how do you attract the smartest guys in town?
"That's pretty hard," says Valdés-Faura. "I wish it was easier. I'm a big fan of networking. You can use headhunters, or if you have a good brand, that can help you attract the 'A' people, But, networking will always win over every other approach."