Yesterday Kissmetrics blogged A recipe of viral features used by the fastest growing startups. It’s a good read for anybody who wants to increase the number of free customers they are getting. Who wouldn’t want that? The list is written for software companies, but there’s something for everyone.

However, the paragraph that caught my eye though was about the nature of virality rather than how to generate it:

Virality is not a single feature. It’s a design principle. It’s not a result of good luck. It’s engineered. Forget about forcing users to use random share buttons. You must understand your audience and design a user flow that leads to sharing.

In other words virality is science not art. It comes by virtue of intelligence and hard work, not from luck (at least not usually).

Increasingly this is true for all areas of building a startup.  The lean startup movement laid out an iterative process which uses customer feedback to minimise the role of chance in building a product people want, design thinking breaks down innovation into process steps, SEO is now well understood, as is enterprise software, and so on. Just on Monday I blogged about The Mom Test a book which makes it easy for anyone with discipline and a bit of get up and go to do great customer development.

My hope is that all great work I’ve listed will enable entrepreneurs (and their investors) to have lower failure rates, or at least lower the cost when failing. Here at Forward Partners we aim to be in the vanguard of that change, working with our entrepreneurs to bring practices to their companies which reduce the need for magic and luck and increase the chances of success.