Natalia Karayaneva, CEO of Propy

Just over 18 years ago, the internet died. You may think that I’ve gotten my history wrong, have forgotten I’m writing for a website, and don’t know that 52% of the world’s population is wrong. But for the less-informed observers of the day, the dot-com crash of 2000 really did seem like the end of the web.

Tech folks hardly had a chance to recover from the Y2K scare before something far more frightening happened: bubbles popped, stocks dropped, and companies closed. What do the lessons of 2000 mean for us today?

I won’t claim that 2018’s last few months have made anyone in the blockchain industry happy; there are too many shuttered companies and too many emptied bank accounts to celebrate. But from my perspective as an executive in the blockchain industry, it’s clear that blockchain today stands where the internet was in mid-2000. It’s down, but not out, and it’s poised to come roaring back.

Cryptocurrencies are currently doing better than they were a month ago, but we shouldn’t assume a quick return to crypto’s former heights. The mining difficulty for bitcoin recently dropped 9.5%, and most coins are seeing only modest gains. We cannot expect January 2019 to suddenly become the next December 2017, and frankly a sudden return to that market cap would likely be counterproductive for the industry.

The technology should speak for itself; too often it’s been subordinate to speculative frenzy. In the coming months, we need to focus on expanding our user bases, improving our protocols, scaling our networks, and fine-tuning our ideas. There are already signs of a coming crypto spring, but its arrival will be gradual. And when the market does heat up again, we must remember that challenges remain. After all, what sort of spring goes by without a little rain?

Now that the prospect of getting rich quick has receded into the distance, blockchain is once again the domain of true believers. While some of the “hodlers” who’ve stayed in the market may keep an eye on their bank account balance, the majority insist that blockchain will change the world, and that the technology’s best, brightest, and busiest days remain in the future.

I number myself in this crowd, and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about the opportunities the market correction offers. By the time we emerge from this slump, I expect the crypto and blockchain ecosystems to be far more complex, resilient, and accessible than they are today.

What lessons should blockchain pioneers take from the past year? First, that speculation and theorizing, while necessary, are not sufficient. A whitepaper and a website is not enough for survival; blockchain needs to provide a concrete benefit, like fungible money, digitized real estate assets, international fund transfer, or supply chain optimization.

Second, blockchain firms need to learn fiscal responsibility. Too many businesses lost value because their investment portfolios were insufficiently diverse. Belief and investment in cryptocurrency is wise, but so is keeping some fiat on hand.

Finally, we need to ensure that blockchain technology is accessible to average users: how many potential users have fled because they couldn’t manage a wallet, understand seed phrases, private keys, or transfer information? General adoption will not arrive before ease-of-use. Making blockchain easier will be hard work, but it’s vital if we hope to hear the bulls clopping down Wall Street again.

And not every innovation requires a bull market to thrive. Some new developments are best-suited for the bears we’re currently facing. Cryptocurrency lenders, for example, have reported growth even as markets have slumped. Because they charge appropriate fees to crypto investors who need fiat currency but don’t want to sell their crypto, which they believe will rebound, these lenders are already profitable.

As these companies grow and improve their infrastructure, they will make themselves into even more valuable tools for blockchain investors when the markets eventually recover. While some might argue that lenders are closer to traditional finance companies than they are to blockchain firms, the ETHLends of the world provide scaffolding upon which future blockchain firms can be built.

Internet pioneers didn’t quit in 2000; they continued to add new features, refined their products, and learned from their markets. As the investors fled and lights went out all over Silicon Valley, the earliest Google employees remained hard at work. They started selling ads that year. In 20 years’ time, will the blockchain industry look back at 2019 the way that internet giants look at 2000? I certainly expect so.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of NASDAQ, Inc.