What happened

Like with other top 10 cryptocurrencies, it's been a rather lackluster 24 hours for Cardano (ADA -18.10%). This smart contract network has sunk 2.2% over the past 24 hours as of 12:15 p.m. ET. Over the past week, its price performance has remained relatively flat, alongside that of many top tokens.

However, interest appears to be picking up in Cardano, on a number of key catalysts. Last week, it officially launched its Vasil hard fork. This key update is aimed at improving Cardano's efficiency and scalability. Accordingly, investors have long hoped that this would also improve developer demand for it as a top blockchain of choice. 

It appears this is the case. Over the past month, Cardano has seen the most development activity of any blockchain. The potential for expeditious decentralized application growth has certainly improved Cardano's investment thesis -- at least for those who believe that a token's value should represent the aggregate value of all the projects on a given blockchain. 

So what

One of the interesting takes I've seen on Cardano is that this network is one that's been designed for the long term. Founder Charles Hoskinson has taken a more cautious view with releasing major upgrades. In doing so, the hope is that Cardano's network will remain secure and vibrant while consistently improving over time -- and avoiding major catastrophes seen in other top-tier blockchain projects such as Terra of late.

It's notable that Cardano is also among the older blockchains, having been released in 2017. If it's any consolation, with its approximately a half-decade of history, investors in this smart contract platform have some reference point with respect to how Cardano can function in down markets. 

Now what

Valuing cryptocurrencies is probably more akin to an art than a science. There are many different theoretical models investors use to try to come to a baseline of where a token should trade. However, the value of a network's ecosystem is generally a pretty good guide. Accordingly, Cardano's surge in application development is a catalyst that investors should certainly keep an eye on.

There are many reasons why this bear market may continue for some time. Indeed, I'm of the view that this year's selling pressure may not abate just yet. That said, for long-term investors looking for growth opportunities in this down market, the fact that Cardano is now trading at an 85% discount to its all-time high may be too attractive to ignore.