Mar 8, 2016 · 5 minutes

Sure, this was the worst start of the year for global stocks since 2000.

Sure, there still hasn’t been a single US-based, VC-backed tech IPO in 2016.

Sure, mutual funds have written down more than a dozen unicorns, causing a curious mixture of “how could you??” and “wait, what’s the big deal?”

But things appear to be stabilizing. Some of the years biggest and most high profile losers are off their lows, including Twitter and LinkedIn. At least the free-fall has stopped for now.

And while a raft of private companies are getting downgraded by mutual funds, it isn’t happening across the board. Many of the highest valued ones have been spared, including Uber and Airbnb.

And while some VCs have declared the late stage “tourist” investors gone, Fidelity has done mega investments in Oscar Health adding $1 billion to the valuation and in Snapchat keeping the valuation flat. Slack too is reportedly raising money at a higher valuation.

The Snapchat valuation is particularly interesting, considering Fidelity is investing. The same Fidelity that marketed down its investment at the same price last fall. Make of that what you will.

Sure Zenefits had an embarrassing implosion, DoorDash had to cut its valuation to (maybe) get its round done, and Birchbox and others have done minor layoffs. But we haven’t yet seen huge dramatic flameouts across the board. The bad news seems to have stemmed in recent weeks.

Insiders are starting to warily ask: Is this as bad as it gets?

Maybe-- tech is all hoping-- maybe the raise a shit load of cash at high prices and don’t go public strategy will work in the end for a majority of these companies if they cut their burn rate fast enough?

The answer likely comes down to founder discipline more than it does the markets. Many of the most overheated companies have very real businesses and customers and demand for their products. That includes Zenefits. The question is what expectation did they set for success, what price did they raise money at, what growth promises have they made investors, and what promises did they make employees.

Because stupid promises you don’t have to make can tank you. Stupid promises lead to stupid valuations and stupid expectations. That leads to very real downrounds (or worse) with very real employees with options worth nothing. Dropbox is a great business at some price. Evernote is a great business at some price. Even Zenefits could have been a great company if it weren’t obsessed with hacking its way to fast growth. Groupon is worth more than $1 billion, but expectations made it a failure. Ditto Zynga. For that matter, the single biggest problem with Twitter has always been grand expectations-- whether those the company set or the market set at its IPO.

Entrepreneurs claim the reason they fell into the trap of disclosing valuations-- and setting a bar by which so many are starting to disappoint-- wasn’t ego. It was because it made recruiting employees easier. Promises, valuations, cash. These have been the tools in nearly every “great entrepreneur’s” arsenal of the last few years.

It’s expectations and promises that start the downward spiral. Every unicorn has raised enough money during 2015’s spree of mega deals. They should be able to survive if they can get off the easy fix crack.

Which is harder to stop: The burn rates or the promises and public posturing?

The best part of a Wall Street Journal article Monday which basically backed up everything Fortune had already written about downgrades was the indigence on the part of founders calling up to demand Fidelity et all explain their methodology for discounting the valuations. The embarrassment not of the downgrade, but that it was publicly disclosed. There’s a rich irony in a founder who demanded a $1 billion valuation just because everyone else was getting one suddenly wanting a non-emotional, non-market-based reason for a downgrade. You can’t have it both ways.

While this has been the most over-heralded correction in recent Valley history, many entrepreneurs simply have never operated in an environment where raising capital was a challenge. Most assume the worst case scenario is a downround, despite there being little “social game” upside in VCs doing a downround versus just walking away.

Has anything changed in this era of austerity? Look at those three funding rounds I mentioned at the top. Founders are still disclosing unicorn valuations to the press. And even those that should know better keep making promises everyone knows they won’t be able to keep, creating an impossibly high bar for success for no good reason other than… what? Ego?

Witness an interview yesterday on CNBC with Shervin Pishevar. (Disclosure: A Pando investor.) He promised the Hyperloop would be operational within four years.

That’s right. An incredibly complex act of physics combined with huge financial needs combined with massive operational challenges combined with massive land acquisition (eminent domain scandals?) combined with regulatory challenges… that will all be solved within four years and we’ll be hurtling through tubes at 700 miles per hour. It will be operational before anyone thinks even self-driving cars will be mainstream?

His evidence? SpaceX. Which was founded in 2002 and still hasn’t come close to Elon Musk’s long-term vision of allowing him to retire on Mars. There’s a reason Musk said the goal was “retiring” on Mars, not going on vacation to Mars in 2006. He never promised he could pull it off quickly, or at all. Only that it was his goal. His dream. That’s why it’s called a “moon shot.” To pretend we’re all suddenly smart enough or rich enough to “hack” moon shots in just a few years is the same thinking that took the Valley from a belief that $1 billion startups were “unicorns” because they are so rare to something everyone reached for well before their businesses could back it up, terms be damned.

And, why? Why set yourself up for failure?

The concept of the Hyperloop is amazing. We’d be impressed if you could do it in ten. Why set up a reason for everyone to say you failed? Why throw something out there that’s clearly unattainable?

Until the people giving these interviews, raising these funds, and responsible for the payroll of thousands of tech workers shift from this mindset, we haven’t found the bottom of the market yet.