“HE WAS NOT AN EVIL DUDE”
The initial portrait of Cotten that emerged in February 2018, once his death was announced through a Quadriga Facebook post, squared with the yacht salesman’s impressions. Cotten was a computer nerd who had entered the right business at the right time and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The broad outlines of his story were blandly conventional, at least if you subtracted his interest in decentralized monetary systems. He grew up in a large brick house on a quiet suburban street in Belleville, “The Friendly City,” a waterfront community between Toronto and Montreal best known for its cheddar cheese. In 2010 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from an honors program at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto. His parents owned an antiques store; Cotten decided to go into crypto.
A couple of years after graduation, Cotten moved to Vancouver and joined a clubby community of entrepreneurs who had become enamored with Bitcoin. He attended meetups at coffee shops and dorm rooms, organized by a core group of about 10 people, who called themselves the Vancouver Bitcoin Co-op. Most of these early acolytes were drawn to the digital currency’s libertarian ethos, its promises of decentralization, transparency, speed, and independence from governments and financial institutions. Bitcoin would enable more than two billion people who lacked access to banks to send and receive payment; it would offer stability to citizens of countries with chaotic currencies; it would eliminate all banking fees.
Cotten knew the catchphrases and the talking points, but he seemed most interested in Bitcoin’s speculative possibilities. The first Bitcoin block was created on January 3, 2009, and the currency gained economic value on May 22, 2010, a date enshrined in Bitcoin lore as “Pizza Day,” when a Florida man paid someone in England 10,000 Bitcoins to order him two pizzas from Papa…