nft

Weird Whales: How a 12-Year-Old Coded His Own NFTs and Made $160k Overnight

It was a tremendous achievement, and undeniably, a controversy.

weird whales nft mobile
Twitter: @ObiWanBenoni

Disclaimer: While I am not officially affiliated with the Weird Whales project, I currently own three of them. My NFT assets can and will always be publicly visible on my OpenSea profile here. And of course, this article does not constitute formal financial advice.

Benyamin Ahmed is not spending summer vacation like his classmates. 

On Monday, from his computer in Pinner, near London, the 12-year-old announced the launch of “Weird Whales,” an NFT project featuring 3,350 programmatically-generated pixel whales. Each whale, with “traits” ranging from top hats to tobacco pipes, could be “minted,” or purchased at random, for 0.02 ETH (~$40 USD). Ahmed coded the project with help from his father Imran, a developer who introduced him to programming when he was five years old.

Within 9 hours, the project sold out, resulting in approximately $160k USD of sales. As of writing, transactions in the secondary marketplace have surpassed $1.5 million. “Weird Whales somehow blew up. I did it as a test, but somehow it went viral on Twitter,” Ahmed said. 

His father admitted he had prepared his son in case they had failed to sell. “The first batch he did… he didn’t sell any of them. I didn’t want him to be too disheartened.”

When Twitter users noticed the project and began buying up the digital whales, that view quickly changed.

Weird Whales was inspired by “CryptoPunks,” an NFT avatar project by Larva Labs that has seen sales of individual “Punks” go for up to $11.8 million at auction houses like Sotheby’s.

Soon after Ahmed’s project sold out, however, doubts began to emerge about his identity. Some users contended that he was an anonymous imposter, given that his young age was a unique selling point.

When Ahmed woke up to the comments at 5 A.M., he knew he had to clear the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Using his Twitter account @ObiWanBenoni, he quickly posted a thread stating, “Yeah, it is me.” He then followed up with a YouTube video that featured him sitting at the computer with Weird Whales on-screen. 

“I went downstairs and checked the website. And then I checked Twitter, and there was this FUD, and I did not know what they were talking about because I was sleeping,” he told ONE37pm. “And it was about how someone thought it was identity theft, and some thought I wasn’t a real person, but this person pretending to be me.”

While Ahmed was initially upset that users doubted his identity, he considered the suspicion reasonable. “If I were in that position and there was this 12-year-old kid that launched an NFT project, had sold all the NFTs, and made 80 Ethereum, I would speculate a bit as well.” He clarified that there was no bad blood. “All the people that believed the FUD got back to me and said they were sorry.”

At first glance, Weird Whales is not a novel artistic feat. Critics, for example, have pointed out that Ahmed based his NFTs off an online image of a pixel whale. He is not shy about facing those claims. “I knew it had to be pixel art because I’m not really an artist—it had to be easy for someone like me to do. So I looked up ‘pixel whale,’ and it came up with multiple images—different people using the same pixel whale design.” He added, “The site said this could be used by anyone. So I thought I could use it myself.”

The art, however, was never the main point. Instead, Weird Whales was the culmination of a young programmer’s journey into the NFT space. It began on July 9th, when Ahmed joined the Discord server of another project called “BoringBananasCo.” He messaged the co-founder, Vishesh Sood, for advice on how to code a generative project. Because Sood’s own project was designed to be open-source and teaching-based, he happily obliged.

“What I initially thought was that it would just be a really great learning experience for him. So he didn’t think that much about marketing, or the art, or anything like that,” Sood, who goes by “Vee” online, said. “It was like, how do we get him to have a complete experience of launching a collectible product, because as a 12-year-old, that’s just something incredible to have done.”

Yet, despite the project’s modest ambitions, Weird Whales made mighty waves. “I was just playing around with code and testing. And then I remember looking at the website and the ‘sold out’ message had shown and that was really the turning point,” Ahmed emphasized. Sood chimed in, “He was just learning, and we wanted to support that.”

Now, three days later, Ahmed has had time to reflect on the experience. “You’re never too young to do something,” he told ONE37pm. “I could have said, ‘Oh, adults are doing this.’ But I found interest in it. And after this launch, I’ve seen similar people around my age, and I’m willing to help them succeed in their dreams.”

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