A 12-year-old boy from London, UK, earned around £290,000 (approximately R$2 million) during school holidays after creating a series of pixelated artworks called Weird Whales and selling them as NFTs ( “non-fungible token”, in free translation) .
With NFTs, a work of art can be “tokenized” to create a digital ownership certificate that can be bought and sold.
They generally do not provide the buyer with the artwork itself or its copyright.
Benyamin Ahmed is keeping his earnings in the form of Ethereum — the cryptocurrency in which they were sold.
This means that the value can increase or decrease — and there is no backing from the authorities if the digital wallet in which he keeps the amount is hacked or compromised.
He never had a traditional bank account.
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Benyamin’s schoolmates are still unaware of his newly acquired crypto fortune, although he has made YouTube videos about his hobby, which he enjoys as much as swimming, badminton and taekwondo.
“My advice to other kids who might want to enter this space is not to force yourself to do coding, perhaps because there is peer pressure — just like if you like to cook, cook, if you like to dance, dance, just do the best you can. “he says.
Benyamin’s father, Imran, a software developer working in traditional finance, encouraged Benyamin and his brother, Yousef, to start coding at age five and six.
The boys had the advantage of relying on a strong network of tech experts to ask for advice and help — but their father is extremely proud of them.
“It was kind of a fun exercise — but I realized very early on that they were very receptive and very good at it,” says Imran.
“So we started to take it a little more seriously — and now it’s every single day … but you can’t force these things, you can’t say, ‘I’m going to learn coding in three months’.”
The boys did 20 or 30 minutes of coding exercises a day — including on holidays, he says.
Benyamin Ahmed’s Weird Whales project, turned NFT — Photo: Benyamin Ahmed via BBC
Weird Whales is Benyamin’s second digital art collection, released following an earlier Minecraft-inspired video game collection that sold less.
This time, he was inspired by a well-known image of a pixelated whale meme and a popular style of digital art — but he used his own program to create the collection of 3,350 emoji-type whales.
“It was interesting to see them all being born, as they appeared on my screen, being generated slowly,” he says.
Benyamin is already working on his third collection, now with a superhero theme.
He would also like to play an “underwater game” with whales.
“It would be awesome,” he says.
Imran is “100% sure” that his child has not infringed copyright law — he consulted lawyers to “audit” his work and get advice on how to register his own designs..
The art world is divided, however, over NFT fashion.
Artists say they are an additional source of useful revenue. And there are several cases of incredibly high sales.
But there is also skepticism about the extent to which NFTs are a realistic long-term investment.
Charles Allsopp, a former auctioneer at renowned auction house Christie’s, told BBC News that buying them “makes no sense”.
“The idea of buying something that isn’t there is just weird,” he said earlier this year.
“The people who invest in this are naive — but I hope they don’t lose their money.”
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