Ever since a non-fungible token (NFT) artwork by Beeple sold for US$69 million last March, the unique digital assets have dazzled the art world. From the popularity of NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea to the craze of the Bored Ape Yacht Club series, countless artists, buyers and investors have been drawn to NFTs.
Among them is an 11-year-old boy, Miguel Wang. He started learning coding at the age of six and grew up in a Hong Kong family that regards coding as the language of the future, and created an NFT minter, the CryptoTigers, to automatically sell cute pixelated tiger images in the Year of the Tiger.
Starting by studying the tiger’s image, Miguel took on everything about this project, including designing, smart contracts deploying, website building, and marketing. He told Forkast that he wanted to be a creator rather than just a consumer.
The young entrepreneur shared with Forkast his journey in creating his decentralized application (dApp) CryptoTigers, his insights on what makes an awesome NFT collection, and his plans for future endeavors.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Your work is impressive! It must not be easy to make an NFT minter. What initially sparked your interest in NFTs and what’s the thing that drove you to complete this project?
I have loved computers since I was five years old and started to learn coding at six.
I began to have an interest in NFTs because I read that Beeple sold his NFT for $69 million. Everyone was very curious, what is this NFT thing? I was also very curious, then I got into it, because NFT is completely digital and highly related to coding and programming, which are the things I am already interested in.
What motivated me to keep on going is, actually, I don’t know. I just wanted to do it and see it completed.
How long did it take you to finish the project?
From starting the actual art and then completing the whole minting dApp website, I think it was around five weeks.
That’s pretty quick!
Yeah, I think it is.
What was the most difficult part of the process?
I don’t think there was a most challenging part when creating the CryptoTigers collection, because every part of the way was super hard. For every step, problems come one after another.
For example, when I was making the art — I’m not really an art guy, I don’t do art for passion or draw for fun, so the art was really hard for me. I was thinking, where would I put this pixel? And where would I put that pixel? That was hard.
After I finished the art part, I felt like the hardest part was over. But no, now it’s the technical phase. And I had to make so much stuff, the metadata, the contract code, the minting dApp, the website, and so much more.
And no one could help me, my family, because my parents are non-tech. So the only thing that could help me was the internet. I searched the whole web. But even when I did so, some tutorial videos on YouTube were outdated. So I had to use my previous knowledge in coding to help me. And yeah, when I completed it, I was very proud of myself that I persevered.
Since you don’t have an interest in art, how did the idea of creating pixel tigers come into your mind?
I was thinking, next year is the year of the tiger, I can make something related to it, and pixelated tigers are something that I did not see too much on OpenSea. And as an extra, I was born in the year of the tiger.
Which part of the building up process did you enjoy the most?
The part I most enjoyed was the end when I actually got to test it — before deploying the actual contracts on the mainnet, you need to test it, otherwise if you screw up on the mainnet, you can’t do it again because you have wasted so much money on gas fees. The part of testing it on Ethereum testnet is really fun, because I could see my stuff in action, and give myself free ETHs to buy things and see it work.
How did you start to learn to code?
My parents contributed to this, and I want to thank them for that. I have two siblings, an elder brother and an elder sister. When I was younger, my father told my mom that one of us needed to learn coding since it is the language of the future. So both my sister and I took coding lessons. After a while, my mom noticed that I was good at it and genuinely enjoyed it. So I kept taking coding lessons. And in my spare time, I researched more about coding as a hobby and stuff, and it just grew from there.
Young NFT programmers at your age are very rare. I wonder whether NFTs or crypto is also something your peers are interested in or talking about?
For the people I know, I don’t think any of them are as interested in NFTs and crypto as I am. They only know the tip of the iceberg. Like NFTs or digital art pieces, crypto, digital currencies. Some don’t even know that. So I don’t think they are interested in this field currently. My friends are mostly technology consumers, but I want to be a creator.
Do you talk a lot about NFTs and crypto with your friends?
Not really. I mention it a bit, but I usually talk about normal stuff in school.
Do you have any favorite NFT collections?
I don’t really know. I saw one on OpenSea like a home cover. It was Hong Kong, but they added snow and pink flower stuff to it. And I think that that made it really interesting. So I think that one I liked because I like Hong Kong, and it added something unique to it.
What makes an NFT collection great?
First, the art needs to be good, it should have significance and meaning in it. Another very important thing is marketing. Sometimes it’s just as important as the art. Somebody said Beeple is a very good marketer. And in my case, the customer minter dApp, the interface needs to be very user-friendly and pleasing to the eye, also easy for the user to navigate.
So that’s also how you apply these elements to your CryptoTigers as well?
Yeah. For example, I made sure I had some meaning when I was making the art, the tiger image and the tiger year. And I tried to market it on social media — I created accounts and posted for it.
If someone your age wants to dive into the NFT world and try to start their decentralized application program like you, what would you advise them?
First, always be curious. You need to have the urge to learn something new. And once you learn something, you don’t give up. If there’s a problem, there’s always a solution, whether that is on YouTube or from someone else. So just don’t give up.
What are your plans for the next step after the CryptoTigers program? And do you have a career plan for NFTs and the crypto world?
Currently, my CryptoTigers project is on the Ethereum blockchain. And there are many other different blockchains, like Solana, it has extra technicality. So I want to try making a diverse NFT collection on a separate blockchain like Solana.
And also, based on my previous journey and experience of creating the CryptoTigers collection, I’ve created a YouTube channel called cabaci that teaches people who like crypto-related stuff. Each episode is super short and beginner-friendly.
And career-wise, my dream is to become a tech entrepreneur. But I’m still young and curious, so this might change in 10 years. I don’t know where I’ll go in 10 years, but hopefully, at least now, I want to become a tech entrepreneur and make some tech-related things.
Dylan Butts contributed to this report.