- George Walker became interested in NFTs in March and started learning blockchain code.
- Kaleb Johnson tweeted about an NFT coding question, and Walker responded offering his help.
- The pair joined forces and launched the NFT collection “Wavelength,” which is now worth millions.
This an as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with George Walker, a technician for the Institute of Making at University College London in England. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I learned to code by accident. I wanted to become a music producer, so I applied for the now defunct Music Informatics Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sussex in the south of England in 2011. I thought it would be about music production. Instead, I found myself learning Java programming.
I decided to see the course out and became a digital generalist. Being creative and tech-savvy helps me understand both sides of nonfungible-token projects.
I accepted a technician job at the Institute of Making, a part of University College London, in September 2015.
The role is broad. Staff and students at the university approach me with technical projects, like equipment for scientific experiments or installations for art exhibitions, and I’m responsible for helping them execute these ideas.
After five years at UCL, a friend mentioned NFTs to me in March, so I started researching them and followed people on Twitter who worked in the space.
I trawled through NFT collections on the ethereum blockchain, which is public to view, to analyze their code. I also bought a few.
It seemed like an exciting frontier of tech where people could get in on the ground floor
I learned there were three parts to creating an NFT collection. First, you need to generate a digital asset, like an image. Second, you need to create a smart contract — the code to manage the NFT sale. And third, you need to build a front-end website to act as a shop front.
Because of my coding knowledge, I was mostly interested in smart contracts.
Smart contracts are written in a language used on the ethereum blockchain called Solidity. This code is similar to C, a more general computer-programming language, with a few differences I had to learn.
I had a lot of help learning this coding language from other developers on Twitter in the Web3 community.
On September 26, a brilliant artist called Kaleb Johnston, who already had a following in Twitter’s NFT community, tweeted a coding question I knew the answer to.
I messaged him with a solution, and we built our relationship from there
Johnston had created a lot of single-edition NFTs, which sold for about 1 ethereum, but he wanted to make a full collection.
My knowledge of smart contracts and randomizing a collection — creating code that could mass-produce randomly generated images — meant I could help.
Over a few months, we developed a piece of code using a language I learned at university called Processing to generate a collection of 1,111 NFTs.
The code randomly generated abstract images that were designed to mirror the appearance of neural pathways.
We wanted something more exclusive than the usual 10,000-piece collection and tweeted samples to attract interest from buyers. Our strategy was to allow buyers into a
chat server in stages.
Early entrants could see “behind the scenes” as the project developed and tell other people about the work, which created a “buzz” in the community.
On November 6, we allowed 100 people in who received a discounted rate. One week later, we allowed another 200 people to join. We continued to allow people into the server until there was enough interest to guarantee it would sell out — the chat membership was in the thousands.
The finished artwork was also invisible until the entire collection sold out, which built excitement around it. We did very little marketing; the art would speak for itself.
Some big-name collectors like Pranksy bought into our project early on, which boosted the demand
Because of these tactics, 798 people owned an NFT after our sold-out launch. We wanted the number of “unique holders” to be high, not just people who wanted to buy them to immediately sell them.
Each NFT cost between 0.1 and 0.15 ethereum to mint, depending on which stage the buyer had joined our server.
Before the “Wavelength by Kaleb Johnston” collection was even shown on December 1, people were trading their items for over 1 ethereum.
The collection’s floor price (the lowest-value item) is now 1.3 ethereum and the average price that NFTs from this collection have been bought and sold for is 1.7 ethereum.
Johnston and I split the initial profits from minting. The team takes a 5% royalty on every subsequent trade. The project is currently worth $5.1 million in total.
This royalty is important in the Web3 space. Artists now can continue to profit from their art even after the initial sale.
Johnston and I are now creating more NFTs, especially for owners of the original Wavelength collection.
I’ve joined a Web3 consultancy called WAGMI supporting brands entering the space, while continuing my job at UCL. I’ve also set up my own Web3 agency called Whoosh Labs to continue with my creative Web3 software-development work.
Editor’s note: The net worth of the project is calculated using the 90-day average NFT price displayed on OpenSea on March 1, 2022 when this article was published. The average price was 1.8 ethereum and ETH’s trading value was $2657.97 on this date.