Internet prodigy rides wave of success
Updated: Sun, May 07 02:02 PM EDT
TORONTO (CP) - Keith Peiris was only three when he first started fiddling around on a
computer. Three years later, at age six, neighbours were calling him to install Windows 95
on their hard drives.
Last July, Keith, then age 11, became president and chief
executive officer of Cyberteks Design. The budding entrepreneur designs Web sites for
companies that want an Internet presence.
What distinguishes the Grade 6 student's pages from others is how creatively he uses a
computer software program called Macromedia Flash that incorporates animated graphics with
sound to produce lively pages that can be quickly downloaded for view.
"What inspired me to start the company was it enables you to broadcast your art in
vast ways to the world.
"That was my main focus, and to maybe make a little money," says Keith.
Since July, Cyberteks Design has had revenues of about $100,000 with 15 customers who
are mostly American. Keith's site, at www.cyberteks.net,
averages more than 1,000 hits each day.
Keith's father, Deepal Peiris, 50, helps him run the company located in the basement of
their London, Ont., home. They have plans to hire five Web designers by the spring of 2001
and eventually take the company public.
After Keith came home from school one recent afternoon in April, father and son were
about to interview a potential employee. The boy dismissed any suggestion of conflict
between a 12-year-old boss and employees two to three times his age.
"I really don't care. And the people around me don't care. They just consider me a
normal person. There is no difference (among us), except maybe in skill but that has
nothing to do with age," he says.
Keith's father did ask applicants whether they can work for a boy.
"Several top people working at major Web-designing companies are applying to work
under him. I told them: `Are you aware that the president of the company is a 12-year-old
kid?"' says Peiris.
"`Yes, we know that,' they say. `We want to come and work for him because he's
good. He knows better than us. We are prepared to learn from him,' they say."
Indeed, the many awards and accolades that Keith has received for his work are
testimony to his talent. His resume, including press releases and newspaper clippings, is
three pages long.
His recent accomplishments:
---Feb. 23, 2000 - Cyberteks Design listed in the Branham 50 top Web design companies
in Canada, published by the National Post Business Magazine.
---Feb. 4, 2000 - Three Web sites designed by Keith were selected as finalists at the
South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.
---Dec. 17,1999 - Keith was nominated to the Millennium Dreamers Award, sponsored by
McDonalds Restaurants and Disney Company, in association with the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
---Oct. 30. 1999 - Keith won the runner-up award for the Best Sales and Marketing Web site
at the Atlantic Digital Medial Festival Awards '99 held in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
Keith's father says his son, an A-plus student, has always been driven to be the best.
"He wants to be No. 1. Some people treat that as a weakness. But I don't. How can
I say to you that if you want to be No. 1, don't try to be No. 1. Be No. 5?"
In March, Keith was the youngest panelist to speak about Web design at the South by
Southwest Interactive Festival, an annual international conference in Austin, Texas. The
room was jam-packed with about 200 people. He was nervous, says Hugh Forrest, the event's
But who wouldn't be at age 12?
"Keith is very good. He needs to develop a little more to get to be a top-notch
person. But for his age, he's phenomenal," says Forrest.
Keith was also the finalist in three of all four categories in his age group for his
Web designs. Compared to other panelists who are usually 25 years old, Keith still has
lots of time to polish his skills, says Forrest.
"If he keeps developing as quickly as he has developed now, he'll be leaps and
bounds above them in a number of years."
After Keith comes home from school every day, he does his homework before he works for
up to five hours a night - designing pages or giving quotes for contracts.
His weekend schedule is also dependent on the time he spends on the ice as a goalie for
a minor hockey league.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't know I was going this route until I was nine or
10," he says.
"My long-term goals are: I plan to go to university and have one or two PhDs in
computer science and business," says Keith.