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The Chinese Frontier
Boy wonder Keith Peiris expands his business into China

By Kara Kuryllowicz
May 2001

Talk about fast-trackers. Since launching his Internet design firm Cyberteks Design Inc. 18 months ago, Keith Peiris has attracted an array of corporate clients, won a slew of awards and boosted Cyberteks' revenues to six figures. Peiris's most recent win: while participating in Team Canada's recent trade mission to China, he scored a lucrative contract that will see Cyberteks open an office this summer in Zhangmutou.

Not bad for a Grade 7 student who turned 13 in February.

Peiris may be too young to drive, but he's an old hand at computers. He started tapping on keyboards at age three. At six he was installing software for family and friends. By the time he was 11 Peiris was designing interactive websites using Macromedia Flash.

Keith's hobby turned serious in June 1999, when he and his father Deepal launched Cyberteks in the family's basement. His tech-savvy designs, along with his age, attracted plenty of media attention and cool clients. Cyberteks has signed on customers such as Interep, the largest radio-advertising agency in the U.S., and Kewl Threads, a Toronto-based clothing firm founded by Toronto Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker and Shayne Corson.

But being a whiz kid isn't easy. Peiris, who is Cyberteks' president and CEO, has had to deal with some pretty grown-up issues: how to balance school, business and being a kid; convincing prospects to take him seriously; and setting the future direction of his business. As he told China's Xinhua news agency, "It was not easy to start with... but things are getting better."

Indeed, Peiris's success has even generated hate e-mail, messages that accuse him of not knowing what he's talking about. Like all entrepreneurs, Peiris is learning to tune out the static. "Sometimes I ignore it, other times I let it motivate me to do even better." Still, he says, "I'm getting tired of proving myself."

Peiris prefers to let his actions speak for him. He takes primary responsibility for Cyberteks' designs, while his father, who is VP of operations, handles marketing and finance. While the two say they discuss every issue, it's Keith who makes the final decisions. (After finishing his homework, he insists.) When he needs help, Peiris can call on five part-time staff, who all work from home.

So why go to China? "Information technology will be a powerhouse in China in the next 10 to 20 years," says Peiris. "We went on the mission because we wanted to get Cyberteks' name in there now, before it erupts. It's serious long-range planning that will pay off."

Perhaps sooner than expected. Peiris and his dad left China with a contract that will see them open Cyberteks Design Asia Ltd in July. Better yet, the Chinese government will foot operating costs for the first two years.

One Day in Hong Kong: From ping-pong to vodka and flight simulators, here's who signed what on the last day of the Team Canada 2001 mission
Trade Mission 2001 — A Chinese Odyssey: Paving the way for future deals in China's growing market

2001 Kara Kuryllowicz

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