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Monday, May 8, 2000

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Kid runs Web company... after homework, hockey

Mon, May 8, 2000

By Tanya Ho

TORONTO -- 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, 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.

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:

z Feb. 23, 2000 -- Cyberteks Design listed in the Branham 50 top Web design companies in Canada, published by the National Post Business Magazine.

z Feb. 4, 2000 -- Three Web sites designed by Keith were selected as finalists at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Tex.

z 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.

z 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, N.S.

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.

-- Canadian Press


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