Ontario - The 12-year-old boss of a web site design company
will be one of 300 business and political leaders accompanying
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on a trade mission to
China next month.
|Sitting in his office in the basement
of his London, Ontario, home, Peiris said he discovered
his passion for web design when he was 10 and was
“playing around” with software downloaded from a web
Keith Peiris, who founded award-winning Cyberteks Design in
June 1999 and now has some 25 clients in North America,
insisted in an interview that he is “just like any other kid.”
But few kids face his decisions, like whether to sell out to
US or Hong Kong investors for several million dollars and what
to do about would-be clients scared away by his tender years.
He and his father will spend nine days on the Team Canada
trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where Chretien aims
to showcase the best of Canadian business in the most populous
country in the world.
Sitting in his office in the basement of his London,
Ontario, home, Peiris said he discovered his passion for web
design when he was 10 and was “playing around” with software
downloaded from a web site. Bored with singer Britney Spears
and the Pokemon cards and TV reruns his peers enjoyed, he
experimented with interactive tools as a hobby.
“There was nothing else to do,” the dark-haired boy said in
a serious voice.
Demonstrating his music- and animation-laden interactive
web sites, he summed up his strategy: “You find the best sites
out there and you see if you can do better. Of course, I am
not the best designer out there yet, but I will strive to be.”
A glance at the complex, elegant animations on his
www.cyberteks.com site shows both the extent of Peiris' talent
and why news agencies and broadcasters like CNN, the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation and Australian television are calling
daily to ask for interviews.
“He doesn't want to be No 2,” his father Deepal said
proudly, his eyes sparkling behind square glasses. Impressed
by his son's first web site, the former accountant, president
and marketing manager for Canadian computer companies
presented him with a complete kit of Macromedia applications
for his 11th birthday in February 1999.
A few months later Macromedia Chairman Robert Burgess
introduced Keith to the public as the youngest user of Flash
animation and interactive tools.
Play Becomes Work
That launched his career as an entrepreneur and led to the
creation of Cyberteks Design.
“It was his idea,” said his father, who is now vice
president of operations at Cyberteks. “I am teaching my son
what I know. We make decisions together. I haven't done
anything my son disagreed with. He makes the final decision.”
The family business is already thriving. Cyberteks grew an
astounding 600 per cent in the last seven months, thanks in
part to publicity over its young founder and the inclusion of
the Web design company in the gallery of Macromedia clients,
along with Kodak, MSNBC and Cisco Systems.
With a revenue that the family coyly admits is in six
figures (in Canadian dollars), the company has seven offices
in the United States and five part-time employees who, like
the Peiris family, work from their London homes.
Keith says he enjoys being able to work in his pajamas but
scoffs at suggestions that he might eat in the office. “It's
my loss if I drop cola on the keyboard. It's my work that is
going to be ruined, so I am taking it seriously.”
An eighth grade student who wins top marks for his school
work, he also plays three times a week as goalie for the
London Knights ice hockey team and works nights and weekends
on web design contracts.
“I really don't consider it work, I consider it fun. I just
had to rearrange a few things,” he said casually when asked
about his heavy schedule. He admitted some potential clients
change their minds when they learn about his age, but the
well-informed not-yet-teenager tries to ignore them.
“There are a few people who don't understand me, but I try
not too think about that. It's just one person in 6 billion,”
“Suddenly, I've been known as the whiz kid or geek, which I
can't say I am too happy about. Some people – very, very few –
have asked if they should call me 'Mister,' but I try to stay
as casual as possible, simply because I am a kid still.”
But when offered a children's menu in a local bar and
grill, he looks offended and asks for a normal menu.
Already planning ahead, he is saving money to study
business and computer engineering. “People who take things for
granted will be left behind eventually. You have to continue
to work hard to be part of the new era,” he said.
His parents, Deepal and Sryia Peiris, left war-torn Sri
Lanka in 1981 to settle in Canada – first Montreal, where
Sryia was working on a doctorate in organic chemistry, then
London, a city of 300,000 about 125 miles (200 km) southwest
Now the family admits it is at a crossroads, mulling
whether to sell Cyberteks or keep it.
“The question is whether to grow slowly or expand very
fast,” said Deepal, adding that the family may leave Canada
but would leave their head office in Toronto if it did. “We
don't know where we are going to be in the next few years.”