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Twelve-year-old Internet prodigy drumming up business in China
By SANDRA CORDON
OTTAWA (CP) - Keith Peiris may be the youngest delegate on Prime Minister Jean Chretien's trade mission to China but he's no less serious than the rest of the delegation.

Peiris, a 12-year-old internet prodigy from London, Ont., hopes to expand his rapidly growing Web site company Cyberteks Design during the 10-day business junket that leaves Friday for Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. "My business objective is the same as the other businesses that are going - to close some contracts, build some relationships with Chinese companies . . . and speak with investors," Peiris said Monday as he prepared for the trip.

Peiris, who first started playing with the Internet at age three, also plans to tell young entrepreneurs in Hong Kong that it's possible to found a business before puberty.

His agenda is packed with business appointments, media interviews, speaking engagements - and homework from his Grade 7 teachers.

Peiris is excited to be travelling with Chretien, provincial premiers and about 500 entrepreneurs trying to expand Canada's trade with China.

But make no mistake - he's all business, with few plans for fun on the side.

"This is not a vacation trip, if we wanted to go there for sightseeing we would go on a vacation, not with Team Canada."

Peiris' credentials are impressive for a pre-teen.

An A-student, the goalie - and sponsor - of his local junior hockey team, Peiris turned his fascination with the Internet into a business in June 1999.

"He's had his own computer since he was five . . . and we're getting requests from around the world for Keith to design Web sites," says father Deepal Peiris, the firm's project manager and administrator who's also headed to China.

Keith Peiris's site, www.cyberteks.net, is recording thousands of hits per day from people interested in his firm, which designs Web sites for companies that want an Internet presence.

Operating from the basement of the family's southwestern Ontario home, Peiris employs about five part-time staff plus seven sales staff in the U.S., with plans to open 15 sales offices around the world this spring.

He also wants to hire more staff - who must be willing to accept that Keith's the boss.

One full-time employee was fired because he couldn't accept working for a 12-year-old entrepreneur.

"The rest work really well with Keith . . . we put all the resources together and come up with the best team, which is the case with every company," says Deepal Peiris.

While in Hong Kong, Keith Peiris is scheduled to deliver a motivational speech to about 400 young entrepreneurs.

"Your age, your race, is not relevant, it does not matter in the business world . . . is the main point I want to get out to them."

Business is growing rapidly for Cyberteks Design, with revenues of more than $100,000 from customers based mostly in the U.S., plus some Canadian companies.

But the father-son team is beginning to feel pressure to take their company public.

"That's the question we have - grow fast or grow slowly," says Deepal Peiris.

"I don't want it to grow too fast, I want Keith to have time to enjoy and keep control in the family."


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