Celebrating the Life of
Peter Y. Hsing
October 6, 1968 - July 17, 2020
Peter embodied joie de vivre and was larger than life. He was bright, vibrant, energetic, irreverent and witty wrapped up in a unique package. And most of all, he was deeply kind, generous and selfless in a way that was truly special. Always there for his family, friends and colleagues, he took joy in helping others and wanted the best for everyone. In passing decades too soon, Peter leaves an indelible mark on the world as well as everyone who knew him.
Peter Y. Hsing was born on October 6, 1968 to Fred and Fei Hsing and grew up in the town of Windsor, CT. Like many children of Asian parents in the U.S., he was a diligent student, took violin lessons and attended Chinese school on the weekends. A happy and beautiful baby from day one, he grew into a witty, caring and dependable child loved by his friends and was always there for his younger brother Andy.
Education and Career
Peter attended The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT from 1982 to 1986. In high school, he was already the person everyone now knows him to be. He was Co-Editor of the Yearbook, Co-Founder of The Pelican (the alternative newspaper), and a Co-DJ of a weekly radio show called The Beatnik Café Society. Really, Peter was Co-everything and his friends remember him as “always a yes”, which is why he was the perfect partner for every project and adventure, large or small. He stayed tightly connected with his Loomis friends through college and his professional life. Once he was a friend, it didn’t matter how much time passed; when you next met, it was as if you’d last spoken yesterday. One friend recalls how Peter, upon hearing about the birth of her child after not being in touch for over a decade, immediately drove two hours north to celebrate with her bringing a smile, a gift, and his characteristic enthusiasm. Gifted with a strong sense of aesthetics, he was also a terrific illustrator although he never talked about it and was often seen with a camera around his neck. His fascination with stereo gear prefigured his later taste for other “finer” things. But for Peter, these were never “identity” objects, the point was to share the experiences with his friends. At graduation time, he hosted a party to bring all his friends (and, as it turned out, all their friends) together to celebrate. He diligently collected everyone's car keys to make sure no one would drive after drinking. By the end of the night, though, he had forgotten where he hid all the keys (they were in the freezer), leading to the year's largest slumber party. Thirty-five years later, his friends vividly remember that party, one of the many times in which Peter was a ringleader, sharing his sense of adventure, joy & fun with the rest of us.
After Loomis, Peter went to college at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in New York City from 1986 to 1990 when he graduated with a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering. From the outset, he partook in all Columbia had to offer as a student, fraternity brother, leader and friend and took every advantage of the NYC scene. He maintained a heavy course-load and excelled academically – also interning at IBM from 1988 to 1990 - but made it look effortless and was always modest. An early tech adopter at a time when personal computers were the size of small suitcases, he once rigged a projector to display his computer to a class and impressed his classmates with his tech savvy. Peter had a wide circle of friends, joined the Alpha class of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, and served as an officer of the Asian Students Union. Above all else, Peter was loyal, caring and selfless and always there for his friends. One late night returning with friends to campus on the subway after a night out in the Village, he stood ready to protect his friends gripping a nail file in his pocket. Whether it was drinking at the West End, leading the charge for a night out, being a shoulder to cry on over a breakup or talking for hours about life, he was the perfect companion. As one of his friends remarked, “He was just one of those people who was basically universally loved by everyone who was fortunate enough to cross paths with him in life. Just an awesome, caring and generous friend with a sarcastic wit that never dulled with age.” Peter and his college friends grew up together over those four years and beyond, forging strong lifelong friendships that have endured for over thirty-four years and over great distances. After graduating from SEAS, he continued to give back to Columbia as an alumnus, serving on the Advisory Board of the SEAS Entrepreneurship Program where he selflessly mentored many.
After graduating college, Peter was a management consultant in the Dispute Analysis & Corporate Recovery group at Price Waterhouse from 1990 to 1995, traveling the country. In 1995, he decided to add an M.B.A. degree to his already impressive academic credentials and attended The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA where he obtained his degree in 1997. He also served as the Private Equity Chair of the Wharton Asia Capital Markets Conference. To his friends, he was a kind, generous, fun-loving and brilliant person who brought joy to those around him. He was great at school, great at work, and great with his family and friends. They cranked out homework while fitting in cards, golf and many fun times together. Peter loved late-night food runs and the occasional dash to Atlantic City with the gang. Even though he barely knew how to ice skate, Peter joined the Wharton Wildmen hockey team because he never backed down from a challenge. As his friends remarked, “We will miss his quick wit, concert tickets, wine collection, and love of dim sum. Most of all, we will miss him. “
After Wharton, Peter spent two years from 1997 to 1999 as an Associate in J.P. Morgan’s Telecom, Media and Technology investment banking group and Private Placements team in Hong Kong during the height of the dot com boom.
In 1999, he moved his family to Seattle, WA to join Microsoft’s global Corporate Development team as a Senior Manager. Even though Peter had never worked at a tech company before, it was soon clear to everyone that he knew more about the Internet than anyone and that he was going to make sure that his new colleagues would become true believers in this new world. Peter initially led a series of investments in the then brand-new area of digital rights management, online entertainment platforms, and a slew of greater China initiatives where he leveraged his recent experience at J.P. Morgan. In 2003, Peter moved to Microsoft’s Corporate Strategy Group and rose to Managing Director. Over the next four years, Peter built and led an outstanding team that evaluated major growth opportunities, including the cloud strategy which eventually led to the creation of Azure and Office365.
In 2007, Peter moved his family to California to form early stage Silicon Valley venture firm Merus Capital in Palo Alto, CA with Sean Dempsey and Salman Ullah, former Microsoft colleagues. From inception, he drove the branding (including coming up with the firm’s name), set up the financial infrastructure and created all the investor presentations. But his primary role was in sourcing, selecting and shaping startup companies. He had an innate knack to mind-meld with entrepreneurs at the very earliest stages. His filter was very fine but once the entrepreneurs made it through, they became part of his inner circle and he would do everything in his power to support them. As the founder of one Merus portfolio company noted, “He took my PhD thesis and willed it into a company.” Another time he created a week-by-week operating plan for one of his startups that was running out of funding and drove it to profitability and ultimately a very successful exit. His energy and drive for results were limitless and his operating principles were grounded in what he claimed was an ancient Chinese proverb “Frugality drives clarity.” Ultimately, what set Peter apart was his tremendous belief in entrepreneurs in particular and in people in general. He felt everyone could be and should be helped and it was his role in life to be there for them.
Family and Passions
Peter married Debbie Cheng on June 17, 1995 in a ceremony at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer with a reception at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. His beloved and beautiful children, Nicole and Brandon, were born in 2001 and 2004, respectively. He and Debbie divorced in 2013 but remained committed partners in raising their children. Peter spoke constantly through the years about Nicole and Brandon to friends and colleagues. He was focused on their many achievements and wanted them to be happy, successful and well-rounded citizens of the world. Peter was so proud of the accomplished and strong individuals that they became, watching Brandon playing football in high school and taking Nicole to start her freshman year at the prestigious Carnegie-Mellon University. They were always his first priority.
Peter had many passions in addition to his family. He was an athlete, running the NYC marathon in 2009, the St. Petersburg, Russia marathon in 2012, and the Run-Free Marathon in 2013. He also completed the Santa Cruz Sprint Triathalon in 2009, the Sequoia Century Ride in 2009, the Marin Century Ride in 2010, and the Sea Otter Century Ride in 2012. As everyone knows well, he was also a connoisseur of art, music, and superb wine and food. Peter’s knowledge of wines was unparalleled, he was a member of many private wineries, and he always generously shared his wines with others to enjoy together.
To the deep grief and heartache of his family, friends and colleagues, Peter passed away on July 17, 2020 after a cardiac arrest a few days earlier in Atherton, CA. Together, we mourn Peter’s loss as a devoted and loving father, son and brother, a wonderful co-parenting partner, a successful technology entrepreneur and venture capitalist, a giving mentor, a trusted friend, and a beautiful soul. His everlasting generosity and kindness will continue as an organ donor, sharing everything he can to save the lives of others. There was never a second that Peter was not selfless, and he shall continue his legacy through others’ lives after his passing. Peter is survived by his parents, Fred and Fei Hsing of Rio Vista, CA, his children, Brandon and Nicole Hsing of Atherton, CA, his brother, Andy Hsing (Sarah Lahey) of San Diego, CA, and the mother of his children, Debbie Cheng of Mountain View, CA.
Rest in peace Peter. We are eternally grateful that you have been a part of our lives and for the wonderful memories with you that we will always cherish in our hearts.
Only two weeks have gone by, yet, we felt it were much a longer time since we were informed of the passing of Peter, our first born son. That was too sudden, too abrupt, too surreal. There were many things done and there were many more underway; plans for funeral service, family memorial service, financial inventory and future planning. Also we felt as if time has come to a halt, that our son Peter seemed still there working in his home, or taking his routine workout somewhere. We just could not, and was unable to believe he had left us for good. The fact really broke our hearts.
Peter was a happy and beautiful baby from day one. Friends often joked, “Is he really your boy? (as if we were unworthy to have such an angelic perfect boy!)” In his early age he had already shown that it was easy and natural for him to win friends and to be loved by his pals. Neighbor kids followed him around all the time. Since Dad and I both were busy working, Peter literally grew up with a babysitter or in a day care center, transpiring his dependable and caring character. Yet Peter had always been a big brother for Andy, and mother’s big and able help ever since he was young.
Like most children born of Chinese parents in the States, Peter’s weekends were arranged with Saturday for violin and Sundays for Chinese School for Language classes all the way until he went to Loomis Chaffee School. However, with a heavy workload and school assignments, Peter gradually grew into a witty, open minded, and responsible young man. He took new challenges, learning the art of taking and giving. In order to obtain the qualification for the Chief Editor of their school yearbook, he started from being the basics supporting role as a volunteer photographer. I remembered he spent all his free time and pocket money to enhance his skills. He got it! He succeeded to be the editor in chief of the YearBook 1986! Nevertheless the established the bonding and friendship that tied him with his Loomis Chaffee classmates, was his biggest harvest, without doubt.
“Columbia” was the only college he ever applied to. An on-site visit in that summer led Peter to fall in love with this College and New York City. Over there he tasted failure, success in his own efforts, experienced cruel and warm humanity as well as bitter and sweet episodes of life. He learned to be patient, to be street smart but also to be nice and giving back. With his winning personality he had made a group of best friends who always kept him company and supported him whenever in need.
He started working as a Marketing Associate, Healthcare Sector at IBM in 1990. Four years later, he become the Manager of the Dispute Analysis and Corporate Recovery at Price Waterhouse. In between, he and Debbie married in NYC. In 1996, he decided to halt his career as the Summer Associate of the Private Equity Group at JP Morgan, and went back to the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania for his MBA degree. After Wharton he continued working in JP Morgan as an Associate at Telecom/Media/Tech M&A for 2 years. In 1999 he moved his family from NYC to Seattle working as a Sr. Manager at the Corporate Development Group at Microsoft. Eight years later, in 2007 he left Microsoft as a Managing Director at the Corporate Strategy Group and become the Co-founder and Managing Director of Merus Capital, Palo Alto in CA ever since. He loved the work and enjoyed the challenges.
Peter was always a people person. He was warm, generous, big-hearted and a diligent worker. He loved life, his job, friends, he was always full of caring for others, and enjoyed good foods and was a connoisseur of wines. The most important love in his life is for his Children, Nicole and Brandon. He might not have been a perfect son but he definitely was the best Father in the World. Certainly he would regret not being able to see them grow-up and get married. Yet, Peter, I can assure you that we all here, Dad and me, your brother, their Mom and your friends … all, will nurture and culture them, and we make sure that Nicole and Brandon grow into healthy and intelligent persons with bright and happy futures.
Peter, our beloved son, rest in peace! You will be forever in our heart! Good-Bye, my dear.
As a father, Peter, I am so sad and regretful that I did not see you and your family more often. Just three weeks ago we were on the phone talking about how we could meet again and if you need more face masks. Next, we were told you lost consciousness.
Peter was a very self motivated person. His Chinese background and education at Loomis Chaffee School, Columbia University as well as Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania cultivated him as a generous, hard working, and caring individual. Mom and I are proud of you. Your loving and caring ways will forever be remembered by all your friends, colleagues, many more. Nicole and Brandon know they had the best father in the world.
Their mother Debbie is here and brother Andy came down from San Diego for a week to arrange and sort things to ensure that Nicole and Brandon can carry out their daily life with no or as little as possible interruption. Rest In Peace.
There are truly no words to describe the relationship between a parent and child, especially when your father is an Asian tiger parent and you are a sensitive, emotional teenage daughter. Although my Dad would tutor me for countless hours in 11th-grade mathematics problems at the ripe age of 10 years old (and I absolutely hated every second of it), he would always tell me I would appreciate it later on while looking back with him as a parent myself, complaining about my own children. “Just you wait, then you will see that all your hard work and dedication is what counts and changes lives,” he would say.
My father ingrained three lessons of life within me.
Make wise choices. Weigh all options and think before you act.
Be people smart. Emotional intelligence is the key to life, friendships, and business.
Work hard. And if you think you have worked hard enough, you clearly have not.
I truly believe that he himself lived by these three lessons in every aspect of his life. Whether it was parenting me and my brother (quite the hassle; especially me), business, friendships, or even which wine to drink that night, every thought was calculated, exquisitely balancing emotion and logic.
After embodying these three lessons since my birth, and reflecting on each of them, I would like to share with all of you my thoughts on each lesson.
Lesson one. Make wise choices.
No matter the circumstance, my Dad would be sure to weigh not only his own pros and cons but most importantly, the perspectives of those he cared about, reaching an endless bounty of people far and wide. Essentially, my Dad never thought about what was best for him, but for everyone surrounding him. I know there was not a single decision my Father made without thinking about others, especially me and my brother first. The labor of parenting is one no one can predict or even prepare for. Yet, my Dad was able to carefully navigate each obstacle he endured with us to shape our values, morals, hearts, and minds to embody the best parts of him. Selflessness, empathy, curiosity, critical thinking, even mischievous humor; all his core aspects are within me and my brother forever. We are the cumulation of nineteen and fifteen years of my Dad's blood, sweat, and tears.
Lesson two. Be people smart.
Being people smart always came naturally to me, a gift my Dad gave me since birth. My Father could always have meaningful conversations with anyone, admiring their unique interests, thoughts, and quirks. My Dad, (quoting the show Adventure Time) “had an approximate knowledge of many things,” allowing him to talk about anything with anyone; connecting with others on a deep intellectual and emotional level. Like my Dad, there is an intuitive, almost second nature awareness that I possess regarding people's emotions and mentalities. Whether we were both naturally gifted in this aspect, or because of his parenting and good nature, I could never put into words the amount of gratitude I feel towards my Dad for this part of me. To me, possessing such extraordinary empathy and having the ability to feel the magnitude of others is a gift that overpowers any trait I could ever ask for.
Lesson three. Work hard.
In all aspects of my life, whether it be “the Asian child’s keys to success” of academics (especially math), sports, and instruments… or my own hobbies… film photography, poetry, and creative writing… my Dad always pushed me to do the best I ever could. While some parents give their child a pat on the back for their best achievements, my Dad always pushed me to do more. A test grade I was proud of he would celebrate, but ask what I could have done better. This lesson was the toughest for me to learn, as my Dad drove my limits beyond my capabilities. While maturing, I realized his standards for me were so high because he placed himself to those standards each day. My Dad put his blood, sweat, and tears into every aspect of his life, and wanted me to do the same. In a way, my blood, sweat, and tears I still feel pushing myself are his. Not only because of the hard work, dedication, and ambition my Dad put into raising me, but because I am the embodiment of him.
Even though my Dad and I had our excruciatingly painful moments during high school (especially when I came home with anything less than an A on a test and he would be disappointed, how Asian of him), we both knew that we loved one another more than we could ever know. And even if I went to bed in tears after a very stern talking to, my Dad would come into my room after and support me. He would hold me tight and never once let go until I finally calmed down. He would tell me all he could ever wish for was to see me living a meaningful, fulfilling life and he hoped that his parenting would be enough for me. Those words always broke the heartstrings within me; to be enough.
There is nothing I could ever want more in my life than to be enough for my Dad and make him proud. “I promise I will make you the proudest a father could ever be of his daughter,” I have told myself god knows how many times. I have said it before each night I went to sleep, each test I took, each sentence I wrote for my college applications, each piece I played on the harp, each track race I ran, each day I woke up; everything I ever have done and will do is for my Dad. At this point, I have promised and sworn to be enough for my Father so many times as there are stars in the galaxy (there are 100 million thousand stars in the galaxy; my Dad and I were curious once and looked it up).
However, the last time I promised to be enough for my Dad was different; I said it to my Dad out loud, looking at him for the very last time at nineteen years old. Promising my Dad that exact thing I have repeated so many times to myself — to make him the proudest a Father could ever be of this Daughter — while looking at him in a hospital bed, hurt me. It felt like every single part of me was ripped apart, disappearing into a never-ending, painful blackhole. It hurt in ways I can barely fathom at such a young age, and cannot even describe with any words or emotional responses.
While talking to my Dad for the very last minutes I had, holding his hand in the hospital, I realized something. I realized that everything my Father was is all that I am and ever will be in my life. During the time I had my last seconds with him, I felt an ambitious uproar in my heart; the same feeling I felt each time I hugged my Dad when I made him proud. The moment I laid eyes on my Dad for the very last time, I have never felt such undying love, determination, and dedication to him and the very thing I have repeated countless times; to make my Dad, the proudest a Father could ever be of his Daughter.
Dad, I promise I will make you the proudest a Father could ever be of his daughter. I know physically you are not here with us, but within me and Brandon, each day, you grow tenfold and your curiosity will never fail to ever be satisfied as long as I am alive. While I may not be a venture capitalist, or go to an Ivy school (yet… just wait until graduate school), your boundless essence will continue to learn, grow, and touch so many people through me. I will always be the proudest a Daughter could be of her Father. Thank you for all you have gifted me and will continue to as I mature. I love you Dad, more than anything in the universe.
Dad. A word to me that will only belong to one person. A word that brings me a one of a kind love, happiness, and years of memories. Never would I have ever thought it would also bring me such anguish. It feels like something so harsh shouldn’t happen to one of the good guys. Because that’s what he was in life, he was one of the good guys: selfless, loving, and hardworking. He worked harder than I ever have, everyday of his life with his two partners. It pains me everyday that he won’t be able to see the outcome of all of his hard work, because he had looked forward to the day when he could look at everything he’d done and finally be proud of himself (in regards to business). Instead, when he was at the gradual start of reaching the very beginning of his expectations for his success, his life was stolen from him. He was just telling me last month in July that he hoped to have homes that I could bring my grandchildren to. He looked forward to so much. No matter what, this will forever leave me a bitter taste towards the world we live in. Fortunately, he was able to see his successes as a person. He knew all the people he helped and impacted, creating individual connections with the people he met, and making each person feel special and greatly appreciated. Before all of this, my father was just Dad to me. I had no idea how many people he even knew, let alone positively helped and changed their lives. Since July 14th, I now realize my legacy: to follow my father’s lead in leaving an everlasting impact on those I meet, and pass this trait on to generations to come of our family. Because when it comes down to it, life is all about connections. That’s one thing he preached and lived out, and it will stick with me for the rest of my life. Because, what is life without connections? Who are you supposed to work, laugh, spend time, or love without connections? Not only do connections help you enjoy life, but they can also help you succeed in life. You never know when you’ll need advice or help later on in your career from someone, or when they will need your help. And the more people you know, the more people available to help. This is something I now think about everyday. My Dad has already inspired me to send out a class-wide email (that none of my family even know about) that talks about how we shouldn’t take our parents for granted and how our grade as a whole should come closer together because of how important connections are. It’s something I know he’d encourage me to do if he were here.
Dad didn’t follow the typical “Asian parent/tiger dad” (at least for me). He wanted both Nicole and me to succeed, but he never scolded or yelled at me if I got a questionable test or quiz grade. Instead he’d ask, “What can you do next time?”, “Do you know what you did wrong?”, and for me, that worked. Dad was always more than willing to help me with anything. If I ever asked for anything, he’d always go above and beyond. If I asked him a simple question, he’d somehow turn it into a half hour life lesson. If I was hungry really late at night, he’d always make me food or offer to go out and get food.
We have a room in the house that was full of boxes that had great potential. One day, I suggested we turn it into a rec room, and he was all for it. The next day we spent hours moving boxes back and forth to clear out that room. In these boxes were a bunch of old things from my childhood and even before that. When I’d ask what something was, he’d explain the story/memory behind it and how it ended up here. It’s memories like this one that stick out to me, something that may not seem so memorable, but was. The fact that he always wanted to do something, especially if it was for me or Nicole, no matter how big or small, he really just wanted to do his best for us and make us happy as his kids.
That’s all I feel up to writing right now. I think about you everyday Dad and you inspire me to be and do better as a person. I will miss you eternally and make you proud. You live on through me, Nicole, and everyone else you impacted. You will forever rest in my heart, I love you Dad.
Mother of Children Debbie
I want to share an example that is a testament to Peter and his essence.
He accepted willingly and happily when I asked if he would write one of three recommendation letters for my Master’s program application. He asked that I share this with Nicole and Brandon as it was important to him that they knew that even though we weren’t together that we still cared and that they are a priority.
I will miss him as my parent partner and our almost daily text exchanges regarding the kids. I am scared I won’t be enough for our kids as he did so much for them but I will do my best and, with the support of our families and friends, our village will raise Nicole and Brandon to continue Peter’s legacy of embracing each day with love, curiosity, generosity, energy, and passion.
Not a day will go by when you are not in Nicole, Brandon, and my thoughts. Thank you for all you did for us. We love and miss you dearly.
Dear Nicole and Brandon,
We are extremely saddened to hear of your dad’s passing.
Cindy and I grew up closely with your dad and uncle Andy because our mom, Phyllis and your grandmother are sisters. Our families spent every Christmas together and even summer vacations. We were cousins, but loved and looked up to Peter like our older brother. As a kid, I even wanted to be like Peter and asked my mom to cut my hair like his (a bowl cut—which she did) and then went around my neighborhood and told everyone my name was now Peter.
He was the favorite in our family for many reasons—good looking, popular, tall-ish, interesting record collection... Everyone wanted to spend time with Peter. He would play tennis with my dad and gossip with my mom. Even our grandmother would refer to all of her grandchildren as Peter.
I remember hanging out with your dad a few years ago and him being so proud of you guys. He would brag about how artistic Nicole is and athletic Brandon is. He loved being your dad a.k.a. a tiger dad. His love is still here and will be with you both forever.
Love Amy, Cindy, Aunt Phyllis and Uncle David
Please visit the Guest Book below and leave a Tribute to Peter Hsing. We would love to hear your memories, see your pictures, and read your kind words.
A Message from Peter’s Family
So many of Peter’s friends and family have asked how they may honor Peter’s life and memory by making a contribution to a cause that Peter championed. We are providing two options.
The Entrepreneurship Program at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Peter (Class of 1990) was incredibly passionate about The Entrepreneurship Program, where he served on the Advisory Board and mentored students. For anyone wishing to make a contribution towards this program, please use this link and note that your gift is in memory of Peter Hsing. We hope to establish a named fund in honor of Peter’s memory.
Go Fund Me Honoring Peter’s Life and Memory
Contributions can also be made to a Go Fund Me Campaign as we work to identify and narrow Peter’s other major interests. All gifts will be made to causes and organizations to be determined and detailed at a future date. Anyone wishing to make a contribution towards this purpose, please use this link.
The gallery below is a tribute to Peter from his family and friends.