Chatting With New York Startup CTO Summit Co-Founder (and Many Other Things!) Peter Bell

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On Thursday, March 13 Gilt Co-Founder and CTO Michael Bryzek will be a keynote speaker at the first-ever Startup CTO Summit: a gathering of CTOs representing some of the Big Apple’s most prominent tech companies. Michael will join Tumblr VP of Engineering Ken Little, MongoDB Co-Founder/CTO Eliot Horowitz, BirchBox CTO Liz Crawford, and many others in presenting on topics related to managing and scaling a tech organization.

One of the CTO Summit’s co-founders is NYC technologist Peter Bell, whose impressive range of meaningful contributions to NYC’s thriving tech culture suggests that he doesn’t need to sleep very much. In addition to being a trainer at GitHub, Peter’s a startup mentor, a Thiel Foundation mentor, a CTO School co-organizer, a New York CTO Club member, an author for Pearson, and an analyst for GigaOm. Earlier this week we asked him to answer a few questions about the Summit and its origins:


What was the inspiration for the summit?
PB: Last month, Lucas Nelson, a Principle at Gotham Ventures, approached me and asked whether I’d be interested in co-organizing a startup CTO summit. I’m fairly involved with the CTO community here as a co-founder of CTO School, a member of the New York CTO Club and and an organizer of CTO groups for Venwise, but I’d always wanted a high quality CTO summit where experienced startup tech leaders would share their experiences. So I thought, “why not create the event that I want to attend"?!

How did you create your list of invitees?
PB: I reached out to the technologists that I wanted to learn from. There is a great combination of CTOs from well-known companies like Gilt, MongoDB and Tumblr, and other technologists who have amazing content to share–even if their companies are less “top of mind,” like Matt Story over at Axial Markets. I was astounded by the response. Within a week we’d filled the entire summit with top-tier presenters, and we even had to extend the day to fit in a couple of last-minute keynotes I couldn’t say no to.

What are the biggest challenges facing CTOs today, and how might the CTOs you regularly talk to answer this question?
PB: Personally I think it all comes down to culture. Your culture affects your ability to attract the right talent, cooperate with the rest of the business, and find and implement the right processes and technologies. The Summit will include sessions focused on process and hiring, but the hard work always relates to building and sustaining the right culture. 

What is the format of the summit, and why?
PB: We kick off with three keynotes–Michael (Gilt), Eliot (MongoDB) and Ken (Tumblr)–to give them some time to tell stories that we can all learn from as technologists. We then focus on three topics: process, culture and hiring. For each topic we include three 20-minute presentations to give different perspectives, and then offer a group panel to allow more audience interaction and drill-down into the topics. We also have plenty of networking time, a special presentation by NYU professor Evan Korth, and an end-of-day, two-hour open bar to finish up and give people an opportunity to share their experiences in smaller groups. We’re also deliberately not recording the presentations, so if you turn up you’ll find out what top CTOs say when the cameras are off :)

Why should CTOs come to this event?
PB: This event has been designed for busy, experienced start-up tech professionals. As CTOs we all get too busy working in our teams to work on our teams. Take a day away from the office, and learn from and network with top startup CTOs who are dealing with very similar issues. The presentations are only 20 minutes long, so it’s going to be a fast-paced conference with lots of content, and the audience will consist of senior tech leaders in startups. We’re skipping the fluff and 101 content and focusing on the surprises and lessons learned by other tech leaders.

Thanks, Peter!

The New York Startup CTO Summit takes place at Inc Lounge and goes from 9 AM to 7 PM. Register at and use the code gilt_discount by Thursday March 6 to get $300 off all ticket prices.

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