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Jeremy Clarkson and ex-Top Gear gang bag $5.5m for digital media venture DriveTribe

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The three presenters are part of a founding fivesome that also includes ex-Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman and serial entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt, who has previously launched DVD retailer Silverscreen and social network Beamly (previously Zeebox).

Kings Cross-based DriveTribe will launch in the autumn and create original content for a global audience of car lovers, comprising video, articles and interactive media, in hope of building like-minded online community.

The various forms of content will be broken down into “tribes” that will come with different characteristics. As such, writers, bloggers, videographers and guest stars will be invited to generate content and host their own tribes – something Clarkson, Hammond and May will all be doing.

The $5.5m Series A investment was provided by Breyer Capital, which has invested in the likes of Facebook, Student.com and Marvel. Atomico – where Schmidt is a member of the extended team – also contributed to the round, building on previous investments in LendInvest, Hailo, Rovio and Skype.

“The backing of proper, serious grown-ups like Breyer and Atomico confirms our confidence that we’ve hit a real nerve with DriveTribe. And the huge flood of submissions from content-makers wanting to lead their own tribes tells us we’re definitely not alone,” said Hammond.

“Of course Jeremy is convinced his tribe will be bigger than everyone else’s, and James reckons he’ll easily be beaten by the Austin Allegro Appreciation Tribe. But they’re both mad. Hammond’s Fob Jockeys will be bigger than both.”

Some 2,000 requests to host tribes have been received already, inclusive of “the world’s biggest motoring names, commentators and content creators” to collectively boast some 150 million followers overall.

Read more on developments in the car sector:

Give the global focus, the platform will use “A highly advanced technology stack” inclusive of artificial intelligence to push relevant content to users, whether that’s women’s motorcross, F1 or NASCAR.

According to Schmitt, the founders noticed huge potential for digital motoring content and pointed to some 400 million motoring fans on Facebook alone.

“In spite of motoring’s near universal appeal across a diverse range of audiences, not one of the Top 500 web destinations is dedicated to cars. DriveTribe will change that by not only helping to create and house original content from thousands of creators around the world, but also by using technology and artificial intelligence to optimise that content for specific audiences,” said Schmitt.

Jim Breyer, founder and CEO of Breyer Capital, added: “The media landscape is undergoing a rapid transformation as traditional distribution methods fade in dominance, while the barriers between creators and consumers simultaneously breakdown.

“In this new media world, the ability to facilitate audience engagement on a global scale is key to success and I look forward to collaborating with the DriveTribe team whose combination of creative and technical excellence will help them create the premier next-generation automotive media platform.”

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