Amazon is said to be relaxed about Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May setting up what could be seen as a rival motoring brand to “The Grand Tour.”
The trio, alongside their longtime executive producer Andy Wilman, will launch and create content for online community Drive Tribe from November.
Drive Tribe chief executive Ernesto Schmitt said their Amazon contract “specifically carves out the ability for Clarkson, Hammond and May to do this” and the tech giant is “absolutely fine” with the arrangement.
Business Insider has contacted Amazon for comment.
Serial tech entrepreneur Schmitt admitted that the former “Top Gear” team are “going to be very busy men,” but he argued that they are “totally committed and passionate” about both projects.
He spoke to Business Insider after it was announced last week that 21st Century Fox had backed Drive Tribe to the tune of $6.5 million (£4.9 million).
Drive Tribe has also raised $5.5 million (£4.1 million) from private equity firms Breyer Capital, Atomico and individual investors. Breyer is run by Jim Breyer, one of the first investors in Facebook.
Schmitt said it was “fairly unprecedented” to have two backers of this scale before launch, adding that Fox is an “extremely savvy” investor. He would not reveal how much of the business he and his co-founders have relinquished, but stressed: “We remain in control.”
How Drive Tribe will work.
Drive Tribe positions itself as a “digital hub for motoring.” It will host video, articles, social media and interactive content, which will be organised around “tribes” with a unique tone of voice.
Clarkson, Hammond and May will lead “tribes” on the platform, while Schmitt expects to launch in November with “thousands” of other tribes. Racing driver Oliver James Webb, motoring journalist Jethro Bovingdon and Finnish blogger Sara Nase are among those on board.
“We are taking a sector via a channel and augmenting it with a community around the concept of a tribe. A tribe is a group of people, surrounding a leader, rallying around a common cause. That leads to a huge level of engagement,” Schmitt said.
He and a team of 40 of the “world’s best engineers and product designers” are building a “world class” product, at the heart of which will be technology that will use a unique algorithm to serve user-generated content up to each tribe on their social media feeds.
Schmitt explained: “We use the power of the machine to figure out exactly what kind of content fits with what individual. We have invested a lot into machine learning, it is a platform that can have infinite combinations and permutations around who receives what content. It then presents that content where users are without friction, which is primarily on their social media timelines.”
Tribe leaders will create their own content and act as influencers, encouraging members to watch and create content. Clarkson, for example, will host a tribe named “Alfa Male,” while May has a tribe called “James May’s Carbolics.”
Drive Tribe will not monetise its content initially and creators will keep the rights to whatever they make. “In due course,” Schmitt said, the platform will make money by “leveraging native advertising and branded content.”
He argued that the tribal element and the untapped potential of motoring online will differentiate Drive Tribe from similar projects that have failed in the past, such as Lady Gaga-backed Backplane, a community-based platform which crashed and burned earlier this year.
Schmitt said motoring communities are nearly endless — “from drift culture in Tokyo, Women’s Motorcross, to speed racing in Africa” — and there will be competition for clicks and impact between tribes. “You could call it a game of tribes,” he joked, adding that tribe leaders already signed up have a combined 150 million social media followers.
Who is Ernesto Schmitt?
German Schmitt was named as one of the richest young entrepreneurs in the UK by The Guardian in 2000, with the newspaper putting his net worth at £17 million ($22.5 million).
He launched music publisher peoplesound.com and Silverscreen, the UK’s first dedicated chain of movie stores. Schmitt went on to have spells at companies, including Tesco, before joining music giant EMI in 2008 as president of marketing and global catalogue.
Schmitt left EMI in 2010 and one of his most recent ventures was Zeebox, later known as Beamly, with former BBC iPlayer executive Anthony Rose. The app was designed to merge the worlds of traditional TV viewing and social media.
He launched Drive Tribe earlier this year alongside Clarkson, Hammond, May and Wilman.
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