Car celebrity Richard Hammond talks about launching the DriveTribe startup

DriveTribe, the content startup aimed at motoring enthusiasts, was launched last year by former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May as a new approach to the realm of online community. It was a natural move to leverage their global fame into a new project, off the back of the launch of their new online TV show The Grand Tour, on Amazon Prime — but DriveTribe isn’t just another website about cars.

Instead of acting like a traditional publishing site, DriveTribe has woven social media deep into the infrastructure of what it does. This is a site slightly reminiscent of Pinterest, but with the look and feel of a good-looking publishing site. It features “Tribes” hosted by the three celebrities, along with invited stars, bloggers, writers and videographers, who generate and curate the content.

The startup has now secured a total of $12 million in funding, including a funding round from 21st Century Fox, and was co-founded by serial technology entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt.

I went to meet Hammond to discuss exactly what it is they are trying to do.

Anyone with an interest in cars can gather on DriveTribe, and it’s clearly taking on a massive subject. Others have tried to aggregate the driving-enthusiast community, but he says that as well as harnessing the collective fame of the Clarkson, Hammond and May “brand,” they’ve also built an experience that is highly social.

He says he’s been on a “huge and exciting learning curve” in launching the startup.

He’s also realized that “just because it’s a tech business doesn’t mean it’s distilled down to zeros and ones. It’s still organic. It still has people at its heart.”

He brushes off the idea that conversations about cars will go away once we have driverless cars to ferry us around: “Well that means it’s the most exciting time to talk about cars… driverless cars won’t replace our desire to drive cars… it’s still about display, power, it’s primal… it’s always something we’ll want to do.”