We bought back our freedom!

In this month of our ten-year anniversary we are diving deep into our own (her)story and what it is to come.

by tbd* Team, April 18, 2024
Woman, Freedom

So let’s get started.

Fun fact: ten years ago, when we first founded tbd* we were called The Changer. Some of you oldies might remember. For the first three years of our existence, until mid 2017, you would find our job platform and content under thechanger.org*, we ran monthly events - in Berlin and other cities - called The Changer Hangouts, which hundreds of people would regularly attend (and which always involved beer) and, when we changed our name, quite frankly, people were outraged. 

And rightly so. tbd*? What does that even mean? And WHY, for God’s sake? 

For those of you who don’t know (and we don’t blame you), tbd* stands for “to be determined”. We thought it was pretty clever at the time. The phrase has two meanings. On the one hand it means, “still to be defined, the outcome is still to emerge” and on the other hand it means “to keep trying, to not give up”. We loved this double entendre. It signified everything we stood for. 

One: we were working to create a world that did not yet exist: a just, sustainable and inclusive world in which all people can live freely and peacefully.  

And two: we weren’t ready to give up. We were determined to keep going despite being in the midst of the trauma of Brexit (2016) and Trump (2017)** as well as the multiple setbacks, roadblocks and hardships associated with building a social enterprise as three female founders in an economic system designed around patriarchal turbo capitalism.***

Ok, so now you know what it means. But we still haven’t answered the question WHY we changed our name? In fact, we have never spoken about the reason publicly. 

The truth is that we had been looking for impact investors to fund the growth of our company for almost a year, and we were running out of cash. We were exhausted, disillusioned, broke and, above all, afraid. But there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. We had eventually found a small group of impact investors who believed in us and our idea and who were willing to put their money where their mouths were. Then, just before we signed the contract, we received a call: 
“Do you have a trademark on your name”? 
“No… “
“Then I am not going to invest!”

It soon became clear that without him, all of the other investors would back out too...

To cut a long and painful story short: when we couldn’t secure the trademark because another social enterprise already owned it and refused to officially relinquish their rights to sue (because of their own investors), we agreed to change our name. And there you have it. We said goodbye to our name, our shares… and a little part of our soul. 

Why are we telling you this now? Well, it just so happens that - six years later - on the 23rd December 2023, the team was finally able to buy back all of the shares from the investors and clear all of our debts. We bought back our company, and our freedom!

We are grateful to all of our investors for supporting us from the beginning, for sticking with us through tough times (who know, Brexit and Trump were literally JUST THE BEGINNING) and for allowing us, as a team, to buy back the shares for a very small amount. 

Because, honestly, it wasn’t a fit. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that tbd* did not do well as part of shareholder capitalism. That’s the old world and we are building something new. And at some point the pressure, the clashing values and the cognitive dissonance got too much.

So we are giving ourselves one more chance to build the company we think the world needs right now. A world that still does not yet exist (and sometimes seems to be getting further and further away): a just, sustainable and inclusive world in which all people can live freely and peacefully.  

And we might be different people than back then (more on that next week) but we still aren’t ready to give up. We are determined to keep going. (Even though we regularly ask ourselves whether we are completely insane.) 

Check in soon to find out a little bit more about what else is changing, what to expect from us in the near future and how you can support us, if you would like to. 

*If you click the link you will find our current website, we still own the domain

**One of our founders was British and one was American

***A glance into the Startup Monitor 2014 shows that back then only 10% of founders were women. In 2023 it was still only 20%. Only 10% of founding teams are women-only and over 60% are male-only. A 2022 study by the KfW (German Development Bank) demonstrated that out of each euro of Venture Capital invested in Germany in 2021, 91 cents went to all-male founding teams, 7 cents to mixed-gender teams and only 2 cents to start-ups headed only by women. “It's an inconvenient truth, but there is a pronounced gender funding gap in the German VC market,” they concluded. All this despite significant evidence to suggest that female led companies are more profitable than male led companies (and significantly more likely to have a positive social and/or environmental impact).