Credit card reward programs feel like a joke. They will often promise cash back or a shot at winning a trip to the Super Bowl or Olympics or what-have-you, dangling the possibility of a grand trip that costs just a fraction of their profits. Offering cash back for purchases feels like a consolation prize for choosing a credit card and turning the other cheek when it comes time to view your interest rates. Socialvest is built on the same concept as these reward programs – that users want cash back – but flips it on its head by giving the money earned to non-profits instead of the user.
Launching its iPhone app today, Socialvest, which raised $2 million this May, is combining mobile shopping, philanthropy, barcode scanning, and, for good measure, the kitchen sink. With partnerships in place with over 6,000 retailers – 600 of which are available via this new app – and a database of 1.5 million non-profit organizations, Socialvest is combining the utility of a mobile shopping app with the desire to do good.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that I could pay to Socialvest is to say that it doesn’t require any thought to use. The iPhone app can be used to find a product at any of the company’s 600 partners, offering a price comparison and showing the percentage of the purchase price that will be added to a user’s account if an item is bought. With a barcode scanner, detailed search results and the ability to order an item for in-store pickup, Socialvest is a full-blown mobile shopping app that doesn’t rely on its philanthropic mission to justify its use.
The company had to play an elaborate dance to make sure the cash that customers earn for their donation funds don’t get skimmed by Apple and its 30 percent cut of any transaction within iOS apps. Founder Adam Ross wouldn’t divulge how they managed to skirt the restriction, but says that the app is “fully approved” and that Apple shouldn’t change its mind and decide to remove the app from its App Store.
Other apps avoid the Apple tariff by kicking a user to Mobile Safari, but Ross says that the Socialvest team wanted to make sure everything would work in-app. “If we want to let people donate via PayPal or credit card we’ll have to rethink it,” Ross says, “But in our current structure we’re good.”
Asked if Socialvest was planning on enabling this direct-donations feature in its app soon, Ross replied “We’ve got a lot of dragons we need to slay, and that’s not the one that’s closest to burning down our village.”