4 min read

Arne | Transforming points into life

Arne, a filmmaker turned accidental entrepreneur. With SocialCard, he transforms loyalty points into a charitable currency driven by a desire to help those in need. Inspired by the homelessness crisis, he harnesses technology for real impact.
Arne | Transforming points into life
Arne Nostitz-Rieneck | Founder of SocialCard

Standing in the shade, next to Amsterdams' STRAAT museum, on one of the hottest days in June, I spoke with an unlikely entrepreneur. Arne, a former filmmaker, and accidental startup founder, welcomed me into his world and his vision, a world quite different from the ones he used to create on the silver screen.

"Hello, my name is Arne," he begins, a warm smile spreading across his face. He speaks about his fledgling company, SocialCard. A simple concept – converting loyalty programs into a currency that could be donated to those in need. Arne transformed the idea of cash back into cash forward, hoping to revolutionize how we help each other.

His pitch is simple. Transform the points people accumulate from existing loyalty programs into a currency that can be donated. This means that while shopping, you can help people in need. There is no need to compromise on your own needs; the more you do for yourself, the more you can do for others.

"Instead of giving someone cash, why don't you give them Airmiles? Besides that, Who carries cash nowadays anyways?" he continues smiling.

When a side project becomes the primary project
Arne's journey to SocialCard was not obvious, nor was it planned. His background was in film, a world he inhabited for the past 20 years. Yet, two years ago, his world shifted when he won Creatives Vienna, from the Vienna Business Agency, with his innovative idea of turning loyalty points into a charitable currency.

It was initially a side project, something he worked on during breaks from his hectic film projects. His entry into the startup world was unexpected, but he found himself increasingly drawn to the vibrant, fast-paced, and supportive atmosphere of entrepreneurship. However, a startling reality struck him during a trip to Los Angeles.

Murphy's law

"I was really shocked by how the homeless situation had changed," Arne said, his voice dropping to a somber tone. "It was always a problem, but it had gotten noticeably worse since the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people lost their homes due to rising prices and were forced out".

Even a minor setback could be disastrous for people living paycheck to paycheck. For example, if their car was towed, the cost of getting it back might be too high, forcing them to choose between feeding their family or retrieving their vehicle. They might be late to work multiple times without a car and lose their job. Without a job, they can't pay rent and get evicted. Suddenly, they find themselves living in a tent with their children, with no support system, and barely surviving.

Arne bonded with a lady living near his house with her two small children. He befriended her and learned that minor issues caused their desperate situation. It dawned on Arne that the cashback from loyalty programs from the people living around this family might provide enough resources to house this family. Perhaps even ensure their children's schooling, offer reeducation, possibly granting them the needed mental respite.

A fertile ground as the perfect starter for a charitable company

Arne's comfortable life in Vienna made him profoundly aware of his privilege, especially in light of the hardship he saw around him in LA. He spoke about an accident he'd had while paragliding in France. This serious mishap resulted in a broken back. Yet, unlike many who face medical emergencies, Arne found himself fully cared for due to his excellent insurance. His mind drew a parallel with the homeless in LA – if one of them were to have the same accident, they'd be done for. This stark contrast was a driving force behind his desire to help.

"I always had this feeling that I'm kind of wasting my time on something that doesn't benefit me or others," Arne shared. A part of him was itching to create something of real value, to impact lives directly. And the SocialCard idea, tucked away since the competition, reemerged with new fervor. LA was a wake-up call – the realization that people were struggling just to stay afloat was something he couldn't ignore.

Tech as an instrument

Choosing to use technology to address this issue was about something other than the tech itself, Arne explained. It is about creating an accessible and impactful vehicle to effect change. This isn't about building the next unicorn but about creating a tool that could potentially alter the lives of countless individuals who need help getting back on their feet. Tech is that tool.

We discuss the possibilities and challenges of transforming loyalty points into money for basic needs; energy, food, and safety. Arne explains: "These are straightforward concepts, but reality can sometimes be way more complicated. The technical solution is almost never the biggest challenge".

Living like a river

Much like his paragliding adventures, Arne's journey has been about going with the flow and embracing the winds of change. As he looked back over his journey, I asked him if he could offer a piece of wisdom to his younger self. Arne: "Don't worry so much because it will work."

As our conversation drew to a close, I couldn't help but reflect on the calm confidence with which Arne spoke about his vision. Here is a man driven not by profit or recognition but by a desire to use his unique position to make a positive difference for others.

Arne's journey is a testament to the power of curiosity, the willingness to take risks, and the ability to make the most out of unexpected opportunities. His venture with SocialCard might have started as a passion project, but it has grown into a mission that keeps him on his toes. His story is a gentle reminder that sometimes, the most significant change can stem from many small acts of kindness.

That is not something you see on the silver screen. But it's undoubtedly the silver lining.