A Myaka is a critically endangered fish species from the Cichlidae family. That was one tantalizing tidbit I learned when researching this California-based startup of the same name.

Assuming you’re more interested in tech than marine life, MyAKA is a service that lets users (just the USA for now) sign up for a second mobile phone number in their local area code. If you break it down, there’s actually a clue as to what this product does in the name – AKA: Also Known As.

“We protect users’ real number on incoming and outgoing calls and enable features such as do not disturb and contact blocking – and unblocking – via text message,” says MyAKA president and CEO John Skorick. “No apps or downloads are required, and we also offer a free 7-day trial for users to evaluate whether they have a need for the service.”

So, MyAKA is a privacy protection service that allows users to attain a spare mobile number. You can then dish out this number when you’d rather not reveal your true phone number. It functions in the same way as a normal mobile number, letting you send text messages or place calls from this ‘alias’ number.

“We have a wide range of customers from online dating to professionals such as hairdressers and attorneys,” says Skorick. “The do-not-disturb feature is especially popular with professionals, as it allows them to essentially turn the number off without having to turn their phone off in the event of a family emergency. Naturally, the privacy aspect is the most important piece for all demographics.”

How it works

No second SIM card, no apps…so how does MyAKA work?

When you sign up to MyAKA, you’re assigned a secondary MyAKA number from your local area code. You can then give this out to whoever you like, and when that person calls or texts this is then forwarded to your real number. Now, that in itself is the easy part – but to be able to let users make calls and send texts via their pseudo-number with ease, this is there MyAKA is really trying to sell its service.

MyAKA How it works 520x185 MyAKA gives your phone a second number, no apps or new SIM needed

“In order to support this function we assign a unique number – ten digits with a 720 area code – to every MyAKA contact,” says Skorick. “A contact is then deemed a ‘MyAKA Contact’ by the user in two different ways.”

They simply give their MyAKA number to someone and the first time this person contacts them, the call or text will come from a new 720. The second scenario is when a MyAKA user wishes to initiate the first contact with another party.

“In this case, they simply text the other person’s number to their MyAKA number and the system instantly responds with a 720 for that contact,” says Skorick. “In either case, the MyAKA user saves this 720 number as the phone number for the contact and in doing so, calls/texts are routed through this number and their MyAKA number is displayed on the caller ID.”

So, while a MyAKA user is assigned a number in their local area code, any contact they wish to connect with via their MyAKA number, is assigned a 720 number. They don’t know they’ve been assigned this number, only the MyAKA user does. But why 720?

“We always use 720 so that MyAKA users recognize this, and when they’re called from a 720 they don’t recognize, they are able to determine it is someone that they’ve given their MyAKA number to,” explains Skorick. “The MyAKA user saves this 720 number in their contact list and call or text it just as they would any other number, but in doing so we display their MyAKA number to the other party, not their real number.”

Additional privacy features such as pause/resume and contact-blocking can also be controlled simply by sending a text message to your own MyAKA number. “In the case of a text-based conversation, a user can also be blocked by simply responding to their text with ‘block’,” adds Skorich. “But we also support unblocking in the event of ‘blocker’s remorse’.”

What’s the damage?

MOney 520x211 MyAKA gives your phone a second number, no apps or new SIM needed

As noted by Skorick, they are offering a 7-day trial which gives you 50 texts and/or minutes for free. However, once the trial period expires, it will set you back $29.99 a month for 500 texts and/or minutes.

These text/airtime allocations count for both inbound and outbound communications, and at the time of writing there isn’t an option for selecting just inbound, “Although that is an interesting idea,” concedes Skorick. “I’ve had customers write to me asking to use the service for something such as RSVP-ing to a party – this may be a good example of where someone would only require inbound.”

Once a user has signed up for the trial, they can adjust their membership to cover other packages of their choice, which are priced based on usage. “Pricing is something I play with a great deal and I’m actually in the process of evaluating a significant reduction, including removing the markup for the ‘call’ addition,” says Skorick.

Location, location, location

MyAKA is currently available to US customer only, though we’re told that it’s looking to launch internationally in the future, though there are a number of challenges.

The roadblocks that make it difficult for services such as MyAKA to roll-out internationally are numerous, it seems. “We have faced everything from countries not wanting to allocate blocks of phone numbers outside of their preferred partners, to nearly having a ‘live’ solution in a particular country, but then system changes make all of our previous efforts essentially useless,” says Storick. “Another issue with a number of countries is that in much of Europe and Australia, for example, there is a completely different format for landline and mobile numbers. The primary issue we are having, however, is that the mobile numbers are restricted to the carriers who have mobile licenses and they make it extremely difficult, and expensive, to work with them.”

A neat idea for sure, and one that I’d like to see take-off elsewhere in the world, starting in Europe.

Meanwhile, if you like the idea behind MyAKA, you may also want to check out SquadMail which lets you create temporary email addresses within your main email account, letting you dish them for one-off events, so that your main inbox stays clear of spam and other unsolicited messages.

MyAKA