MyGoToNumber: Exceptional CEO Makes App For Everyday People

11/7/13Follow @XconomyDET

MyGoToNumber co-founder and CEO Paul A. Turner III was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, to American parents, but he grew up in Detroit—and, as he recalls, most of its suburbs. “I’ve lived just about everywhere in Oakland County,” he says. “I never went to the same school district for more than two years.”

He was raised by his mother, who eventually hit some bumps in the road. As a result, Turner spent part of his childhood in a homeless shelter. His mother is white and his father is African American, which sometimes presented other challenges. “Culturally, it was very tough to assimilate,” he explains. “But the pro was that I was able to have quality experiences with lots of people from up and down the socio-economic chain.”

Turner, the first person in his family to attend college, got his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and went out of his way to take advantage of every opportunity offered to him: He studied abroad, did an internship with the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, did social justice advocacy work, and was the first director of education policy for the Associated Students of the Michigan State University Academic Assembly.

After college and a stint working for U.S. Representative Gary Peters (D-Detroit), where he interacted with a lot of constituents negatively affected by the Great Recession, he wanted to use his education and skills to do consulting work to help community activists and organizations win grants. That led to his being named director of a homeless shelter for women and children in Pontiac, MI—the first male director in the shelter’s history.

Then, a couple of years ago, he found himself in search of his next career step. Though only in his mid-20s, he had fulfilled his dream of using his college degree to help people, so he decided to attend law school. He had opportunities in Wisconsin and California, but he chose to stay in Detroit and go to Wayne State University Law School with the goal of learning new skills to help disadvantaged members of the community while being an active participant in the city’s comeback.

These days, as if he wasn’t busy enough as a second-year law student, he’s also preparing to pitch his startup, MyGoToNumber, for the first time to a crowd of investors. MyGoToNumber is a semi-finalist in the collegiate portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Taking place Nov. 12-14 in Detroit, Accelerate Michigan is arguably the state’s biggest annual business plan competition, with more than $1 million in cash and in-kind services at stake.

Turner is deliberately a little vague when he describes how his company’s ContactPal app works, and that’s because he and his four co-founders believe they’re charting brand-new territory and have drafted provisional patent applications to protect their technology.

What he will say is that ContactPal app users can remotely access numbers saved … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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