A YOUNG entrepreneur from Godmanchester has launched a new business aimed at getting round the embarrassment of finding out if an unfamiliar name belongs to a male or female. Oliver Bridge, a student at Oxford University, hit upon the idea behind Genderch

A YOUNG entrepreneur from Godmanchester has launched a new business aimed at getting round the embarrassment of finding out if an unfamiliar name belongs to a male or female.

Oliver Bridge, a student at Oxford University, hit upon the idea behind Genderchecker.com when he was applying for a job, and was faced with a name he didn't recognise.

"I had to write to someone called Ochuko, and I had no idea whether they were male or female. No one I asked knew either, and I couldn't find out online.

"I thought this must have happened to lots of people, so I decided to try to put together a database of names that people could consult."

The database at Genderchecker.co.uk now boasts more than 48,000 names, and is being added to all the time. It's the result of many hours of research from Oliver, who scoured baby-naming websites from across the world putting together the list, and employed university friends from across the world to check and contribute names from their own cultures.

"The website is a free database, so in terms of a business model, it's not particularly great. I'm not going to be able to retire on this business, I know that," says Oliver.

He hopes the revenue for the business will come from the text service that went live two weeks ago, offering instant reply to name queries from mobiles for 50p each.

"The idea is that business people on their way to meetings will be able to send a text, and get a reply straight away. That's where the business will make money.

"If I could earn enough to be able to pay off my tuition fees, and clear my debts from university, then I'd be happy with that."

Oliver has plenty of ideas for marketing Genderchecker, but has so far relied on word of mouth to spread news of the business. The site has a facility with which users can 'tell a friend' which has so far recorded over 700 recommendations, nearly a quarter of the website's hits.

He sees the site being successful both with business people researching foreign names, but also people newly arrived in the UK, who may be unfamiliar with British names. The website has had hits from New Zealand, Afghanistan and the Philippines in its first month.

So far the entire project has cost just £1500. He thought about using the money to go travelling, but thinks investing the money in his business will prove more useful in the long term.

"University is the ideal time to try to start a business - you have a lot of free time on you hands, a lot of talented people around you to help, and a lot of resources to support you."

Genderchecker.co.uk is not Oliver's first foray into the world of business. As a 15-year-old he set up biggerfeet.co.uk, an online business selling large footwear unavailable in shops.