Austin-based 3 Day Startup has launched a new program that takes its student brainpower inside Austin companies.

Last spring, HomeAway opened its downtown headquarters to 40 students, who spent a weekend creating startup businesses related to the travel industry.

The goal was for them to build something that could ultimately partner or be acquired by HomeAway, which operates the world’s leading network of online vacation rentals.

“We thought it would be great to tap into this hotbed of university talent that is full of new ways of seeing things,” said Ross Buhrdorf, HomeAway’s chief technology officer. “We bought sleeping bags, stocked the kitchen and let them go.”

The HomeAway weekend was the first time that 3 Day Startup partnered with a company, with the mission of starting new companies related to its business. Now the organization is planning to do a company event once a semester, and is in talks with future participants, said Cam Houser, CEO of 3 Day Startup.

At HomeAway, students, who were chosen through an application process, got a crash course from company executives on the $85 billion vacation rental industry, and discussed a wide range of possibilities for new companies before zeroing in on a half dozen.

Buhrdorf said several promising ideas emerged, including an online widget that would show local events that are in proximity to a specific vacation rental listing, and another for a bridal registry in which wedding guests would contribute to a honeymoon vacation rental.

“We’re hoping they’ll take what they learned and get real businesses off the ground,” he said.

HomeAway paid for the event and won’t take an equity stake in any company that might result from the weekend.

“For us, the benefit is having more products, more satellite companies, surrounding us, because it creates a better experience for our customer,” said Buhrdorf, who plans to host another 3 Day Startup event this year.

(c)2012 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by MCT Information Services.