If managing a hyper-growth tech startup in Silicon Valley is like launching a rocket, then the fuel is a mix of venture capital funding and engineering talent. The right group of engineers can thrust a startup to a sky-high valuation – which then attracts even more funding and talent – eventually pushing select startups into billion-dollar orbit.

Last year, we tested this theory by ranking the 10 Most InDemand Tech Startups based on millions of site interactions among Bay Area engineers on LinkedIn — and the results were foretelling. Two months after we published our list, Nicira (#2) was acquired by VMWare for $1.26B.  And over the past year, five more companies on our list (Arista, Box, Square, Palantir, and Splunk) have each grown to more than 500 employees, and are valued between $1B and $5B.

So which startup will be the next billion-dollar rocketship? If attracting Silicon Valley engineering talent is the key, then these 10 startups have plenty of fuel for lift off in 2013…

InDemand Tech Startups 2013 Infographic

Every day, millions of professionals research companies on LinkedIn.  Last year, we developed the InDemand ranking algorithm to translate billions of those research activities into signals that reveal which companies are most attractive to LinkedIn professionals as places to work.  To create the 2013 Most InDemand Startups list, we focused only on LinkedIn site activity between 287,000+ Bay Area engineers (and related roles) and companies with fewer than 500 employees.

By comparing the startups that made this year’s list vs. 2012, we see a few interesting trends emerge:

  • Big Data, Networking & Storage, and Consumer are hot topics. Similar to 2012, Bay Area engineers are still most attracted to businesses that focus on one of these three key areas.

  • Building physical products for consumers is on the rise. In 2012, none of the startups in the Top 10 sold physical products to consumers.  This year, two startups made the list which do just that (Jawbone and GoPro), and three more just missed the Top 10 – Nest Labs (#14), Fitbit (#16), and Lytro Inc. (#17).

  • Engineers prefer Pre-IPO. Seven startups on our 2013 Top 10 list have been featured in recent IPO “Watch Lists” on both Forbes and Fortune.

If you enjoyed this list, stay tuned!  We have more rankings coming your way this year, including our annual reveal of the world’s Most InDemand Employers at Talent Connect 2013.

If you’re interested in launching your career into hyperspace, we’re hiring at LinkedIn! Wicked smart people + enormous sandbox of data = endless opportunities to learn and make an impact. Come collaborate with and inspire some of the brightest people in the industry to create economic prosperity for professionals around the world. Find your dream job: careers.linkedin.com.