Start-up World's Biggest, Most Beautiful Mansions

Posh real estate is no longer only in the hands of Hollywood starlets and Wall Street bigs. These entrepreneurs started out scrappy, but now their start-up visions have turned into real castles. These are the coolest homes of some of America's most successful company founders.

Locations: Homes in Maui, San Francisco (pictured here), and (rumored) Los Angeles Prices, combined: $50 million Maui mansion: Thiel purchased a home in Maui for $27 million--the most expensive real-estate sale recorded in the Hawaiian island's history. Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and early Facebook investor, seems to be on a bit of a real-estate spending spree these days. (Continued on next page.)

(Continued from previous page.) In September of 2009, Thiel reportedly purchased a $6.5-million mansion in the Marina District in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2011, he purchased a 1.7-acre, 4,500-square-foot home on the island of Maui for $27 million. And then here's also a rumor--yet to be confirmed--that Thiel bought the $11 million Dave Chasen Residence. It's the historic abode of the Los Angeles restaurateur, designed by Paul Williams, the famous architect known for designing the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Location: Palo Alto, California Price: $7 million Dorm with Zuck: For a brief time in 2010, Zuckerberg put his old house up for rent on Craigslist. "Prestigious location! Charm and functionality!" the According to the Silicon Valley Mercury News, the 5,000 square foot home features a "salt-water swimming pool, music alcove, and a large entertainment pavilion."

Location: San Francisco's Seacliff neighborhood Price: $10 million An unwanted abode?: The home was listed and withdrawn 17 times without selling since 1998. Jack Dorsey, the design-obsessed founder of Square, purchased the two bedroom home with a view of the South Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge in 2012 for $10 million--making it the most expensive two-bedroom home in Seacliff. According to Curbed SF, Dorsey had plenty of work cut out for him when designing the new interior. "Inside, well, a bad moment from the 'eighties," the blog noted. "It doesn't look like anyone's had a really good time there in a while."

Location: Medina, Washington Price: $63 million See it for yourself: For $35,000, you can tour the home yourself. The money is donated to charity. The Bill Gates home is perhaps the granddaddy of all unique, entrepreneur-built homes. The list of amenities could fill an entire catalog of unique real estate quirks, and the home, which has been dubbed Xanada 2.0, even has its own Wikipedia page. Perhaps one of the most unique quirks is Gates' decision to construct an artificial estuary and stream that runs behind the mansion--and has been stocked with salmon and trout. (Continued on next page.)

(Continued from previous page.) The home, which took seven years to build, is perhaps most well-known for its electronic innovation.

Location: Omaha, Nebraska Price: $31,500 in 1958--about $250,000 today. Buffet's billions: Buffett plans to donate 99 percent of his wealth to charity. The Oracle of Omaha's famously modest home has been in the Buffet family for over 50 years. The 6,500 square foot home is valued today at about $650,000, and still has its original 1921 stucco facade. Buffett, the world's third-richest man with about $46 billion in assets, was recently asked why he didn't at least have other, "nicer" homes. "How would I improve my life by having 10 houses around the globe? If I wanted to become a superintendent of housing...I could have as a profession, but I don't want to manage 10," he told the BBC.

Location: San Francisco Price: $16 million From the gold rush to the game rush: The house was originally built by Henry Newhall, a California Gold Rush pioneer born in 1852. Before buying this San Francisco mansion, Marc Pincus sold off two of his other (lesser) San Francisco homes--one for $1.9 million and another for $8.2 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. It was definitely a trade up. (Continued on next page.)

(Continued from previous page.) The Pacific Heighs house, situation on a three-block stretch nicknamed the Gold Coast, comes with seven bedrooms, and six fireplaces on four stories spread over about 11,500 square feet. The house also comes equipped with several perks, including an elevator.

Location: Necker Island, British Virgin Islands Price: Roughly $280 million The roof is on fire: Part of the house burned down in 2011 when it was struck by lightning. Sir Richard Branson is known for his flair, and when it comes to real estate, Branson's house-buying decisions are anything but modest. In 1979, Branson bought Necker Island to be his personal, private island. (Continued on next page.)

(Continued from previous page.) Today, the island functions as a resort to tourists, featuring a spa, golf, personal chef, and even a catamaran with four cabins. The 10-bedroom mansion Branson built atop a hill overlooking the ocean features exotic finishes, like Brazilian hardwoods and bamboo furniture. While Branson doesn't actually live on the island anymore, the mansion can accommodate about 28 people, and rents out for about $53,000 per day for a group that size.

Location: Montecito, California Price: Roughly $50 million What Oprah wants, Oprah gets: The story goes that the house wasn't for sale, but Oprah made an offer the owners couldn't refuse. Oprah's 23,000 square foot Georgian-style mansion sits on 43 acres in Montecito--a small city not far from Santa Barbara along the California coast. The estate, which has six bedrooms and 14-bathrooms, even features a separate tea house on the grounds. "It's my dream, having a place like this," Oprah told Oprah.com. "Some people ask, 'Why do you need more space?' And I tell them, 'I need it to restore myself."

Location: New York City Price: $3.5 million in 2000 Humble beginnings: Corcoran grew up in a 2-bedroom house with 10 kids. Her parents slept in the living room. (Continued on next page.)

(Continued from previous page.) It's not suprising that the queen of New York real estate herself, Barbara Corcoran, has a Manhattan dream apartment a few blocks from Central Park. The 3,500 square foot pad, which she shares with her husband and two teenage children, was purchased in 2000. Corcoran, who founded the the Corcoran Group, a real estate firm, recently put her Pawling, New York country home up for sale for $545,000.

Location: Los Gatos, California Price: $1.125 million in 1987 Woz's playhouse: Wozniak built the house with kid-friendly features, like a cave in the backyard. Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, purchased this Los Gatos home in 1987 for $1.125 million, about two years after Wozniak had already left Apple to start CL9, a remote control company. Wozniak is well-known for his work with kids, and the house--which he sold in 2004--served as the unofficial headquarters for Unuson, a company Wozniak uses to focus his educational and philanthropic efforts, like computer training for local students. According to a 2003 Wired profile of Wozniak, classes for Unuson were held in his three-car garage, which included "computer equipment, class supplies, and unopened cases of Jolt."

Location: Las Vegas Price: Undisclosed Wild side: Hsieh's apartment has a jungle-themed party room. A few years ago, Hsieh had a vision for a revitalized downtown Las Vegas. Now he's putting his money where his mouth is. Hsieh recently announced plans on investing $350 million of his personal funds to accelerate that mission. Specifically, Hsieh told Bloomberg in November that he is allocating about $200 million to developing real estate in downtown Las Vegas, $50 million to funding tech startups, $50 million devoted to arts and culture, and $50 million to education. (Continued on next page.)

(Continued from previous page.) Hsieh recently purchased a three-unit "compound" on the 23rd floor of the Ogden, a luxury condominium in downtown where, according to Sarah Lacy, Hsieh has "all sorts of schematics on the wall for construction projects in progress."

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