But the Icelandic government, concerned by the swaths of land being snapped up by owners with unpredictable plans, is likely to clamp down on foreign buyers by the new year. “Politicians are talking about it every week,” says Gissurarson. “Restrictions are very loose here compared to other European countries.”
For Silicon Valley gurus looking for an outpost closer to home, Canada could be a good option. It is sparsely populated and its tech scene is growing thanks to concerns just over the border about the US president’s immigration policies affecting the ability of US companies to recruit top talent.
“I’ve sold to tech billionaires from Silicon Valley, China and Europe,” says Herbert Ratsch of Sotheby’s International Realty Québec. “The vision for them is off-grid, sustainable living and in Canada you can be completely self-sustained all within driving distance of the big cities.”
In 2013 he sold a 65,000-acre reserve with 70 lakes between Montreal and Ottawa to a small collective of buyers that included Patrick Pichette, Google’s former chief financial officer. The sale was reported to be in the region of C$50m ($38.5m).
Now, Ratsch is selling an 851-acre estate with its own lake — and part of another one — owned by former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve. Listed for C$4.85m, it comes with an off-grid log home and its own sugar shack where, after the apocalypse, the owner can spend their days making maple syrup. The flight time between nearby Montreal airport and Palo Alto is five hours.
Back in New Zealand, one tech entrepreneur is having quite the headache. Kim Dotcom, the German-born founder of Megaupload and resident of Queenstown (where Thiel bought his first New Zealand home), is set to appeal to the country’s supreme court after years of court battles to avoid extradition to the US over his now-defunct file-sharing company.