Austin Fowler on The Power of Quantum Computing and Ethical Investing

Austin Fowler Discusses The Power of Quantum Computing and Social Investing on Alan Olsen‘s American Dreams Show., episode 

Transcript of American Dreams interview titled; “Empowering Financial Growth and Social Impact with Austin Fowler“.

Alan Olsen

Hi, this is Alan Olsen and welcome to American communities. My guest today is Austin Fowler. Austin. Welcome to today’s show.

Austin Fowler

Thanks, Alan. Great to be here.

Alan Olsen

So Austin, let’s walk through your journey. Tell us about the data set that brought you up to your year starting in your creation of your current company, Stairway.

Austin Fowler

Well, the thing that actually motivated me to do it was my choice of career. I chose to work in physics. And after 10 years of studying physics, I realized that I was never going to earn very much money in that field. And so I felt the need to start an investment company.

And I wanted to do something a bit different, I really wanted to have an impact on how people save. Getting a more secure return, and how people learn investing in particular. I’m not a big fan of the standard gather in room and shout lots and walk over hot coals approach to teaching investing.

Education doesn’t work that way, it takes years to build the mindset to really work. So our goal was to pay people to learn to invest, give them a secure return, and while paying people showing them how we invest, deal by deal.

Break down those mental barriers until people are comfortable, and really get people going in the right way. And then also to have an impact on the capital raising sphere. A lot of people raise equity, which is expensive, and then you have a lot of pressure to invest for a high return.

That prevents you doing a lot of ethical things, right? If you really want to invest in renewable energy, that’s very difficult to do if you’re raising equity, as you can’t provide people with what they expect. So our model is savings accounts, we provide people with the security of an 8% return.

We find this is a great ecosystem, pay people 8%, teach them how to invest at scale. And then when they’re ready, they can do exactly what we do and get their own clients and scale their own investing. So starting Stairway really came from wanting to do what I really enjoyed doing.

To be clear, 10 years of learning about physics got me a job that I had to travel the world to get. I was told I had a 25% chance of getting work in Australia.

And if I succeeded in that I would have failed because the successful people leave the country and travel the world and prove their worth elsewhere. Success was a $50k a year job in Canada.

So in physics really you’re an artist, you’re doing work that you are passionate about that you’re happy to be up at 2am doing, and you’re not doing it for the money. At the same time in the modern world, if you want a house, if you want a wife and kids, and I have all those things, well, the resources have to come from somewhere. And so tying everything together, I have my business Stairway that lets me grow financially and help other people grow financially, and also have a more positive impact on the world.

I mean, the world needs lots of things, lots of people willing to do what it takes to make those things happen. And a big inspiration for me along this journey has been Opportunity International. They’re a charity I started donating to while I was still a student before I built anything in my career or my business. They have this wonderful, wonderful model, where they go into communities of people that are living right on the brink.

And you know, let’s reflect what does that mean? We live in a world in 2024 when 9 million people starve to death a year. That’s our world. That’s the task that is set before us.

If you want to help people start there, that’s more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. The number one killer on the planet is not war or disease, it’s poverty. People unable to afford to feed themselves.

So this is where I really wanted to devotemy efforts. And they have this way of working where they go into a community, and they work primarily with women because they find these people are more responsible, more industrious, teach them business skills, assemble them in groups of approximately 20, where they all support one another. If one business falls over the others step in and help.

And after providing this business education and making this group of self-insuring people, they take that group to a local lender and educate the lender that this is a safe place to lend.

And by doing that they can take donated dollars, turn them into education, and then turn that education into up to 100 times as much capital in the hands of people that need it and can use it to grow on their own terms.

They have a wonderful motto of providing “a hand up, not a handout”. And so I figured if I can direct more capital in their direction, that’s something worth fighting for.

It’s worth building my career, which I love and building a business on the side which can give me the opportunity to give more opportunity to those that need it. And so this is what powerfully motivates me when it’s two o’clock in the morning, and I’m thinking, why am I doing this? I think, well, because there are people that need it. People that didn’t have the luxury of growing up in Australia spending 10 years at university traveling the world doing physics, these are enormous luxuries, enormous privileges. If I can take that good fortune and spread it as wide as possible, that is what makes me happy each day.

Alan Olsen

I’m gonna switch topics on you here. How did you end up doing research on quantum computing?

Austin Fowler

I was always curious about technology. When I hit University, it was a smorgasbord of learning that I couldn’t stop eating, there was computer science, had to do that, computer engineering, had to do that, mathematics, give me as much as you can, physics, all of it.

And so I overloaded with myself with subjects and did twice the usual course load. I did eight years of work in four. And the net effect of that was that I had options in terms of what I could choose to do.

I tried mathematics. I thought maybe I want to do research professionally in mathematics. I discovered it was a little too risky from a career point of view. I was interested in string theory,

however what your life looks like is most likely you’ll spend 30 years of your life researching a theory that is wrong. There are many competing theories, at most one of which can be right. That didn’t seem to be a good use in my case of my time.

I then looked at physics, early universe cosmology, same deal. Unfortunately, there are many competing theories and at most one of which is right, again you’ll very likely spend three decades of your life researching something that is not true.

But then for whatever reason, in their wisdom, the Australian government decided, you know, we’re a small country, 25 million people, there are cities on the planet with more people than that, we can’t be good at everything, but we’re going to be good at quantum computing. And that was perfect. Computer science, computer engineering, math and physics, thank you very much, I’ve found my calling. Let’s push that. Because it’s practical. You’re building tech, right?

It’s not Ivory Tower, just something for the sake of it. And that, again, on the how I like to spend my time is very important to me. So I’ve been doing that now for 20 years. Quantum computing. It’s a very tough field. It’s probably going to take another 20 years to build a useful device, but with the backing of Google, which is where I work, there is every reason to believe we can do it, we just need to keep pushing the way we are.

Alan Olsen

And how do you find that balance between your research work and growing a business and also family?

Austin Fowler

Sure, it’s a constant work in progress. The number one thing that makes it possible is when we invest, when we build our company, right from the beginning, it’s like, career and family first, these are my passions, the business must always be as automated as possible.

The investments must be as hands off as possible, we have to partner with people. So the kinds of investing that we teach in Stairway they’re not the kind where you’re going to be spending hours every day and your weekends sacrificed to make that investment work.

We focus on identifying responsible stewards of capital, partnering with them, and then being hands off and moving on to the next deal.

So you know, we’d like to think that we teach the skills that are more practical for average people when it comes to investing. Most people don’t want to be a full time investor, they have other things, family and their own careers that they’d much rather be doing.

And so in many ways, I see my busy-ness as an advantage when it comes to scaling. Because we focus only on those kinds of techniques which are hands off and therefore scalable. The kinds of things you can do 100 of and still not lose all your time in the week.

So you know, if it comes to owning a single family home, professional property management is the first thing we have to sort out. If it’s not professionally property managed, we wouldn’t touch it. Commercial real estate, same deal. If there’s not a very professional operator in place, we wouldn’t get started down that path. Renewable energy, same deal. If we can’t partner with a company that’s going to do the work and do the work right, we wouldn’t begin that conversation.

So being busy doesn’t have to be a barrier because sometimes it can be an advantage that stops you getting stuck in all the minutiae of the business in a way that would prevent you from growing further.

Alan Olsen

In today’s ever changing world, what inspires you to keep pushing, when this going gets tough? There is really nothing constant in today’s society.

Austin Fowler

That’s true. But that is part of what pushes me. I work in an industry which has risk. So I need the business personally. And at the same time, I know there are many people around the world that face similar risk, whether it be displacement through war, displacement through environment, you know, there’s a lot of people that need other ways of generating income, and I’m very happy to try to build a business to help them do so.

I’ve had a quantum computing grant shut down by the US government before. We were a team of 200 that was supposed to be funded for four years, but two years in, they said, we’ve got our results, we’re done, and they gave two months notice.

So with a family with three young kids, I’m very powerfully motivated to make sure my business is my very strong plan B. If I don’t get to keep doing quantum forever, then I have something else to fall back on.

And then beyond that, at a global scale, you know, when I look out my window, I see a lot of work that needs to be done. I’d love to be part of the solution, not the problem. And again, that is more than enough motivation for me to keep pushing.

Alan Olsen

Who do you need? Who are you searching for in your network? Who would you like to be hearing your message today?

Austin Fowler

Sure. So there are really two sides of the coin, there are the people that are looking to learn investing, and then there’s people that are already very professional in their investing, we’re interested in both.

If you want to learn, let us teach you, if you already know, well let us give you the framework to share that knowledge, and, from your point of view, get access to the mechanism to raise capital at 8%.

Because that’s what we do, we run a private bank (personally guaranteed debt fund) with the legal infrastructure to share that with others. So you can raise capital at 8%. And that’s a fixed interest loan, interest capitalizing, term forever, and complete flexibility in how you invest it.

So if you’re professional and you’re investing, that should be a very appealing product, because you keep all the upside above, and the product you’re really selling is not the 8% you pay the investors, but the value, the knowledge you provide them.

That’s why people invest with us. So we have both sides. Whether you’re a learner or a professional, we’re very interested in working with you.

Alan Olsen

How does a person find you? Do they reach out to you on your website, is there a website?

Austin Fowler


Alan Olsen

Been a pleasure having you with us today here on American Dreams.

Austin Fowler


Alan Olsen

been a pleasure having you with us today here on American Dreams.

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    Austin Fowler on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Austin Fowler

    Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1976, Austin Fowler began his professional journey in the music industry, teaching piano and leading choirs as both an accompanist and conductor. His career took a significant turn when he completed his PhD in Physics, with a focus on Quantum Computing, from the University of Melbourne in 2005. The following year, he relocated to Canada to contribute to the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing. After a decade of academic research globally, Austin joined Google’s Quantum AI team in Santa Barbara in 2014, where he now serves as a Staff Research Scientist.

    Before venturing into the realm of physics, Austin founded Stairway in 2002, an innovative investment education company that disrupts traditional financial learning. Stairway provides clients with liquid accounts without fees, offering a steady 8% annual return, while transparently sharing investment strategies to achieve higher returns. This unique model pays clients to learn, and as they gain expertise, they’re equipped to raise capital at 8% for their ventures, fostering a new generation of informed investors. Austin’s children are also participants in Stairway’s programs, underscoring his commitment to financial education within his family.

    In addition to his professional accomplishments, Austin is actively involved with Opportunity International, a global nonprofit dedicated to empowering individuals in some of the world’s poorest regions through business training and support. Serving on the technical advisory committee, he contributes to their mission of offering “a hand up, not a handout.” Austin’s vision for Stairway extends beyond financial education; he aims to amplify his positive impact on global communities through increased contributions to Opportunity International and sustainable investment initiatives with partners like Energea, focusing on renewable energy projects.

    Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Alan Olsen

    Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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