MGU 294 | Male Fertility

We typically don’t think about fertility until our 30s or when we’re actively planning to conceive. What people don’t know is it’s a numbers game, and you need to be thinking about this at a much earlier stage than most people do because you don’t know how things will turn out. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen talk with Khaled Kteily, the CEO of Legacy, a digital fertility clinic for men helping change the outdated view that fertility is a “women’s issue.” Khaled shares the core, motivation, and intention he had into diving into this business. He also shares his personal story on wanting to be a dad but being scared at the same time. Everyone thinks about having a family, but not everyone chooses to and can. Whether or not you’re ready to have kids, this episode is a must-listen to help you make the choice!

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Spermageddon: The State Of Male Fertility With “Sperm King” Khaled Kteily

One of the most fun and wonderful parts of doing this show is the pre-show banter with our guests because I always feel like that’s a way to energetically take someone’s temperature. We are not taking Khaled’s temperature. That would be maybe a little invasive for meeting someone for the first time. Maybe when we do meet but we are energetically taking each other’s temperature.

We were talking about the subject of manifesting and the correct pronunciation of your name because we always want to make sure we honor pronunciation here on the show. You mentioned some interesting manifestation you’ve got going on. Our guest, Khaled, is the CEO of Legacy. We are going to talk a lot about fertility, health, parenthood and a lot of things. Before we dive into all that with this brilliant man, you mentioned you want to manifest a Netflix Special ala Tiger King called Sperm King. You already have the celebrity connections with the round of funding you nailed. Dive into that. What is your vision for Sperm King on Netflix?

“I used to make fun of people who ate organic, but now I'm that person.” Click To Tweet

I will start by saying Mercury’s in retrograde now. Take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. I am a big believer that you have to tell the world what you want, and if you have built up enough good karma over the years, the world will eventually give it to you. People say that you have to bend the world to your will, which I believe because the world is very comfortable in the inertia and the stasis that it has but with the right people, support, and ideas, the world is much more likely to open up for you as opposed to you having to force your will on it. I’m a big believer in good karma and telling the world what you want.

Years ago when I was signing up for Instagram because I’m that old now, I picked the handle, @DJNotKhaled because I have grown up for better, for worse in the shadow of this very illustrious man, DJ Khaled and I felt like this is a way to make sure that I was connected to him eternally. At the time I said, “Someday, I’m going to do something with my brother from another mother, DJ Khaled.”

We announced a celebrity round of funding for my company Legacy that included Justin Bieber and Orlando Bloom, The Weeknd, and DJ Khaled. I’m excited about them. That was the day that I knew that I had made it in life. I’m here to verbalize my next manifestation, which is there are two Netflix shows that everyone watched during the lockdown. There was Indian Matchmaking. I’m not on the lookout for that anytime soon, and the second was Tiger King. I want to say to the world that there be a Netflix special called the Sperm King, and I will be one of the stars.

What do you envision as being featured in the Sperm King? Let’s dive into that. Would you go so far as to change your social handles to @TheSpermKing? It’s a bold move. Talk about manifesting.

I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready yet because my aunts, uncles, distant friends, acquaintances, and people I met at a bar one time send me sperm articles, “I heard about this great ejaculation. I thought of you and I want to send this to you via WhatsApp.” Not even signaled and encrypted. I’m already getting a lot of that. I will one day have to adapt to that handle. I’m not there yet emotionally.

The timing of your appearance here on the show is interesting for a lot of reasons because I feel like in my personal life, there has been a higher occurrence and frequency of conversations around fertility and pregnancy. The second of which occurred, my mother who lives in Detroit, we were talking about the prolific fertility of my grandmother, Rose, and how many children she had, which I believe was 8 and she lost 1 of them right after birth.

I never knew this but the interesting thing was my grandmother had her first child at 18 and her last child at nearly 46 years old, which to me, I was like, “I knew my grandmother was prolific in terms of her birthing skills but what a span 18 to 46.” What this brought up to me and what I want to present to you and I know Legacy, we focused on sperm health, preservation and male fertility. It immediately struck me that my grandmother at nearly 46 years old, a few months shy of her 46th birthday had a healthy thriving baby boy who is now my favorite uncle, Bill.

What were some of the myths? To me, age, while there is obviously some specific biological link to fertility exhausting itself, it made me think what are some myths or perhaps over-hyped concerns in our society regarding male and female fertility. What’s true and what are some things where you are like, “That’s not exactly true?”

MGU 294 | Male Fertility

Male Fertility: Over the years, you will notice that depending on what’s happening in your life, the viscosity of your semen will change.

 

The first is very little is over-hyped when it comes to fertility. It’s an industry that is largely underhyped. What I will say is what people underestimate at all ages is that it is a numbers game. You think back to sex-ed or what you learned about sexual health when you were growing up. A lot of it was about, either abstinence or contraceptive use, and it was this idea that, “One mistake, one time you don’t use a condom and one time something breaks and then pregnancy.” This is what we were all trained or what we all grew up thinking.

The reality is very different. You take a look at demographic trends in the US, the median age has gone up meaningfully over the last many years. People are meeting each other later. They are choosing to move in, get married and have kids later. You look at the number of women who are now having their first child, there are more women in the 31 to 35 age range having their first child versus the 26 to 30 age range. This is a reflection of the ways in which we are moving as a society. What this means is by the time you are actively trying to conceive with your partner, the numbers and the odds have gone down.

Take a heterosexual couple, you have a man and a woman who’s older and less fertile, and this translates to three things. The first is it is going to take you that much longer on average to have kids. It’s a numbers game. It’s no longer that you are going to start trying to conceive with your partner and then pregnancy happens. It can often take 6, 7, 8 or 9 months. In fact, for about 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 couples, it takes them twelve months or longer to be able to conceive, and this is the medical definition of infertility, which means you have been actively trying to conceive for twelve months or longer.

Think about that, 1 in 6 or 1 in 7. Everyone that I talked to knows someone who has gone through infertility. It’s stigmatized, hidden and a medical issue that people don’t love talking about. It’s like hemorrhoids. Who wants to tell anyone that you have hemorrhoids? Infertility is similar in the sense that you don’t want to tell someone that you are unable to conceive. I often think about this one couple that we spoke to, who had been trying to conceive for a certain number of months hadn’t been working. It had been at least six months and the female partner said, “Every month that I get my period is a physical representation of our failure to do the one thing that we were put on this planet to do.” It’s heavy.

The older a couple is, the more likely they are to take a long time to conceive. The more likely they are to face a miscarriage. Again, something that people don’t talk about is extremely common. It’s the reason why you typically don’t tell friends until you have been pregnant for at least three months because miscarriages are so often. Finally, you are more likely to have a child born with a congenital condition like autism. You look at the rates of autism among older dads, and you are talking 40 plus versus 30 or younger, and you are 5 or 6 times more likely to have a child born with autism.

It’s coming from a small base but on a relative basis, it’s a lot higher. There are a lot of other congenital conditions that can occur. As you get older as a man, the number of genetic mutations or the DNA damage that you carry in your sperm goes up over time. To bring it back to your question, what people don’t know is it’s a numbers game, and you need to be thinking about this at a much earlier stage than most people do.

“We need to start a campaign called SOS (save your sperm)” Click To Tweet

We typically don’t think about fertility until our 30s or when we are actively planning to conceive. The reason that I say it’s under-hyped, not over-hyped is that for men, in particular, we don’t know this. We look at Mick Jagger and think, “That guy had kids in his 70s.” We are like, “Mick Jagger is our number one enemy as a company,” because people look at him and say, “I’m going to be fine,” but they don’t know about the risks that I described.

It comes down to this idea that it’s a numbers game. It’s a probabilities game. You don’t know how things are going to turn out but I can tell you with extremely high confidence that it’s not going to be what you learned in high school. It’s very rare to be the first time you are trying to conceive with your partner that you get lucky. The final point I will make here is, in some circles, these are known as unicorns, which are successfully achieving pregnancy in your first month of trying because it’s so rare.

It’s funny because the friends of mine who did seem to have an easy time almost use it as a bragging right.

They are so fertile.

I don’t mind. I personally have not tried, so it hasn’t been a concern of mine because I don’t know what it’s like to try over and over again. On the other hand, I have had some friends who struggled to conceive. I could feel that energy that you are describing of this frustration, feeling like a failure and wanting something. Observing the different spectrums of it plus my own spectrum, which is feeling unattached. I’m more of this thought process at this time in my life that if it happens, it happens but it’s not like a huge deal for me. I’m very fascinated by all the different levels of this because some people seem to want to have children and they are actively working towards it. They are inviting it.

Some people are very thoughtful about it and seem to be like, “This is what you do.” They are moving forward with what they have been thinking about since a kid or how they were raised. Some people maybe are more on my side of the spectrum, which is like, “If it happens, it happens,” and then there are people, which Jason falls into this category, at least the last time we spoke about it. It feels like it has been shifting a lot for you. This is a good time for an update, are you for the most part have seemed you don’t want to have kids but it seems there’s still a part of you that’s considering it. It’s a no way, never going to happen thing. It seems you have always been leaving a little bit of room in the case. Is that still true?

Yes. Having this conversation with Khaled, I need to get a home testing kit and see what my DNA looks like because I’m at this age and I have prided myself to your point on keeping myself healthy, working out and eating organic. We are both plant-based.

You look fantastic, by the way. I’m shocked to hear that you are at that age.

I appreciate that. I shaved and it took ten years off. I had like the Grizzly Adams beard going and once that came off, my girlfriend was like, “I’m dating jailbait now. Great.” At this age, to back up Whitney’s lead question here, other than aging, we talk about the damage and the damage to sperm, and what affects our fertility.

It makes me curious maybe it’s because of the way that I have clicked on too many conspiracy theories on my Instagram and Facebook algorithm but I do see a lot of articles popping up about things like 5G, keeping your cell phone in your pocket too close to your testicles, the Xenoestrogens in a lot of the plastics that leach into our food. How do we separate what might be over-hyped and fear-mongering conspiracy talk versus what is damaging male sperm? Could you speak to that a little bit?

I want to start by making a quick comment on the concept of parenthood because it’s something we talk and think a lot about. I do see myself as being a husband and a father as I get older. What people will typically say when it comes to parenthood in men, in particular, they often describe it as an inevitability. That’s fascinating. Everyone thinks about having a family. Not everyone chooses to and can but everyone asks themselves the question like, “Do I want kids?” This stems from a fundamental narcissism, which is, “What are kids?” Kids are a combination of the two things you love the most in the world, the person, your significant other or the person you have chosen to marry and yourself. Weirdly, having kids is a form of narcissism that you are bringing into the world.

I have never heard that in my life, and that’s a bomb tweet right there.

I’m writing that down and I’m glad that you said that because it’s controversial. Also in my head, I was like, “If we put out that phrase, some people would be frustrated or angry out of context,” but I personally agree with that for the most part. This is what I was implying what I have observed. Again, this is all observation, not personal experience and a bit judgy. It feels like there are a good number of people who choose to have kids for themselves, not for the kids.

MGU 294 | Male Fertility

Male Fertility: This is going to be a massive multi-billion-dollar industry. It’s a no-brainer for every man. If you don’t do it, then someone else will.

 

It’s like, “I want to do this because this improves my life.” I’m constantly thinking but you are bringing a human being into this world that’s not you, not for you and it’s not about you. Another thing I have heard from a lot of parents is that when they have kids, they realize life is less about them. Maybe, in a way, it supports them in becoming less narcissistic or amplifies it depending on the parent.

A lot of couples have kids for the wrong reasons, and two in particular that I’m thinking of is either they have reached the rocky period in their relationship, and they feel like having kids will strengthen in cement the bond that they have together. We hear about this quite often. The other is feeling they have to have kids because that’s what society expects of them.

I do think the no kids movement has been an overdue pushback to this concept that you need children to be functioning adults in our society. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing not to have kids. The most important thing is that you are the person making the choice, and in an ideal world you have chosen to preserve your fertility. You froze your eggs, sperm or what have you, and you have done it when it’s younger, it’s healthier, so the choice is still available to you, and then you have the freedom to decide whatever it is that you wanted.

We hear from a lot of folks who didn’t want to have kids until they met someone special, and then for the first time in their lives, they felt, “I cannot wait to bring beautiful children into this world, with the person that I love so much.” There are good and bad reasons why people choose to have kids but I am a big believer that having the freedom to choose how and when to have a family is so important. You don’t ever want that to be taken away from you.

You were asking me, Jason, about DNA damage and chemicals that I have so many thoughts on this. I will start at a biological level, which is sperm, unlike eggs, is continuously produced by men. Whereas women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. That means you are continuously producing sperm, which creates more opportunities for you to have DNA or genetic mutations.

Men produce genetic mutations that are four times faster than women at a rate of approximately once every eight months. What that means is that as you get older, you are going to have accumulated more DNA damage. The majority of which has benign mutations but cancer is a form of mutations that occur, and that proliferate very quickly within the body. That’s where the genetic risk enters because we are constantly producing sperm and there’s DNA damage that accumulates over time.

What’s causing all of this? Sperm counts and sperm concentrations have gone down by 50% to 60% over the last several years. That means that I am about half as fertile as my dad or granddad would have been at my age. You see a similar decline in the level of testosterone levels. Men have approximately half as much testosterone as they did several years ago.

You look at those two things and you think to yourself, “Clearly, something unnatural is happening because this has happened way too quickly for it not to be a function of something that is manmade.” You start looking around yourself, you say, “What might be the because of it?” Dr. Shanna Swan launched a book called Count Down where she talks about the sperm count declines and some hypotheses on why this is happening.

There is no grand, malicious conspiracy theory. Click To Tweet

This was picked up by Joe Rogan and many others, part of the reason why he got so much airtime is there’s a theory that penis sizes may be getting smaller as a result of the chemicals that we are exposed to. If you want men’s attention for anything, you tell them their penis might get smaller and you will have their full attention like, “Tell me everything I need to know.” I will tell you my conspiracy theories but I will start with the more scientifically validated evidence. In particular, any hormone or chemical that has endocrine-disrupting, Phthalates, for example, which you find in a lot of plastics, are known to have negative effects on our health.

They can be carcinogenic. They can lead to types of cancer. The most important thing to know is phthalates are very bad for you, and they have been known as forever chemicals because they can stay with you forever. There’s even talk about forever chemicals being passed on to your kids. In a world in which you have too much chemical exposure that may even be passed onto your kids.

Where are these coming from? The walls around you are painted with paint. When you step into the shower, the shower curtain has been treated with all kinds of chemicals. When you get a receipt from an ATM, that has been covered by all of the ink that comes from the banknotes and the various chemicals. I’ve got mine too, to make sure that I get as much DNA damage as possible.

You think about, “The food that I’m eating and the drinks that I’m drinking.” Food gets treated with pesticides and herbicides. This then comes into the food we are eating, and when you think about the laundry detergents that get onto the clothes that we are wearing all day are treated with chemicals. This is very scientifically validated. I will manifest something else. I used to make fun of people who I would call hippy-dippy, for wanting to be organic everything and so on, and I roll my eyes. I am now that person. I only shop at Whole Foods. I go organic, fragrance-free, chemical-free, and all of this stuff because the evidence is so clear that something wrong is going on with the chemicals we are exposed to.

What is shocking to me in the US, which is a very unregulated country relative to the rest of the world, there is no concerted effort to prevent these chemicals from entering into our products. Every product should be tested for these endocrine disruptors, and this should be something that you get, the same way you get calorie counts. You should know chemical counts. I’m a believer that we need to start a campaign called SOS, Save Our Sperm. Do I already own the URL for it? Maybe. There can be, should be, and will be a campaign against this but it’s going to take time because people don’t know this stuff is harmful.

I will transition from the more scientifically validated evidence to my own pet conspiracy theory. Imagine a world where you are surrounded by cellular reception. Take a look at these things. Where do you keep your phone? You keep it in your pocket and by your bed. You sleep next to it. You think about it, it’s got Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, 5G, and however many Gs you want. It’s pinging everything around you all the time. How on Earth is it possible that this is not even slightly bad for us?

I will be very clear here. This is a pet conspiracy theory. I personally believe that A) The increase in cancer rates over time is in part due to the cell phone exposures that we have. B) Just as cigarettes had a ton of studies funded showing that they weren’t that bad for your health, I don’t like to use the phrase big anything because you sound like a nut job but big cigarette didn’t want you to know that they were pretty bad for you.

They funded a ton of studies showing that they were fine. Coca-Cola did the same thing with our soft drinks. The same is happening with cell phone radiation. It’s not a massive leap of faith to think that these things that are emitting radio frequencies 24/7 might not be good for us. I personally am convinced that this is bad for us, and that it’s part of why people are getting sicker over time.

I don’t know that I want to open up this Pandora’s box but I am because we have a lot of ground to cover. Some people purport that these chemicals, phthalates, pesticides, herbicides, BHT and DDT could have a million different acronyms. The cell phone radiation, the 5G, and all the things are done knowing that this is some eugenics initiatives and that some people on the planet may or may not want to engage in some population control.

MGU 294 | Male Fertility

Male Fertility: Bringing a child into this world and instilling and imbuing them with the values that you want to see in the world is one of the most beautiful things that you can do.

 

I don’t know that I want to dive down that rabbit hole per se but is there a concern for you and your colleagues in your company that there could be rampant sterilization of humanity in the next 30, 40, 50 years? Is that part of the reason why you started this company to hopefully continue the ability for us to proliferate the human species? Is that too heavy-handed and is that not a concern for you? I’m curious about the long tail for you with this conversation.

I will start by touching on what you were saying before, this idea is if there’s a worldwide conspiracy theory. The reason I feel qualified to talk about this is that I am part of that conspiracy theory. I spent two years working at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. People know Geneva for lots of reasons, great trains, chocolate and banking privacy.

It’s a very discreet and private country. I loved living there. The organization that I worked for organizes Davos. Davos is known for being the most secretive, elitist in a way, difficult to access conferences in the world. The leading Heads of State and CEOs from around the world will fly into this mountainous town in Switzerland to attend Davos for a few days.

As one of the organizers, I attended for a couple of years. What I learned is something very simple. There is no grand malicious conspiracy theory. It’s much banaler than that. It is that people are following their own incentives, and when everyone follows their own incentives, you end up with what are effectively externalities.

Nobody is saying, “I want to go out and poison the world with my chemicals.” I don’t think there’s a single person who is saying, “I want to sterilize the world.” It is simply a by-product of the fact that companies don’t get measured on this. They don’t get negative press around it. There are no reporting and regulatory requirements. It’s not something you prioritize. My view has been, even at these elite, closed-off conversations and I have been in conversations with Heads of State with some of the leading CEOs in the world, and they are talking about the same things that one of us is talking about. Maybe at a higher or a bigger level.

I don’t think there’s a worldwide conspiracy theory. I want to say that I at least have had some exposure to it over the past years of my life. When it comes to, “Are we reaching a sterilization?” There’s a word that I like, which gets overused or overdramatized but it’s the word spermageddon. I will make some more scientific points after this. If you extrapolate the decline in sperm counts and concentrations for the past years, and you extend that over the next 40 to 50 years, we will eventually reach what’s known as sperm count zero. A world in which men are not producing sperm anymore.

The reality is things don’t work that cleanly. It’s unlikely that we as a species would ever stop producing sperm. Scientific advances like something called gametogenesis where you can create sperm out of skin cells. That’s a whole other topic. It’s not that far away, believe me. My point here is, there is a very meaningful decline. It’s unlikely that we as a species will be unable to reproduce any time soon but it is worrisome when you look at the trends. For me, it’s worrisome because I’m thinking, “Something is clearly going wrong for this to be happening. How can we stop it, prevent it and slow down that decline?” That is where we should be focusing our efforts.

I don’t think there’s eugenics, at least not on a grand scale or not on something that would be talked about openly. I’m sure there are some extremely racist people out there. Let’s also be honest, we are overpopulated as Earth. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we were fewer people. I don’t think anybody anytime soon is going to say, “We need to genocide a certain percentage of the population to do so.”

One of the things I was thinking of as you were sharing this, and also knowing that you believe that IVF could be the norm in the future, made me think about The Handmaid’s Tale, because when you hear some of these things, at first you are like, “That’s crazy because I know plenty of people who are not struggling with fertility.” You see and think about these things and it doesn’t seem that farfetched. For those that have read The Handmaid’s Tale or have watched the show, it’s a huge focus of it.

A lot of people have also said that when they watch that show or read that book, they feel horrified by the state of the world. Granted, the conditions of that are also based around an extremist religion, and having children is a huge reason for it and what they are doing with the kids and all of that. I suppose that it could come to a point where it’s rare that people can have children. Is that something that you believe? Is it going to get that extreme?

Here’s what I believe will happen and I say this with a reasonable degree of confidence. Take a look at countries like Denmark and countries that subsidize IVF for their populations. The United Arab Emirates does this as do other countries. In Denmark, about 1 in 10 babies are born through IVF. Why is that? One of them is that you are not paying a ton out of pocket. We all know that IVF is fairly expensive and that’s the main hurdle to people doing it but there’s a secondary benefit that people overlook.

When you are using IVF, you can do pre-genetic screening or diagnosis, some form of genetic testing to screen out embryos that are going to have negative genetic traits. You can’t screen for Down Syndrome but there are many very severe diseases, which any parent would not want their child to have that you can screen those embryos for.

Now you are more likely to have a healthy baby. When you ask people, “What do you want for your kids? What do you want for the pregnancy?” That’s the word they use always. “I want a healthy pregnancy.” That’s the number one thing that they are thinking about. What this means is when people have the choice or the ability to do IVF, they are increasingly likely to use it.

Pair that with two other things. The first is the ongoing delay in people choosing to have kids, which means more people will need to do IVF. It’s no longer they are doing it because they can but because they need to. You pair that with what we as a company are doing and we are making sperm freezing accessible, we are making it easy and affordable. You do it from the comfort of your own home.

As egg freezing is becoming more normalized, the world where we are moving to is where two things happen. The first is more men and women freeze their gametes, freeze their sperm or their eggs. They do this at a younger age. The world that I see is one where men are doing this in their early twenties. Before you go off to college, you freeze your sperm before you get into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Frankly, parents will buy this for their kids. Assume heterosexual parents but it will be the mom who buys the kit. She gives it to the dad. The dad sits the son down. He’s like, “Son, when I was your age, I had a drink or two when I was in college. I want to make sure that your mom and I can have grandkids.”

I see it. I have Arab parents. They want one thing for me and one thing alone which are grandkids. Think about other communities, Jewish and Indian communities. These are communities that value building families and grandkids and being as fertile as possible. You take the increase in the need for IVF. You take how much easier does becoming for people to freeze their gametes when they are young and healthy.

You factor in that, people will have a preference to use IVF as it becomes more affordable and accessible because they can do this genetic screening. It is inevitable that IVF are going to move in the same direction as Denmark, whereof the US it’s about 1% of kids are born through IVF. We will move closer to that 10%.

It creates all these secondary questions, who has access and afford IVF. At what point do you start screening for positive traits as opposed to screening out for negative traits, and then you get more into the eugenics question? How are you genetically manipulating the kids that you have? It’s very clear that we are moving in that direction already.

We are overpopulated. It wouldn't be the worst thing if there were less people on the planet. Click To Tweet

This whole customizable genetic system that we might be moving into, is it possible from the perspective of technology? In what you know and what you have seen, how customizable could this potentially get in the future? Could it be that parents could say, “I want my child to have the genetic traits to potentially become a world-class athlete? I want them to have a certain type of IQ.” How many boxes on the checklist would be potentially available for something like this?

I will start by sharing an example from a professor at Harvard Business School who has been an informal mentor over the past years. Her name is Professor Debora Spar. She’s very well-versed in the world of fertility. She’s done a ton of research there. She thinks a lot about the commercialization of fertility. I have met with her a few times, and one of the things that she shared that I thought was fascinating was that when couples go for donor sperm. Couples that can’t conceive want donor sperm. You could imagine a world in which they say, “I want tall blond Viking style kids.” There was a global shortage of Viking sperm at some point because this is what people want the most because they have this idealized version of what they want their kids to look like.

That’s a whole weird thing that I’m not going to get into. I don’t feel qualified to talk about it. There are a lot of racial disparity when it comes to sperm donors. Although we can all agree that the sperm of people who have red hair, it’s unfortunate. There is zero demand for Ginger sperm anywhere in the world. Fun fact. If you are a sperm donor and you have red hair, you will probably be denied because nobody wants your sperm. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Where I’m going with this is the research that Professor Spar did was that on average and the example that she gave was a Jewish couple that they want to find a sperm donor who’s also Jewish and meets them on several characteristics. What she said was, “Most parents don’t want superhuman kids that are ten times better than they are. Better being a subjective term. They want kids who are like them, but a little bit better.”

If I am a shorter guy, then I want a taller kid. I don’t necessarily want a super tall kid. I want a taller kid. If I have a big nose, I want a kid who’s going to have a smaller nose. Not a small one or even an average one but one that is smaller than the one that I have. They want kids that are going to be one step up from where they are not at the top of the staircase. I thought that was always fascinating because people want kids that look like them. Even when you can choose donor sperm, that narcissism still comes back because you love yourself and your significant other more than anyone else in the world.

I’m blown away simultaneously by the incredible demand and low supply of Viking sperm and the global shunning of Redheads. I feel like I need to go on a deep rabbit hole google search about all this.

You should look at my search history. You can imagine.

You made a funny point about men in their early twenties before they go off and do the sex, drugs, and rock and roll in college that they freeze their sperm but we have talked a lot about what can potentially damage sperm. We talked about the phthalates and pesticides in the food but I want to talk about lifestyle because you brought up sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Separating fact from fiction, what are some things you would recommend men start to wean themselves off of or avoid doing lifestyle-wise, and what are some things that men should add in? What about sleep, drinking, and drugs? Dive into all this separating, what to avoid and do more of, please.

When it comes to sperm improvement, there is good news and bad news. The reason for this is because sperm is an excellent biomarker of your overall health. I go through the process of testing my sperm every month in part because I find it interesting, enjoyable and I need to be using my company’s own product so we can keep improving it.

I have been able to track my sperm quality over time. I know that during stressful periods like when we are fundraising from investors, my sperm quality goes down meaningfully. It’s because I have high stress, I’m drinking more coffee, I’m not sleeping as well and I see that reflected in my sperm, which is interesting. The bad news is there’s a limited number of things that you can do outside of classic lifestyle changes.

You can take supplements. We offer a line of supplements. CoQ10 is known to be good for your sperm. There are several antioxidants that are correlated with improved sperm quality, motility and morphology. That’s something that you can do. If you are trying to conceive with your partner, probably should be. If nothing else, it’s showing your partner that you are willing to invest in a healthy pregnancy as well.

The bad news is there’s a limited subset of things that you can do. The good news is the same things that you would want to do to lead a healthy life are the same things that will improve your sperm quality. Sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night. Mediterranean diets are associated with positive sperm quality. You don’t want to have too much coffee daily and want to be drinking all the time.

If you are morbidly obese, that’s not going to be great for your sperm quality. If you are sedentary or if you are not exercising, then that’s also bad for your sperm quality. You get to some things, doing heroin or LSD, which we can all safely assume is bad for your sperm. Interestingly, marijuana has had mixed studies. Some suggest it has a negative effect on your sperm but some suggest it has a positive effect on your sperm quality. There was a pretty big study done at Harvard, and one of the researchers worked with us and she was telling us that it might be positive for sperm counts. The jury is still out but the good news is weed is probably not significantly impacting your sperm health, may even be a good thing.

I feel like there’s a segment of our readers that are like, “Khaled said it was okay. Going to the dispensary,” myself included. When we dig into your backstory, you mentioned being involved in the World Economic Forum, Davos, living in Geneva. Now you reside in Boston, you have this great company called Legacy that we have been talking about. Where is that transition? We always love to talk to our guests about what they are creating in the world and what their motivation and intention are. Why start this company? Is there a personal connection between fertility and helping people? Not just the company but you as a human being as the CEO, what is your core motivation and intention, and why did you get into this business?

MGU 294 | Male Fertility

Male Fertility: There’s nothing wrong with choosing not to have kids. You have the freedom to decide whatever it is you want.

 

I will start by saying it’s not like I turned thirteen, hit puberty, and suddenly thought to myself, “How do I monetize this?” I never expected that I would start a male fertility company. I don’t think this is most children’s childhood dream. I wanted to be a soccer player growing up, so still playing with balls but it was in a different direction.

There are too many great one-liners. You are killing us in the best way.

If I do my job right, there’s at least 1 or 2 sperm puns that I say with a straight face that nobody picks up on until later. That’s how I will know that I succeed.

Have you said them yet or do we have to go back and listen?

I don’t know. I might have. Anyhow, it all started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an unlikely place for the glint in my eyes to start this company. I was a Management Consultant for few years. I did primarily Health and Life Sciences consulting. It’s what I specialized in. I specialize in the Affordable Care Act in Obamacare. I’m one of the few people on this planet who has read that thing, 700 pages from cover to cover, very dry reading.

We are driving to our client’s site. We make a Starbucks stop. I was the most junior person on the team. We were four guys. I jumped in and I offered to pick up coffee and tea for everyone. I come out, those cardboard holders or the cup holders, I’ve got four drinks in there, freshly brewed teas, and I say freshly brewed because tea is made with boiling hot water. A couple of those and hot coffees. You can see where this is going.

I get in the car. I jumped in the passenger seat. We are driving down the highway of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a car in front of us stops suddenly, which means that we have to stop suddenly, which means that the Laws of Inertia meant that the coffee and tea that I was holding right on my lap spilled all over my lap. What’s funny is I only remember two things.

I remember, first of all, that moment where the cups were leaning and the lids were coming off, and there was a Simpson style like, “Uh-oh.” The second thing is seeing it spill all over my lap right before the pain hit. I’ve got second-degree burns. Thankfully, second-degree burns heal but I was hospitalized. It took about a month or a month and a half so I could start wearing normal pants again.

Here’s the funny part in retrospect, if you are not the person to whom this is happening. I’m wearing a full suit and tie. I am looking spiffy. I jump out of the car. I rip my pants off because the fabric of the suit was absorbing these scalding hot liquids. I’m by the side of the road, dress shoes kicked to the side, pants thrown off wherever otherwise fully suited and booted, a shirt, tie, blazer and everything else. Grabbing my crotch, holding my boxers away from my body, because that was also scalding hot. I had enough presence of mind not to take my underwear off by the side of the road.

My colleagues later told me that about 10 or 11 cars stopped and lined up to watch the strange half-clad man grabbing his crotch and yelling. There wasn’t a Burn Center. Tulsa, Oklahoma is a relatively small city. We had to go to a local ER. America being America, the first question they asked was, whether I had insurance, and I was like, “I don’t care about insurance. Give me morphine.” I had to pull out my insurance information before they would treat me. That all happens. Anyone who has had scalding hot liquids in anywhere near their genitals, you have this moment where you say to yourself, “First of all, thank God that wasn’t worse. That did not cause any permanent damage.” A month and a half of healing are fine, as long as things go back to the way they were.

I was moving to Boston and I was starting a Master’s program, and a classmate of mine told us a story about freezing his sperm before starting chemotherapy. He explained that his doctor recommended chemotherapy is very harmful to your fertility. It’s radiation going into your body, and he explained that doctors recommend that you bank your sperm before starting chemo. I had this accident. I had only finished healing. He’s telling me the story, and a light bulb went off in my head. I looked at him and I said, “Can anyone do this? Do I need permission?” I felt like I needed permission from someone. I don’t know why. He’s like, “No. Find a local sperm bank,” and so that’s what I did.

I went to the local sperm bank in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For those of you who know Cambridge, it’s right next to my favorite Chinese restaurant, the Dumpling House. Sensual vibes, both going in and coming out of that clinic. I went through the experience and everything about it. I still remember this. There was a cute receptionist, and I thought to myself, “I can’t make any comments here. She knows that I’m here to freeze my sperm. She knows what I’m here to do.”

They handed me what they call the specimen cup. They only ever refer to your sperm sample as the specimen, which I have always found gross. They give you a list of questions to answer like, “How many STDs have you had?” I’m like, “It’s like Pokemon. You’ve got to catch them all.” They ask you questions like, “Why are you here? Are you here because you have cancer or you are getting a vasectomy? Are you here because you are transitioning to become a woman?” I said, “I don’t think any of the three. This is a good idea,” and they looked at me like I was the weird one.

They hand you the cup. They escort you to a room. The room, you don’t want to touch anything in there. There’s an array of pornographic materials. You don’t want to touch any of the magazines. There are DVDs, organized by ethnicity preferences. There’s a black leather couch. You turn off the light because you are trying to create an ambiance in the room but then there’s light streaming in from outdoors, at the very base of the door. You can hear people laughing and talking outside. You have about ten minutes to produce the sample because someone needs to use the room after you.

I did my thing. It was nine minutes more than I needed, and I came out of that thinking to myself, “This was maybe the most awkward experience that I have had in my life,” and you have both learned. I’m not an awkward guy. I’m very comfortable talking about this stuff. I’m like, “This was so profoundly awkward,” but at the same time, I preserved my ability to have kids for the rest of my life. How beautiful and profound is that?

I have always wanted to be a husband and a father. Even when I was in college, I used to have an Evernote folder with articles that had tips on how to be a good parent. I don’t want to be a dad. I want to be an awesome dad, and I want my kid to look like me because I am narcissistic like everyone else on this planet.

This is right around the time companies like Roman and Hims. We are pioneering this concept of at-home consumer healthcare, and it became so abundantly clear to me. I had a moment of clarity. It’s like the Lord himself parted clouds and shone down on me and said, “Habibi, you will have DJ Khaled as an investor in three years but more importantly, you need to start a company about this because if you can create a product that is affordable, accessible, convenient and with a good experience, then this will be a no-brainer for every guy.” That was the spark that set the whole thing off. I became fixated on this idea.

This is where the joke about Sperm King started. My friends would be like, “The Sperm King is coming to tell us all about his idea again.” I was there researching sperms, studying sperm, and flying around the world to meet advisors. One of our advisors is at the University of Sheffield. I flew to London for two days to meet with a guy to learn more about sperm. The more I dug into it, the more it became so obvious to me.

Sperm is an excellent biomarker of your overall health. Click To Tweet

1) This is going to be a massive multibillion-dollar industry. 2) This is going to be a no-brainer for every man. 3) If I don’t do it, then someone else will. It was late 2017, here’s the final piece of the puzzle, I have been thinking about this idea for years now. I’m working in Geneva and the study comes out, and this is a study that I referenced, showing that sperm count and concentrations had declined by 50% to 60%.

Dr. Shanna Swan, the author I mentioned was the lead author on this study. She was the PI. At that moment I said, “This is it.” At that point, I started laying the groundwork. A few months later, I sat my boss down. I turned down a very lucrative promotion. I told him, “I’m quitting the Davos business to go into the sperm business.” He said, “Okay.”

That was it. I quit my job. I left the city and everything behind. I made the move to Boston. I started the company. What’s so interesting about what I do is most companies pivot in their early days. Their ideas change. They have a broad thesis around what’s going to happen in the world. I have always said since day one, and it’s funny. When I look at my pitch decks from years ago, before I even started working full-time on the company, they are almost identical to what the narrative is now. It is, “We are going to make it so easy, affordable, and convenient that it is going to be a no-brainer for every man to test and freeze his sperm.

This leads me to a question that I have after that wonderful story is, why do you want to be a father so badly? Personally, how has that journey been for you, especially because you are thinking about it literally every day, personally and professionally?

It’s funny because I both know that I want to be a dad and I’m also terrified of being a dad. That’s extremely common for anyone who’s thinking about being a parent because I sleep eight hours a night. I have a very happy existence. I take advantage of my free time of which I have a decent amount considering what I do.

I know that the second that I have kids, that’s going to change. I have always felt like bringing a child into this world and instilling and imbuing them with the values that you want to see in the world is one of the most beautiful things that you can do. Building a beautiful family that will be around as you get older and to watches your kids grow up over time, and I’m saying this not from my own experience but from what everyone has told me. There’s nothing more special that makes you feel that sense of responsibility to the world than when you have a little kid who’s yours, and who you need to protect, raise and take care of.

You want kids who are going to live a better life than you have had and be a better person than you have had. The last thing I will say here is I grew up between Lebanon and Canada. We are Palestinian by origin. Originally, we were in Lebanon, and we grew up not particularly well-off as a family. Probably, in the lower-middle. We were never starving but we were certainly not well-off.

When I was four years old, my dad left Lebanon and moved to Vietnam to start his own company. It sounds quite shocking. It’s surprisingly common for the Lebanese because there are not that many economic opportunities at home. It’s very common to have a dad who’s gone to another country, built a business there, and sends money back home to the family.

My dad has been living in Vietnam for 25 years. The sacrifices that he made to be able to provide for us, to send us to the best private school in Lebanon so that my brother and I could go to the schools that we did, that’s a huge sacrifice that he made, and my mom as well. She had a full-time job. She had a career as a Healthcare Executive. She left her job because my brother and I were both very difficult kids to take care of us, raise us and make sure that we turned out okay. I think about the sacrifices that my parents made to make sure that we had a better life than they had, there’s something very beautiful within that. That’s where it comes from but to be clear, I’m still terrified of the prospect of being a dad.

I think about very similar things because I value my sleep, freedom, flexibility, and all of those things that don’t seem to go hand in hand with parenthood. The other part of my question, given how focused you are on not just the present state of things but the future state. Something that I have heard from some people who have chosen not to have children or even friends of mine who have young children who have admittedly shared with me some regrets or fears that they made a mistake by having kids because they are terrified of what will happen in their lifetimes.

Something I think about too is given that I’m mostly on the fence about it, not super important to me. The cons to having a child are like, “Look at what’s going on with the environment.” Many people are already going to be impacted by it in ways that we don’t even fully know yet. To bring another child in to start another life gives me pause. I’m curious, does that come up for you or have you come across data that’s showing that it’s a little bit more hopeful?

The short answer is yes, and I will tell you why. For a population to maintain its size, you need to have approximately 2.1% babies per woman and this is because some children will pass away at a very young age but so for your population to remain constant, you need about 2.1% babies per woman, that’s known as the replacement birth rates.

When you look at the birth rate of what I will call developed countries or industrialized countries, look at the US and Western Europe, those birth rates have consistently and dramatically gone down. Here’s where there are interesting racial undertones that do worry some folks in the US and who considered it a matter of National Security. The birth rate for White Americans in the US is something like 1.5% or 1.6% babies per woman.

My stats are going to be a little off but the overall birth rate is somewhere around the two range. It’s a little bit below but that is because the Latinx community has children at a higher rate than White Americans. You have these quickly shifting demographics that concerns that some individuals at the government level consider like a demographic time bomb.

I disagree with this but these are the views at some of the higher levels. You look at the rest of the world. The birth rates in Japan and South Korea, in both cases, are below 1.5% babies per woman. Even in industrialized countries like Germany, it’s also at the 1.5%, 1.6% range. The same is true across almost every industrialized country in the world.

Population sizes are shrinking. If you take a look at Nigeria, one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, and China, which historically has limited birth rates very deliberately, if they continue on their growth trajectory and decline trajectory and respectively, by the end of the century, Nigeria will have a larger population than China, which is wild when you think about it.

In my head, China is massive and Nigeria is a mid-sized country. This is the power of birth rates that compound over time. This to me is fascinating because the Global South, which has much higher birth rates, is going to become an increasingly large percentage of the world. Those less developed countries, including the country that I grew up in, are countries that have much lower rates of carbon emissions, are causing less damage to the world.

Each person on average is damaging the world less than in countries where there is more damage to the world. In industrialized countries, the birth rates are going down significantly over time. It’s already happening. A big part of this reason is this concept of readiness, because readiness, especially in the US, is not about being emotionally or psychologically ready. It is about being able to pay for childcare, healthcare and for the latest strollers.

In the South end of Boston, there is a prestige stroller. This is the stroller that you get if you love your kids and it’s $1,500. You can’t send them to public school because you want your kids to go to the best schools. You are going to send them to a private school. Someone said that it costs you about $1 million to have a kid. In a world where there’s more economic and inequality, where people are more financially constrained, they feel less ready to have kids, plain and simple. They don’t feel like they can afford it. I will add one more layer to what I said, which is men describe parenthood as an inevitability. The second part of it is they say, “I don’t want to do it until I feel financially ready.”

It’s an interesting conversation when you talk about readiness because, if I reflect on my upbringing, growing up in Lebanon, I grew up in Detroit, which as an aside has some of the most incredible Lebanese food.

Dearborn, Michigan should secede from the United States and join the Middle East. I have had the best Arabic food. I spent about nine months in Detroit on a project. I was in the Renaissance for about nine months. Pete Buttigieg and I were there at the same time. I visited Dearborn a couple of times. I’m going to be in Dearborn and the Arabic food was spectacular.

I grew up eating a megalithic amount of incredible food. Not just restaurants but friends of mine and home-cooked Lebanese food. As an aside, growing up and eating that wonderful food. I also grew up in a lower-income family raised by a single mother. For me, there’s this subconscious fear. We talk about fears of fatherhood, of not being able to provide the way that I want to provide because of the cost of raising a child in our world.

It’s like this balance of if I’m working hard with running two businesses, trying to put food on the table and provide the best life for my child but if I’m not physically present for my child while trying to economically provide, then it feels like this perpetuation of this old-school masculinity I observed in my family, where the men were constantly working themselves to the bone in a blue-collar Detroit family but they weren’t physically or emotionally present for their children. I don’t want to repeat that pattern. My conundrum is I don’t want to sacrifice the ability to financially provide for my ability to be physically and emotionally present for my child. That’s a big hang-up for me.

I completely understand that. As you are talking, what I’m thinking of is the word masculinity. The reason for this is the definition of masculinity is evolving very quickly. Maybe it’s because everyone has lower testosterone and sperm counts. I don’t know but the reality is what it means to be a man at a societal level has shifted. I’m thinking about a professor I mentioned at HBS, Debora Spar, who released a book called Work Mate Marry Love that I loved. I couldn’t put it down.

It is all about the way that gender dynamics and the women’s place in the household versus the man’s place in the household have shifted as a result of technological advances. It’s if you took sapiens and applied it to reproduction and family planning, it’s a super interesting book. One of the things that she writes about and one of the things that we are seeing clearly is, what it means to be a man now is different than even a few decades ago.”

You think about what used to be the nuclear family. A mom and a dad, and two and a half kids. You have the white picket fence and you have the house. First of all, nobody is living in houses anymore. We can’t afford it. Nobody’s got a white picket fence. Maybe they’ve got some barbed wire but even what it means to have a family has changed.

I see in my line of work, single moms who want to raise kids, sometimes single dads who want to have kids. We see men and women in same-sex relationships. We have a lot of transgender women who are transitioning. They are beginning the process of transitioning. The way that they think, their fertility journey is inherently more complex.

MGU 294 | Male Fertility

Male Fertility: We are going to make it so easy, affordable, and convenient that it’s going to be a no brainer for every man to test and freeze his sperm.

 

What it means to have a family is so much more broad and varied than what it was a few decades ago. Part of that is because what it means to be a man is no longer the man. It’s the breadwinner and provides for the family. The woman stays at home and takes care of the kids. We see this reflected in the way that people sometimes call power couples like two working couples.

I’m assuming heterosexual couples but it could apply to any couple. Female partners and male partners work and trade-off different domestic responsibilities. You hear sometimes about the house spouse. There are sometimes men who prefer to stay at home and take care of the kids. This is evolving very quickly and I do genuinely believe, and one of the reasons that my company will succeed is because of what’s happening societally, which is men want to be more involved dads. Men want to be more involved in the family planning journey. Men want to be equal partners with their partner, whoever that partner is.

The final thought I have here is, when you look at what happened during COVID for people who already had kids and for men in particular, who typically would have been in the workplace. The number of men we have spoken to who have said, “When I was working at home, I saw my son’s first steps. I saw my daughter’s laughs. I’ve got to come over and cuddle her for five minutes in the day because I missed her. I don’t ever want to give that up again.” COVID is accelerating this idea that men want to be dads and want to be good dads and they want to be equal partners. That’s beautiful. That’s happening already, and COVID accelerated all of this. As we shift more towards work from home, it’s also going to be a parent, work and love from home.

Based on Jason’s facial expressions, I feel like you are shifting how he’s feeling about all this.

It’s like, “I’m going to go have kids now, honey.” Clock’s ticking.

His girlfriend would be thrilled about that. She’s going to be thanking you.

Jason, if you’ve got good genes, you’ve got to pass them on.

Grandma had babies at almost 46. My thing is stressed though. It’s interesting that you talk to Khaled about your monthly testing, and when you are stressed and in a funding round. It’s interesting because you are a CEO, an entrepreneur and you have this company. We know generally the rigors of running a company are not for everyone.

It’s hard and debilitating. We have had episodes here on the show about the unspoken mental health issues that are happening with entrepreneurs and CEOs in Silicon Valley. How many mental health issues and people are struggling with depression and chronic anxiety? They don’t talk about it publicly but it’s a very real thing.

It’s interesting. I feel like you are almost trying to take your own advice. It’s got to be hard. You are running this company and at the same time, you want to be an example of practicing what you preach but how the hell do you do that when you are doing a $1 million seed round and trying to run this business? It’s got to be tough.

I have a simple life mantra. Sleep well and hydrate. I have been sleeping eight hours a night all my life. I drink a ton of water and I honestly feel like these address 80% of issues. If I’m in a bad mood, I go to sleep, I wake up and I feel fine. I also have a terrible memory, which helps because I forget all of the bad things that happened to me. It’s interesting when I started the company, I’m a happy person by nature. I’m pretty easygoing. I’m not an anxious person. After I started Legacy that I started to feel this low-grade anxiety, this little voice being like, “You should work a little bit more. What about that email you forgot to send? How about you get up even though it’s midnight? Get up and go send that email.”

That was new to me. It’s gone down. The big shift for me is I started the company by myself. I was a guy in Cambridge at a coffee shop with a laptop and a privacy screen for obvious reasons because I’m looking at sperm all day. Now we are about 30 people. We have raised around $20 million. We have some phenomenal investors. We are about to go out and raise another round of funding. The company is doing pretty well. We grew by seven X in 2020. We are going to grow five X this 2021. This stuff is reassuring.

More importantly, is I now have a team of about 30. We call it Give Away Your Legos. I have been able to give away most of my Legos. It was a great article written by an early Facebook employee who became a senior executive. She talked about how, when you are playing with a bunch of kids and there’s a pile of Legos, you start building something and you feel protective of it. It’s okay to give it up because there are 1 million more Legos and 1 million bigger, cooler things that you can build. It’s this concept of, as you grow in scale, you need to grow in scale with the company as well. You need to give away your Legos. You need to delegate almost everything that you are doing.

I used to write our blog posts. I would write on the dot every week. I would write a 400 to 600-word or 600 to 800-word blog post. I obviously don’t do that anymore. There are a lot of day-to-day stuff that I don’t do anymore. I have been able to hand over most responsibilities. I have a phenomenal number two. I have an EA who helps to keep track of my schedule and my calendar, and so I’m able to focus on the highest leverage stuff.

It has only been at that point when it felt like I had a team that was so strong around me, that risks no longer felt existential. That’s the point at which the anxiety started to go down because when we were raising our Series A round of funding, which we did about this time in 2020, we were six people. If I was sick or if I was having a down month, someone quit or whatever, that is an existential risk to the company. When you are 30 people, everyone is happy and things are going well, it’s not as existential. I’m sure this will change maybe even soon but that is something I am not manifesting.

“I want my kids to look just like me because I'm narcissistic just like everyone else.” Click To Tweet

I did a little bit of research prior to getting on this show with you. I was like, “I want to know the origin of this man’s name.” I’m curious if this is accurate because you are the one who has this name. What came up on Goggle is fascinating to me given the subject nature of everything we have covered, which is about life, love, extending our lifespans and human consciousness. There are so many wonderful aspects of this conversation. What came up on Google was the name Khaled is of Arabic origin and the meaning is eternal life or immortal. How wonderful. I thought that was so fascinating giving the subject matter.

I had a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, Ronald Heifetz and he taught a class on Adaptive Leadership. Among many other things, he taught us that everything you do has a reason behind it, and that reason is almost always subconscious. The decisions you make that you say, “This was happenstance.” Usually, it’s not because you are carrying the generations before you have carried, and when you are talking to someone, you are not having a direct conversation, you are having a mental conversation, the physical conversation.

There’s the idea of who the person is and the idea of who you are. You are talking to all these different levels and all of this is in your subconscious. It feels very poignant that someone whose name means eternal, immortal or eternal life has started a company called Legacy. I could ascribe it to mere coincidence but maybe this is what I was meant to do since the day I was born. Maybe when my childhood dreams should have been starting Legacy. I will take you a step further because someone pointed this out to me. I grew up in the Fertile Crescent of the world. You remember high school, the Tigris and the Euphrates. I lived in the Fertile Crescent. The eternal and immortal being from the Fertile Crescent is here on your show.

It’s wonderful. There are so many layers to that. On a metaphysical level, we are joking about it but it is fascinating. To get into a subject that is a little off-topic but related to this, do you believe that we have free will or do you believe in predestiny and the illusion of free will, or is it a combination of both? Which is even more confusing.

The definition of masculinity is evolving very quickly. What it means to be a man has shifted. Click To Tweet

It’s not a topic I’m qualified to speak about, although I will happily speak about it anyway. I took a couple of Philosophy classes as an undergrad. I was at McGill and here’s where I landed on this. Humans are effectively complex algorithms, and it’s an algorithm that shifts all the time but in theory, you give the same person the same input at the same point in their lives, you should get the same output every time.

I will tell you a small anecdote that I found funny. I lived in Canada for a while and I was hanging out late at night with one of my colleagues. We had gone out the night before. We were a starting class of 6 or 7 people. We went out and we drank a ton. That was the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I remembered nothing from the previous night. I’m not proud of that but I could not remember a single thing. What’s funny is my friend at the time had opened up about some relationship issues she had been having, and I gave her three pieces of advice.

The next day, it’s evening time, we are working the office late and she brings up the same question and she asks me, “What do you think?” She was doing this on purpose. I didn’t remember this at all. I told her the exact same three pieces of advice and she’s like, “I knew you were going to say that. I recorded you. Here’s the recording of you saying it,” and it was a word for word, intonation for intonation. I was saying the exact same thing, and it makes sense.

From one day to the next, I’m not a fundamentally different person. I bring the same experiences, perspective, mindset, education, and spirituality that I do the following day. I don’t think we have free will per se. We are born into the genes that we are born into and the environment that we are born into, and this keeps updating the algorithm. You can focus on putting yourself in environments where you want to achieve better outcomes but your ability and desire to do so are largely predetermined by your genes and your upbringing. That is maybe a little more philosophical than I typically talk about in this show but that’s where I’m at.

COVID has accelerated the idea that men want to be dads and equal partners. Click To Tweet

I feel like we have gone to so many wonderful categories and subject matters with you. Thank you for playing along. Thank you for being so willing and open to having this three-way tennis match. For you dear reader, if you want to dive more into this wonderful company that Khaled is running, it’s Legacy. You can find them at GiveLegacy.com. You will find all the great information about their storage and supplements. They have expert advice. You can schedule a conversation. Looking at the sperm collection kit, I want to get it because it looks so sexy. You guys went all out with the packaging. It’s gorgeous.

The name sperm collection kit is pretty fun if you think about it.

We call it the Legacy kit.

Jason, do you want to collect your sperm or do you want to put that on the window to look at?

The branding is so amazing. It makes me want to get the kit and do the thing. Also, being at this age now, look at how healthy my sperm is. I am very curious. Khaled’s have really fun tweets. I have been following you on Twitter. I had two questions magically pop into my brain, which as an aside, I sometimes pontificate existentially on what are thoughts and where do they come from. I know we could get into the nature of neurochemicals, synapses, and electrical charges in the brain but I do wonder sometimes on a metaphysical or spiritual level, what are thoughts and where do they come from?

Terence McKenna and some other philosophers had great ideas about a unified field theory or a noosphere of consciousness. That consciousness just is and we are akin to the antenna that are receiving thoughts and ideas. It’s about who actualizes those ideas in the world and who doesn’t. That’s like a random wavering. The two questions that I had, this is maybe a bit graphic but it’s a curiosity. I have noticed over the years that depending on what’s happening in my life, the viscosity of my semen will change. I will notice that it’s thinner and thicker sometimes than others and the color will change. What is that all about?

Believe it or not, one of our most visited blog posts is about watery semen. A lot of it comes down to diet. I have to clarify, this is not medical advice but in general, you don’t have to worry unless the color is changing dramatically. I’m assuming you are talking about a lighter or darker shade.

We are not talking about periwinkle, mauve or turquoise.

If you have purple sperm, then you need to see the Mad Hatter. Green sperm from the Grinch. It is natural for it to change over time, depending on how you ejaculated. The volume that you are producing, the diet that you have, how hydrated you are and so on.

Second question. We are going back into conspiracies because I can’t help myself. There’s a friend, she’s probably more of an acquaintance of yours, Whitney, but we have a mutual human being in our lives who was confiding in me that she wants to find some sperm and have a child as a single mother. She’s not attached to having a partnership. She approached me about the potential of being her sperm donor.

She went on to tell me that as she has been poking around, I can’t confirm this, that apparently the price of sperm from an unvaccinated man is going for a higher rate now at sperm banks or however the process financially works, I don’t know that they are charging more for unvaccinated sperm. Is that true or is that some weird internet rumor?

This is completely true. The reason for this is a lot of people are worried about how the vaccine may affect us. There are beliefs that this could change our ability to conceive. Unvaccinated sperm is more expensive. Even though I don’t believe there’s anything and these are conspiracy theories, I feel good knowing that I banked my sperm before I’ve got the vaccine or anything else for that matter.

What numbers are we talking about here because I could use an extra income stream right about now? Do you know offhand?

I don’t know but I know some guys.

Especially, if you are on the fence or delaying getting the vaccine as Jason is. Jason is probably like, “Maybe I should know this before I decided to get the vaccine.”

The ultimate irony would be, imagine the people who don’t want to get the vaccine were right all along, and it renders everyone else infertile.

That’s the fear, the conspiracy theory.

“I have a simple mantra: sleep well and hydrate.” Click To Tweet

We saw a huge spike in sperm freezing during COVID because people were also worried about how COVID might affect fertility. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t, in a meaningful way and during the vaccinations. People are worried about what might happen before or after they take the vaccine.

There must be some data about how vaccines impact fertility but they don’t know about the COVID vaccine.

I don’t think there are any concerns about any of the vaccines affecting fertility but especially with mRNA, which is such a new technology. There’s probably a lot of things that we don’t know. It may not be fertility. There may be all kinds of unexpected things that happen to us. In my view, it’s extremely unlikely but the risks are never zero.

It’s certainly an interesting time to be alive on planet Earth. The continued evolution of gender roles and parenthood. I have had this conversation a lot with my mom and my mentor, how radically accelerated the changes are on our planet now. It is going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out in terms of fertility, population and global warming. We have covered so many different subjects. To go back to the question you asked, Whitney, “Am I open to changing my mind?”

I have always joked that if the world needed to be repopulated, I would be like, “I will do it.” Also, that movie that came out in the ’90s with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Junior, where he’s the first man to ever carry a baby. I’m more interested in carrying a baby than fathering a baby. If there was some genetic splicing where they turn me into a male seahorse and I could just pop out babies like a seahorse human hybrid, I would sign the hell up for that.

What does it say about my life? This is the second time someone is talking to me about male seahorses giving birth.

What was the context of the first conversation?

A lovely lunch in the West Village of New York. She was like, “Did you know?” Now I know, again.

If you decide to innovate, Khaled, with your company Legacy and you are like, “We are looking for volunteers for the first men on Earth to carry a baby,” I would be like, “You know where to go. Your buddy, Jason.” I would do it. I will gladly be the first man to carry a baby. I don’t know why. I have more interest in that than fathering a baby. I don’t know.

Of all of the discussions we have had over the years, this has never come up. It’s a perfect example as you feel like someone, and then one day, they are like, “Here’s a fun fact about me.”

I want to be a seahorse.

You want to shoot out some kids.

I don’t know if there’s anywhere else to go after that comment.

After your semen color and your seahorse desires, I feel I have learned more about you than I do with almost anyone else.

We will have to see. However, in Dearborn at the same time, and go out for some amazing Mujadara and Fattoush.

You have to say this to me. These are good stuff.

We will have to meet up first for some amazing Lebanese food at some point. I want to let everyone know I’m interested in getting this Legacy kit. It’s gorgeous branding. I went on your website and I thought, “That is a sexy collection kit.” The branding is gorgeous. It’s high-end and professional.

We always want to get men excited.

Squeeze in some more puns. That way from an SEO standpoint, when people search for sperm puns, maybe they will come across this show.

Sperm King. We are manifesting it now, the three of us.

I have already planned for that to be part of the show title. That and spermageddon are intriguing terms. I thought about the seahorse.

Seahorses and spermageddon with the Sperm King.

That will be the newsletter subject line with Jason reveals about himself for the very first time.

Jason’s semen, hopefully, it’s healthy. I’m going to find out. I don’t know that I’m going to freeze it, Khaled but I want to get the test kit for sure. I do want to see it. Many golden nuggets you dropped that sperm health is a marker of overall health. I do want to get the test kit and see what it says about me.

We would love to have you as a customer.

If you, too, dear reader are interested in being a customer, you can schedule a conversation. They have an incredible amount of resources on the website. Khaled, you’ve got a lot of great articles and wonderful information you have been sharing on your social. If this is something that piques your interest and if this is something that fires up your loins, we’ve got you covered with Legacy. This has been one of the most enjoyable, fun, and informative conversations we have yet had. It has been an absolute pleasure having you.

That’s saying a lot because we are up to around 300 episodes at this point.

Legitimately, this was one of my favorite episodes we have ever done.

That’s awesome. The feeling is mutual. It has been a pleasure and I will sometimes be on podcasts where someone shows up with earphones in, and I know they are not professionals. They are not serious about what they are doing. They don’t even have the setup.

That used to be us. Technically, we have never done the earphones with the mic as well but that’s what I used to use before I’ve got these headphones. I wanted to create the vibe.

This is great. There is a lot of fun and we touch everything from philosophy, biology, eugenics, and cell phone radiation. We covered a lot of ground!

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About Khaled Kteily

MGU 294 | Male FertilityKhaled Kteily is the CEO of Legacy (www.givelegacy.com), a digital fertility clinic for men helping change the outdated view that fertility is a “women’s issue”. Legacy is a graduate of Harvard’s Innovation Labs and Y Combinator, has raised over $20M from top-tier investors like FirstMark Capital & Bain Capital Ventures, as well as celebrities like Justin Bieber and DJ Khaled.
The company works with leading insurers (e.g. UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Cigna, etc.), leading military partners (e.g. Navy SEALs) and leading clinics (e.g. Memorial Sloan Kettering) in addition to its Direct to Consumer offering.
Khaled previously worked at the World Economic Forum (Davos) in Geneva, Switzerland, and as a healthcare consultant at Oliver Wyman in Toronto, Canada. He studied public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he received a full scholarship and graduated with distinction, and graduated with a triple concentration from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Khaled is a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), is an Aspen Ideas Health Scholar, and has been awarded 40 under 40 (Arab American Foundation). The World Government Summit recently selected him as one of the top 100 Arab Pioneers. He serves on the boards of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership (Alumni Council) and the Harvard Arab Alumni Association.

 

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