There’s a startup for everything these days, and this one hosts “T-Parties”—but there’s no hot water, scones or Earl Grey involved.
The “T” stands for testosterone, and entrepreneur Jeff Tang says he’s on a mission with his startup, T-Party, to raise awareness about men’s health issues: Namely, studies say men today generally have less testosterone compared with previous generations of men. Tang said he has personally taken 20 testosterone tests in four months.
On a Saturday morning in August, Tang gathered a group of men interested in their health and “biohacking.” From an apartment in San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood, complete with a weightlifting setup and a tapestry of what appeared to be a Greek god, the men—in their early 20s to their early 40s—discussed testosterone and how people could naturally raise their levels. Tang had hired a phlebotomist, who drew vials of blood from guests to test their hormone levels.
“Man, I’m a founder, I’m stressed and I’m not at a high point in terms of mental health,” said attendee Erik Dunteman, who said he hadn’t thought about testosterone until the party. “I roll out of bed, and I just hurt. I’m like, ‘God, this is ass, I’m 27 and I should feel better.’ This is the first step in trying to figure things out.”
Low testosterone can be caused by excessive drinking, drug use, poor diet and too many cardio workouts, according to experts.
It wasn’t just blood drawing and smoked salmon at the San Francisco T-Party. On the patio, several men in board shorts—including Dunteman—hopped into a barrel of ice water to huff and puff through two minutes of freezing pain, all in the name of reducing muscle soreness and (potentially) boosting testosterone levels. In the kitchen, a breakfast spread and matcha tea welcomed attendees who chatted about their startup ventures and swapped notes about their testosterone journeys.
Already, T-Party founder Tang said he has tested blood for dozens of men at three different events: first in Colombia, then in New York City and most recently in tech haven San Francisco. Tang has no scientific credentials but says his research into hormone testing introduced him to physicians, wellness experts and genderqueer individuals who have focused on hormones as part of their transitioning journeys.
At the San Francisco T-Party, blood draws ranged from $100 for a basic testosterone panel to upward of $400 for a more comprehensive blood panel, including a physician consult. The company hosts men’s wellness parties where testosterone levels are checked.
Tang himself claims he was able to raise his T levels naturally through regular testing and healthy habits, such as weight lifting and dieting. He says his levels are now above 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). The healthy testosterone range for men falls between 300 and 1,000 ng/dL, according to urology experts.
Testosterone declines naturally as people age, but some experts say that T levels today are declining faster and more severely. The issue has been brought up in high-profile news coverage—dubbed the “manopause”—and a growing number of men have turned to supplements and hormone injections. The global testosterone replacement therapy market is expected to grow from $1.75 billion in 2022 to $1.85 billion in 2023, according to a May market research study.
“Most of the information is junk—gym bros trying to sell you supplements or doctors trying to sell you hormone injections and prescription medication,” Tang said. “If you make it easy to get blood tests, and you provide interesting information that's not totally ‘bro-science,’ then people like it.”
Tang wants men to reduce dependence on pills or supplements, and introduce a “natural” approach that includes practicing healthy habits can that can help raise testosterone levels.
“My dad is a doctor, so at a young age I got my blood tested every six months,” said Shayan Guha, co-founder of sales startup Avocado. “I always had elevated cholesterol, so I’ve monitored that—it’s related to testosterone.” Guha said he has almost doubled his T levels since he started getting tested.
Tang admits the optics of his startup are funny, calling his approach “astrology for dudes” and throwing around the phrase “going natty”—a reference to his natural approach—more than a few times.
T-Party guests insist their testosterone testing interests are less rooted in “toxic masculinity” and more about the desire to talk openly about men’s health. In the handful of parties Tang has hosted, he said he’s facilitated conversations about semen retention, aggression, hormone imbalances and men’s reproductive health.
“Even beyond T, just the idea of a community where you can talk to friends about men’s health—we don’t really have that,” said Stefan Gomez, a triathlete who works in startup accounting and hosted the T-Party at his apartment. “It’s on the user or individual to dive deeper and examine the facts, to see what’s correlation versus causation. But for me, this is almost like turning on the lightbulb, or beginning the discussion.”
Wellness is a growing sector in the technology industry, and Tang is among the many startup founders interested in biohacking. The term grew in popularity in the 2010s as the health-conscious sought to apply a tech hacker mindset to biology, promoting things like blood testing, health monitoring, sitting in cryogenic tanks or popping supplements.
The idea is to take ownership of your health, finding ways to improve well-being by measuring how your body responds to different exercise or diets, and then “optimizing” based on what works best for you.
“A recent journey I’m going through is getting off of supplements and getting ‘all natty’—I want to lean on behavioral health approaches,” said Stedman Halliday, a self-described biohacker who runs a health startup. “How far can we go without the pill mills? What are the virtuous cycles that we can get going, once people understand what behaviors are conducive to overall well-being?”
Many of the guests at the San Francisco T-Party were health tech entrepreneurs and founders. Some said they had attended similar health-community building events at Burning Man, such as the “Miso Horny Camp,” which hosts discussions promoting “healthy flirting and sexuality.”
Few of the attendees were regular T testers themselves, noting that it is difficult to get doctors to prescribe tests for younger men.
Health tech startups “only emerge in America because of the fact that health care is so inaccessible, and it’s also extremely reactive,” said T-Party attendee Andrey Staroseltsev, a health care startup founder who was raised in Russia. “There’s definitely stigma against men looking after their health proactively and taking care of themselves.”
So is it junk bro-science? Or is boosting your T levels through regular testing and healthy habits legit? Here’s what an expert says.
“I am pro-this idea of talking about men’s health stigmas. We know for a fact that men do not want to talk about men’s health—I like to call this the ‘Ikea problem,’” said Dr. Justin Dubin, a Florida-based urologist and andrologist who specializes in men’s health. “Guys won’t look at the directions. They’ll try to build [furniture], fix it themselves. A lot of guys also do that with their health.”
Dubin cautioned that hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day and are based on factors like cancer, diabetes or anxiety. Having low testosterone, Dubin said, could very well be a symptom of other health problems. In his urology practice, for example, Dubin said he has diagnosed a number of men with diabetes, often from them visiting him about their testosterone levels.
“‘More data is better,’ is what this new society is going towards—everyone wants to know as much data as possible, and to some degree that’s good,” Dubin said. “But it might not be. I used to say, ‘Don't check your weight every day; it’s like checking the stock market on a stock that you're going to keep long term.’ It's just creating extra anxiety.
“But if you maybe once a week, once a month, and you trend it that way, that's great,” Dubin added.
At the T-Party, Tang said he was all in and “bearish” on testosterone, but mostly just wanted to open up space for men’s wellness.
“At the end of the day, it's just a number,” Tang said. “T isn't about how much weight you lift. It's not about how much money you have or how many girls you get. It's really about you just being the best version of yourself.”
Liz Lindqwister can be reached at email@example.com