That's the experience of many young founders. Here, several of the top 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30--who've gone on to pitch their startups to the celebrity investors of Shark Tank--reflect on their young age and explain how it either helped or hurt them as they began their careers.
Abby Speicher, founder of the drone training company DARTdrones, said some people didn't take her seriously due to her age. She was 26 when she pitched the Sharks in 2017. While she felt like an outlier as a young, female founder in the heavily male-dominated drone and aviation industry, she says it inspired her to work harder.
"Being young definitely makes it difficult to prove yourself, but it should never be an excuse," says Speicher, who is now 27. "I have to work twice as hard and twice as long to prove myself, but I would never let my age stop me from improving my business."
Melissa and Lavanya Jawaharlal, the sister co-founders of the educational startup STEM Center USA, also felt as if they had to prove themselves to friends, family, and investors. The founders are 26 and 23 years old, respectively. They pitched their business to the Sharks three years ago.
"Due to our age, gender, and ethnicity, we have constantly been met with expressions of doubt, disbelief, and sometimes, amusement," Melissa tells Inc. "While this can be frustrating, it is also a driving factor in how we push ourselves and our business model."
Other founders believe their age was both a challenge and a benefit. Jack Bonneau, founder of Jack's Stands & Marketplaces--a marketplace and education opportunity for young entrepreneurs--told Inc. that adults were curious about what he had to say, but often discounted what he could achieve because of his age. Bonneau is 12 years old and was 10 when he appeared on Shark Tank.
Moziah "Mo" Bridges, the founder of his eponymous bow and neck tie company, Mo's Bows, says his age prevented him from making business decisions; he was 11 when he pitched the Sharks. However, the 16-year-old feels it also helps him bring fresh ideas to his company.
Similarly, Pete Davis, co-founder of the tiny homes startup Getaway, believes his youth and a fresh perspective helped him generate innovative ideas. The 28-year-old does note a disadvantage of having less experience, however. "It can lead you to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel sometimes," adds Davis, who was 27 when he appeared on Shark Tank.
Of course, ignorance can also be blissful. Jess Edelstein, the 29-year-old co-founder of the natural deodorant startup PiperWai, says her age gives her a sense of fearlessness in business. "We have nothing to lose and everything to gain," she adds. She was just 27 when she pitched the Sharks.