So far, corporate governance research has mainly focused on large companies, studying to a large extent the board’s control function (Gabrielsson and Huse, 2004). Boards in small firms have an important role to play beyond the control function, as they contribute to strategic decision making (Brunninge et al., 2007). Boards often assist small firms by asking probing questions and helping formulate and decide upon strategic alternatives (Judge and Zeithaml, 1992). This is especially the case for academic spin-offs which are facing a number of challenges related to the early stage nature of their technology, the homogeneity of the management team’s human capital and access to financing (Knockaert et al., 2011). In this paper, we study the antecedents of board strategic involvement (BSI) in academic spin-offs, focusing on the role of the top management team (TMT) characteristics and board chair characteristics. Specifically, building on collective effort and conflict theories, we hypothesize for direct and indirect effects of board chair and TMT characteristics on BSI. We study two important characteristics related to the board chair, namely CEO/chair duality and chairperson industry experience. At TMT level, we focus on TMT size and diversity.