Outside boards have an important role to play in early stage high tech ventures. Specifically, through their engagement in the service role, they can fill important human capital gaps in the top management team (TMT). The extent to which the outside board members’ human capital and the information they bring to the board room help TMTs to bridge deficiencies within the team will, however, be largely dependent on the nature of the TMT. Taking a learning perspective, we see that TMT absorptive capacity and frequency of TMT–board interaction positively affect board service effectiveness. Moreover, the latter relationship is positively moderated by cognitive proximity. We build on a hand-collected dataset containing 80 early stage high tech companies in Belgium and discuss implications for academia and practice.