I'm primarily interested in the early stages where the focus is on evaluating the startup's product/service, the market for said product/service, and the management team.
Please share your experiences and knowledge!
I went to Boston University for my undergrad. Breaking in from there is nearly impossible without connections, although we had plenty of alumni in the industry. People here aren't lying when they say look for alumni. Just approach and be friendly, don't go solely after a job.
Also from your post I'm presuming you work in consulting? Many exit ops from consulting to VC or hedge funds, just need to meet the right people. NYC has a big venture community. Once you can break into that you're into it. Look into something like NYC Angels to go and get started. A guy named Brian runs it and is always happy to help people out with advice.
^ Strongly depends on the firm and which coast.
For example, to use consultancies, McKinsey is known to not like to hire auditors or Accenture consultants. I had two friends with those being the only things on their resumes. I had two more friends who had worked in Germany at a top tier boutique consultancy that paid far more than McKinsey. Guess which ones got interviews? Not the two I'd have expected.