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Canaan opens in India

After opening its Israel office less than five months ago, Silicon Valley venture firm Canaan Partners has now also set up shop near New Delhi to tap into India’s Internet and wireless market.

US-based VC Canaan Partners has established a presence in India, with the firm announcing today the opening of an investment office in Gurgaon – less than 30 kilometres from the Indian capital of New Delhi and one of the most rapidly developing cities in the northern part of the country.

The Gurgaon office will be led by Canaan India executive director Alok Mittal, an Indian entrepreneur who co-founded India’s largest job-post site JobsAhead.com which was later sold to Monster.com in May 2004, according to a company press statement.

The activities of Canaan’s newly established investment office in India will initially be directed toward Internet and wireless investments. Mittal was quoted in the press statement as saying, “India historically has had a strong cultural bias for innovation, and now with proven technical talent and a strong local market, we believe the time is ripe for entrepreneurship to flourish. We are ready to provide first rounds of institutional capital and are already receiving many interesting business proposals.”

Deepak Kamra, a general partner at Canaan who headed the firm’s efforts to open up an office in India, Canaan’s team in Gurgaon could eventually expand to close to the size of Canaan’s office in Menlo Park, which currently houses nine investment professionals. “We can act as strong catalysts for companies in India by building and assisting them on strategic operations, market development, and corporate partnering. The potential is boggling,” Kamra said in the press statement.

“Our early-stage Indian strategy requires actively working on behalf of our startups,” Kamra added. “So having a local presence in India is a must.”

The effort represents the 19-year-old firm’s second step in building an on-the-ground presence overseas to extend its existing US bicoastal presence in Menlo Park, California and Rowayton, Connecticut. In early January of this year, Canaan had announced the opening of an office in Hertzliya Pituach, Israel, to be headed by venture partner Izhar Shay who joined the firm in December 2005.

Focusing on early stage venture investments, Canaan was created in 1987 through a management buyout led by four executives of GE Venture Capital Corporation. Canaan manages $2.4 billion and has invested in 232 companies. The firm invests in Internet and consumer technology, communications, semiconductor and energy, enterprise software and services, biotechnology, and medtech.