Celebrating twenty-five years of Chicago real estate

by Joe Zekas on 5/4/12

I founded YoChicago’s parent firm, now known as Data Based Ads, in May of 1987.

The company’s initial business was publishing a bi-weekly real estate newspaper – The Real Estate Profile – which fairly quickly expanded to weekly publication and was rebranded as Apartments & Homes.

Our first specialty publication was the Loft Living Guide, which was launched in the late 80s, a time when almost all of Chicago’s renovations were lofts and new construction was almost non-existent. When the new construction market ramped up in the 90s we launched a 10-times-a-year New Homes Magazine, and folded it when the new home market tanked several years ago.

Along the way we published a quarterly Chicago Landlord Guide, a Co-ops & Condos desk-reference for Realtors, and a wide variety of one-off specialty print publications. We created and published a novel Chicago Lease that sold 100s of thousands of copies.

For several years in the late 80s we ran twice-yearly home shows – Sweet Home Chicago. The largest drew more than 20,000 visitors over a 3-day period to 150 exhibitor and sponsor booths at Navy Pier.

In the mid-90s we launched the InfoStore at Wellington and Broadway, a walk-in retail outlet that hosted racks of sale and rental brochures and a computer-based apartment finding service that enabled renters to ring through by phone to local landlords by clicking a Call button on their screen.

We also purchased space in the Chicago Reader for nearly a year and published a High-rise Apartment Guide, and in the Daily Herald for a year-long suburban community (subdivision) guide. Both of those ventures were based on InfoNow, an interactive voice / fax system we created that served up voice recordings, faxed floor plans and patched calls through to landlords and builders.

From the outset the company was database-driven with proprietary technology. In the early 90s we began producing system-ready picture ads (a category we created locally) for the largest brokers in Chicago in print publications throughout Chicagoland. We delivered the first-ever Adobe Acrobat real estate ad via FTP to the Chicago Tribune and, for a while, supplied all of the real estate listing data for the Chicago Tribune’s website and all of the Chicago listings on Yahoo when it was in its infancy.

In the early 90s we afforded our major brokers online access to our databases through remote control and Citrix software, and extended that access via the World Wide Web when that became feasible later in the 90s. Our Internet-based systems attracted the attention of major brokers and newspapers throughout the country, and we continue to serve those clients from coast-to-coast through our AdMaster and Wibiti systems.

YoChicago was launched half a dozen years ago, and we posted the first of our 1,000s of videos at YouTube in November of 2006, and the first of more than 15,000 photos to Flickr at about the same time. We recently launched YoRents, an online speed-dating service for landlords and renters.

On behalf of everyone at Data Based Ads, our heartfelt thanks to the many advertisers and clients who’ve generously supported our efforts over the past 25 years.

We’ve been especially fortunate to have a phenomenally talented, patient, intelligent, good-humored and professional cadre of employees – all of whom have been with the company long enough that they’ve become colleagues rather than employees.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for your interest. It’s been a long run, and it’s mostly been fun. Innovation is great fun. We’ve done more of it than this brief sketch of our efforts, and we’ll continue to innovate.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Vikas Wadhwa May 4, 2012 at 1:32 AM

Congrats Joe – Great to see how your company has adapted and changed over the years, and am looking forward to seeing how your company continues to innovate in the years to come.

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Fran Bailey May 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Happy Silver Anniversary, Joe! Congratulations on your success!

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Sandra Matson May 4, 2012 at 7:01 PM

Happy Anniversary, Joe! I remember your visits to the Baird & Warner office on Walton around 1990. Seems like yesterday.

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