Tech and telecom companies that benefit from the logistical and service support provided by LinkAmerica can thank the American free-enterprise system. As a new Fortune magazine profile shows, LinkAmerica’s “immigrant entrepreneur” founder failed in business multiple times before hitting on a winner with his current company. The headline tells the story succinctly: “The 18th Time Was the Charm.”

Andrés Ruzo isn’t your average immigrant entrepreneur. The son of a culinary TV personage in Peru, he came to the U.S. as a college student in 1980 and says he attempted 17 startups before creating his big success: LinkAmerica, which provides logistical and service support to tech and telecom companies. LinkAmerica is actually in its second incarnation; the first, which sold refurbished telecom equipment, nearly went under after the dotcom bust and 9/11. Last year the company generated $180 million in revenues, and Ruzo, 53, has become a classic example of entrepreneurial invention and reinvention … and reinvention. He says he still views himself as an immigrant — always hungry and never taking anything for granted.

Imagine if, instead of trying something new after any of his previous 17 false starts, Ruzo had opted instead to seek government protection or a bailout. He might have been able to keep one of his previous businesses afloat, but he would not have moved his time, energy, and entrepreneurial resources to a venture that could succeed on its own. And he would have become just another crony.

That’s why it’s important to remember that a system of profit and loss depends just as much on the loss as the profit.