Never heard of starting with your needle down. I'll try that as I have a couple of students that always has first stitch problems unless the use a leader, which they forget.
I teach sewing to adults, many machines which come to class have a fatal hesitation and then the machine jumpstarts, the student loses all control, starting with the needle down is easier on the motor, and gives better control since the needle is already down it does not punch the fabric down into the hole in the throat plate, however if the needle is dull and needs to be changed that can sometimes cause similar problems. I have been sewing since I was 11, which makes it 62 years now and somethings your just learn by chance.
If you start with the needle down, is the needle down through the fabric or down next to the edge of the fabric?
It is down in the fabric where you want the first stitch to be. Usually if I am chaining, the first piece is started 1/4inch from edge, then reversed stitch to edge, then forward to insure it does not push the edge of the fabric down into the throat plate.