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I have seen 創始者 been used in the following contexts: 仏教の創始者、プログラムの創始者、儒教の創始者

創業者 probably refers to founders of businesses: 店の創業者、紀伊国屋の創業者

However, I only have a vague idea about how these are used. Could anybody care to explain? :(

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Related: Difference between 創立、設立、樹立 –  ento Sep 10 '12 at 13:20

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up vote 7 down vote accepted
  • 創始者 is a founder in intellectual terms, e.g.

    密教の創始者は空海です。

  • 創業者 is the founder of a store or shop (related to work, rather than business), e.g.

    僕のおじいさんがこの魚屋の創業者なんだよ。 

  • 創設者 is the founder of a business/company, e.g.

    ソニー株式会社の創設者は盛田昭夫と井深大です。

  • 創立者 is the founder of a building/place (but could also be used for businesses, which would give it the nuance of associating the business with a place), e.g.

    高井戸小学校の創立者は山田景子です。

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Thanks a lot! Those example sentences really helped me understand the nuances perfectly! –  Chiro-kun Sep 10 '12 at 13:26

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